The Drakensberg is South Africa’s greatest and most prominent mountain range. With roots in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and even neighbouring country Lesotho, the Drakensberg offers a feast of adventure, beautiful sights and mesmerising nature.
Translated from Afrikaans, Drakensberg means “mountain of dragons”. Named for either its appearance of rocky outcrops and cliffs as a giant dragon, or local myths of dragons roaming the mountains, the Drakensberg holds a mystical charm.
Stretching across such a large area, there are a number of mountain passes to add to your bucket list.
Sani Pass is a famous drive between KwaZulu-Natal and the border of Lesotho. Climbing 1 332m to the summit on a road that stretches over only 9km, it’s no surprise you will need a 4x4 vehicle or have to join a guided tour to enjoy the beautiful mountainous drive. The summit will welcome you to the Sani Mountain Lodge, home to the highest pub in Africa – a worthwhile stop to take in the incredible views around you.
Another mountain pass to add to your itinerary is the Hela Hela Pass. Located between Richmond and Donnybrook in KwaZulu-Natal, the Hela Hela Pass offers views of the impressive Umkomaas River and valley. The pass rises a total of 651m, reaching a summit of 1 199m. As it is a dirt road, you will need a 4x4 vehicle to traverse the pass when it’s wet, but when it’s dry any vehicle can conquer it.
Exhilarating drives along mountain passes are but one of the many ways to enjoy the Drakensberg. How about a cocktail and comfy chair as you drink in the spectacular views?
Champagne Castle is the the second-highest peak in South Africa. Champagne Castle Hotel sits below the peak and offers panoramic views of the range. Sit back and relax at the hotel surrounded by magnificent sights, or embark on a tour of the area on horseback. If you’re feeling courageous, you can take on a three-day hike to the Champagne Castle peak.
Another giant in the Drakensberg is Cathedral Peak. A freestanding mountain reaching 3 004m, the mountain is also known as Mponjwana, meaning “little horn”, a reference to the summit’s unusual shape. Cathedral Peak Hotel is the best spot here to start your explorations. There are 19 hiking routes that start at the hotel, ranging from easy 30-minute walks, to guided 10-hour strenuous climbs. Situated in a pristine valley on the slopes of the mountain, the hotel is also a perfect place to simply appreciate the nature around you.
The Drakensberg is a giant and incredible mountain range, sure to take your breath away at every turn. The range may have gotten its name from mystical origins centuries ago, but it hasn’t lost any of its magic.
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