The Drakensberg certainly deserves its reputation for being home to some of the best hiking trails in South Africa. You can amble through the scenic lowlands of Rainbow Gorge near Bergville or challenge yourself with a chain-assisted clamber to the top of the amphitheatre at the Sentinel.
With over 1000km to explore, you’ll find no shortage of easy walks or testing multi-day challenges if you’re prepared to go to any lengths to make the most of this scenic and diverse area.
Thanks to its central location, the Drakensberg is easily accessed from both Johannesburg and Durban by road or from Cape Town via air. Thanks to cheap flights South Africa is easily accessible from abroad too.
If footloose and fancy free isn’t your cup of tea, there are plenty of other activities you’ll love when you visit this World Heritage site in the very heart of the country. Here’s a snapshot of things to do in the Drakensberg that aren’t hiking.
Head for the Top of Sani Pass
Sani Pass is at once beautiful and treacherous, winding its way erratically up from the southern ‘berg to the Lesotho highlands.
You’ll need a 4×4 to survive the trip and a passport to get through border control. The going gets rough though, so unless you have nerves of steel it’s best to take a guided tour to the top. Gorgeous views over the rugged hills of Lesotho make every nail-biting moment worthwhile and once you arrive you can indulge in a tipple at the Highest Pub in Africa, which is 2 874m above sea level.
Another rewarding option is a visit to a traditional Lesotho village where you’ll be welcomed with warm hospitality and freshly baked bread.
Thanks to its precarious and unpredictable nature, the pass is often closed during inclement weather, so check ahead before planning a trip.
Go Zipping Through the Landscape
In Cathkin Park, about 35 minutes’ drive from Winterton, another lofty adventure awaits with Drakensberg Canopy Tours Zipline adventures.
This exciting activity involves gliding from cliff face to cliff face and tree to tree as you dangle from a sturdy zipline. For safety’s sake, there’s a qualified guide in attendance to make sure you come to no harm and you’ll be provided with all the necessary training and safety gear before you set off.
Step Back in Time
Your historical exploration in the Drakensberg depends entirely on how far you’d like to rewind the clock.
You’ll find evidence of the ancient San people at over 600 sites in the Drakensberg. There are over 35 000 individual instances of cave art inscribed on the granite surfaces of these hills and cliffs.
Some of the best ones can be found on a trip to Battle Cave in the Maloti Drakensberg park which is one of the best depictions of traditional warfare in the country. It’s a treat to take one of the guided 4-hour tours up to this site and find out more about San culture with running commentary along the way.
It’s hard to believe that this pristine and beautiful area was once the site of conflict but there are more recent battlefields to visit here too. The area between Mooi River and Van Reenen’s Pass is littered with remnants of bloody battles between Boer, English and Zulu troops.
Again, a guided tour is the best way to make the most of excursions to these reminders of skirmishes past. You can choose from a wide variety of tours in different price ranges depending on your departure point and areas of interest.
If you’d rather explore at your own pace, pick up a map from Drakensberg Tourism and make your own way around.
Music Brings Life to the Hills
The Drakensberg Boys Choir has long been hailed as one of the best musical ensembles in the world and you can get to see them live during your visit to this area. During the school term, regular performances take place at the school, about 30 minutes’ drive from Winterton.
Chase the Snow
Nearly every winter you’ll see snow on the highest peaks of the Drakensberg, and often in the foothills too. You can even try your hand at snow skiing at Tiffendell Resort near Barkly East in the far southern reaches of the berg.
The Drakensberg has something for everyone to enjoy. There’s top class golf, horse trails, exciting abseiling adventures, amazing fishing and more. Snow or shine, there’s something on offer in the ‘berg any time of the year.