The Drakensberg Mountains, which stretch for 700 miles across two countries and five South African provinces, are one of Southern Africa’s most impressive geological features. The Drakensberg region is famous for its breathtaking scenery. There are trails for all skill levels, ranging in length from a few hours to several days, as well as many other activities ranging from birdwatching and fly fishing to rural museums and San rock art appreciation. Plan your trip with our Drakensberg travel guide to the best activities.
01 Drakensberg travel guide | Go to the Majestic Amphitheatre in Royal Natal.
The Amphitheatre, a vast cliff face in the Royal Natal National Park, is probably the most iconic physical landmark of the entire Drakensberg region. It is more than three miles long and 4,000 feet tall, making it more than ten times larger than Yosemite’s famous South Western face of El Capitan. For some, simply admiring the Amphitheatre from the ground is enough; for others, a hike to the top of its highest peak (Mont-Aux-Sources) is the best way to fully appreciate its breathtaking beauty. The hike takes about five hours and includes two chain ladders.
02 Drakensberg travel guide | Climb Tugela Falls to the Top
Tugela Falls, the world’s second-tallest waterfall, is also located at the Amphitheatre, with five free-falling streams combining to create a total drop of 3,110 feet. The waterfall is easily visible from the main road into Royal Natal National Park when it is in full flow (at the end of summer). Hike the above route to the top of Mont-Aux-Sources for a better view, or take the easier Tugela Gorge route to the base of the falls. The latter involves a boulder hop and a small chain ladder, and it takes about five hours to complete from the Thendele Camp car park.
03 Drakensberg travel guide | Go hiking on the Kamberg Nature Reserve Trails.
Kamberg Nature Reserve is a great destination for those looking for short but scenic hiking trails in the foothills of the central Drakensberg, in a horseshoe-shaped valley on the Mooi River. Many of the routes are centred on the reserve’s extensive San rock art, which dates back over 4,000 years and provides invaluable insight into the lives of Africa’s earliest people. The 2-mile hike to Game Pass Shelter is especially popular, as it provides access to some of the Drakensberg’s best-preserved rock art. The Rock Art Centre sells tour guides.
04 Visit Main Cave for More San Rock Art
Visit Main Cave, which is about a 30-minute walk from the base camp at Giants Castle Nature Reserve, for a closer look at the San’s ancient artwork. This sandstone shelter contains approximately 500 examples of San art, making it one of Southern Africa’s largest rock art sites. People, sacred eland antelopes, and several human figures with animal heads are depicted in the painting. Daily guided tours are available from the camp between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
05 Drakensberg travel guide | Capture Vultures at Giants Castle
If a distant view of the Drakensberg’s mighty bearded vultures piques your interest, make a reservation at Giants Castle’s exclusive Lammergeyer Hide. This spectacular hide is perched high in the mountains, putting you at eye level with the vultures as they come in to feed on bones left out for them. It is ideal for birders and wildlife photographers. The bearded vultures aren’t the only draw; the area is also home to endangered Cape vultures, jackal buzzards, and other raptors. A 4×4 vehicle, advance booking, and a fee of 260 rands (about $18) per person are required to get there.
06 Drakensberg travel guide | Hike the Giant’s Cup Trail.
The self-guided Giant’s Cup Trail is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for serious hikers. It begins at the Sani Pass and winds for nearly 37 miles through the Maloti-Drakensberg Park’s southern foothills. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is well-known for its scenic beauty, and the trail is the only multi-day hike in the Drakensberg that includes hutted accommodation for all five nights. Before beginning, all hikers must bring adequate weather protection, food, and water. The Mountain Rescue Register at the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife office in Cobham Nature Reserve.
07 Drakensberg travel guide | Put Your 4×4 Skills to the Test on the Sani Pass
The Sani Pass, which runs through the mountains between Underberg in KwaZulu-Natal and Mokhotlong in Lesotho, is legendary. Along the way, take in the spectacular scenery and keep an eye out for the locally endemic bearded vulture. Celebrate your survival at the pass’s summit with a pint at Sani Mountain Lodge’s Highest Pub in Africa. There are 4×4 tours available for those who do not want to drive the pass themselves.
08 Drakensberg travel guide | Ascend to the Summit of Cathedral Peak
Cathedral Peak, located northeast of the Lesotho border, is one of only a few free-standing peaks separated from the rest of the escarpment by thousands of years of erosion. Its perfect triangular shape distinguishes it as a Drakensberg landmark and serves as a siren call for experienced hikers with a head for heights and excellent fitness. Although it is not a technical hike.
09 Drakensberg travel guide | Make a Reservation for a Tasting at Cathedral Peak Wine Estate
Founded in 2007 as a small-batch vineyard to produce distinctively. South African pinotage and merlot wines, the vineyard now offers a wide range of varietals. Wine tastings are available every day except Tuesday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. for 10 rands ($.70) per person. Choose one of the estate’s artisan cheese platters to complement your experience on the mountain-view veranda.
10 Drakensberg travel guide | Himeville Museum is a great place to learn about Drakensberg history.
Himeville Museum is small, but it is one of South Africa’s most well-known rural museums. It was built in 1899 as a prison near the start of the Sani Pass. It was converted into a museum in 1976 and designated a National Monument two years later. From Stone Age fossils and prehistoric San artefacts to displays explaining the arrival of European settlers. Every day except Monday, the museum opens at 9 a.m.
11 Meet Falcon Ridge’s Rehabilitated Raptors
Falcon Ridge, a family favourite in the Champagne Valley near Cathkin Park. It is a rehabilitation centre for rescued wild and captive birds of prey. Visitors can get up close and personal with iconic African birds like the African fish eagle. The endangered Cape Vulture, the secretary bird, and the spotted eagle owl. The staff are enthusiastic about the birds and their conservation. They keep the crowds entertained with stunning aerial displays and informative talks set against the magnificent Drakensberg escarpment. Every week, from Tuesday to Thursday, the centre is open.
12 Drakensberg travel guide | Go to a Drakensberg Boys Choir performance.
The Drakensberg Boys Choir School, located in Cathkin Park. This is a boarding school that uses choral music to create a truly unique education. Inevitably, the choir is one of the world’s finest and most prestigious school choirs. For many visitors, these high-energy, talent-packed performances, ranging from classical choral songs to indigenous. South African music, are the unexpected highlight of a visit to the Drakensberg. Adult tickets are 205 rands and children’s tickets are 155 rands.
13 Drakensberg travel guide | Fish for Trophy Yellowfish at Sterkfontein Dam
Although Natal has the most Drakensberg attractions, the Free State’s Sterkfontein Dam is the ultimate destination for avid fishermen. The dam, which is located just southwest of Harrismith, covers 70 square miles of impossibly clear water . It is well-known for its healthy population of trophy small and largemouth yellowfish. . These indigenous Southern African sport fish are highly sought after by fly fishermen.
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