The Drakensberg

The Drakensberg is one of the most popular and well known regions in South Africa. Very popular for hikers, fishers, sports-enthusiasts and those that just want a peaceful time in nature, it's second to none for dramatic scenery, wildlife (especially birds) and all-round beauty.

As it's not close to any major conurbations, it's actually not very well known by tourists, but if you're thinking of South Africa, it's one of my top to-do's for anyone planning a trip.

Interesting facts about the Drakensberg:

  • It was named the Drakensberg, or Dragon Mountains, by the first Voortrekkers travelling North into Africa from Durban.
  • The Zulu name for the Drakensberg mountains is uKhahlamba, which translates to "Barrier of Spears".
  • Part of the Southern Great Escarpment, which is the second longest Mountain range in the World (roughly 5000km long, running all the way into Angola).
  • 182 Million years old, formed in the early Jurassic period.
  • Has the worlds second highest waterfall - the Tugela falls - with a height of 983 meters.
  • UNESCO world heritage sight.
  • Thabana Ntlenyana, the Drakensbergs' highest peak, reaches an impressive 3,482 meters. Quite a climb to get up there!

As it's such a large and diverse region, I think it's worth dedicating some time and space to each of the Northern, Central & Southern ranges. Read on!

The most iconic landmark in the Northern Drakensberg is the Amphitheatre, a cliff face 5 km long, with a height of 1.2km's. It's framed by the Eastern Buttress and Devil's tooth to the South, and the Sentinel to the North, making it quite a stand-out and recognizable feature. It's also where the mighty Tugela falls cascades nearly a kilometer down to the Tugela Gorge.

The Amphitheatre

It is quite rightly regarded as one of the most impressive cliff faces on the planet.

The Northern Berg has many walks/hikes, the most popular being the Tugela Gorge (Good for all ages) and Amphitheatre (Leaving from the Sentinel Car Park), though there are many other smaller, really challenging peaks that are also accessible.

I've previously worked in the Northern Berg at The Cavern, and also at Sungubala Eco Camp. These are both quite suited to slightly more upmarket tourists (i.e. they're not cheap).

On our last visit we stayed at Drakensville, an affordable, family-friendly resort with stunning views of the berg. Whatever your preference, the Northern Berg definitely has accommodation to suit!

Spioenkop Nature Reserve can also be found in the region; Though it doesn't technically form part of the Berg (or if it does, it's closer to the Central Berg), it's worth seeing on a day out. A wide variety of antelope can be found, along with some Rhino and Giraffe if you're lucky.

The roads in the park are awful though, so I wouldn't recommend this if you're in a hire-car!


Sterkhorn, one of many impressive peaks in the Central Berg

The Central Drakensberg is probably the most popular of the Berg regions. Not only is it more easily accessible from both Durban and Pietermaritzburg that the other two regions, but it also offers visitors more access to trails leading up to the high peaks, many more sports activities (Golf courses are plentiful here!), and more "touristy" attractions.

Attractions such as Thokozisa Lifestyle Centre, The Farmers Lawn Market and Kwazulu Weavers & Waffle Hut have taken advantage of the burgeoning popularity of the region, and provide a good source of income and opportunity to a once deprived community. All are well worth a visit!

There are several options if you're looking at staying over in the Central Berg, the most notable of these being Cathedral Peak Hotel, nestled deep in the foothills and offering wonderful walks & hikes, and Champagne Sports Resort, with one of the best Golf courses I have ever played, as well as Tennis, Squash and water activities on offer.

A final, quite unique attraction, is the Drakensberg Boys Choir; The school is in the heart of the foothills, and the estate is open to the public for visits. Additionally, they host concerts every Wednesday & Saturday during Term time, which is well worth experiencing.

If I'm honest, having been to and worked in the Southern Drakensberg as well, there is much less to experience here than in either the Northern or Central bergs.

The main attraction, and it is a proper attraction, is Sani Pass; One of the most dangerous roads in South Africa, it's a steep, windy, narrow dirt road heading up through the escarpment and into Lesotho.

It's only really accessible by 4x4, though you do get the odd taxi taking on the challenge. The burned out wrecks of several of these along the pass are testament to the fact that it's a very bad idea!

At the top of the pass is Sani Mountain Lodge, the highest pub in Africa; You will have to pass through a border post in order to enjoy a well deserved pint, so don't forget your passport!

At the top of Sani Pass

The Drakensberg Attractions


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