The Drakensberg in South Africa
The Drakensberg is a major mountain range in South Africa. The name is derived from the name given by the early Dutch settlers. A more accurate description of what the word means in English would be “Mountain of Dragons.”
The complete stretch of mountains that make up the Drakensberg is in the region of 1,000 kilometers, stretching all the way from the Eastern Cape to Mpumalanga. The highest point in this mountain range is 3,482 meters above sea level. It is also at this point where the Great Escarpment of the Drakensberg Mountain Range is.
A visit to South Africa would not be complete without a visit to the Drakensberg. The amazing thing is that you could visit the Drakensberg once for an unforgettable experience, or you could make regular return visits and every time experience something else.
In all honesty, if you visit only once you are doing yourself a disservice. Over the years we have visited a few times, and every time we experience something new which just confirms that this is a gem of a destination worthy of your time and money.
On this page we have compiled a list of the highlights of our visits to the Drakensberg.
Sentinel Peak and Chain Ladder Hike
This is a day hike which takes you to the top of the Drakensberg Amphitheatre. It is also one of the most daring one day hikes we have ever done. The last portion of this hike requires you to climb 2 chain ladders to get to the top. The 1st ladder is about 40 meters high, and the 2nd ladder about 20 meters.
The hike starts at the Sentinel Car Park at 2,560 meters above sea level, and ends on top of the escarpment at 3,282 meters. There is a 1km drop from the top of the mountain to the Tugela Valley below. The view is absolutely breathtaking.
The highest point to reach on this hike is called Mont-Aux-Sources. This is also the point of origin for the Tugela Falls. The Tugela Falls is the highest waterfall in Africa, and regarded as the second highest in the world.
Read all about our experience of this amazing hike.
Tugela Gorge Hike
While the Sentinel Trail takes you to the top of the Tugela Falls, the Tugela Gorge gives you a beautiful view of the falls looking up from the valley below.
The Tugela Gorge is a 1 day hike, and about 8.5kms to the gorge. While the trail is flat for the most part, this is a hike that should not be underestimated.
Camping At Mahai Campsite
The Tugela Gorge hiking trail and the Mahai campsite are both situated in the Royal Natal National Park. This makes Mahai the perfect camping spot for those wanting to do the hike.
Regardless of whether you want to do the Tugela Gorge hike or not, Mahai is one of our favorite campsites.
The campsite is right next to the mountains, tucked away in a corner where you have the ruggedness of nature but the luxury of clean ablution facilities. Whether you are an adventurous person or not, if camping is your thing then this is the place to be.
To make a reservation you can visit KZN Wild Life
The Sani Mountain Pass is hailed as the most epic of all mountain passes in South Africa. The Sani Pass starts at 1,544 meters above sea level on the South African side, and summits at 2,876 meters above sea level in Lesotho.
While talks of tarring the gravel pass will probably become a reality, the road can only be accessed by 4×4 vehicles. This is an extremely dangerous pass, and the many car wrecks in the ravine testifies of the dangers of this road.
The scenery is amazing, and your reward is a beer at the highest pub in Africa!
The Drakensberg Amphitheatre and the beautiful village called Clarens are connected via the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. The park is famous for its eroded sandstone rocks. When the sun shines on these rocks they boast with beautiful shades of “gold”.
You can either visit the park as part of your visit to either Clarens or the Northern Drakensberg, but you also have the option of staying at the park itself. The park offers camping sites or chalets, should you choose to sleep in the park itself. However, many people prefer to stay in Clarens and then visit the park during the day as it is only a 20 minute drive from Clarens.
You have the option of driving through the park and admiring the beauty of the Golden Gate from within the comfort of your own car. Alternatively you could also get closer to nature by going on one of the many hikes available in the area.
To read more or make a booking you can visit the official page at San Parks
On your way towards the Royal Natal National Park where the Tugela Gorge and the Mahai Campsite are, there are also quite a few other turn-offs that few know where they lead to. One of these turn-offs takes you to a hidden gem called Dumbe Cottages.
This is one of the most serene places in the Northern Drakensberg. At the time of this writing there has been only 5 cottages on the premise. The cottages are far enough apart from each other to make you feel like you have all of the Drakensberg for yourself.
From this location you have a beautiful view of the Amphitheatre in the distance.
To arrange for accommodation, you can make a booking on the South African tailored accommodation site lekkeslaap.co.za
Drinks At Orion Mont-Aux-Sources Hotel
The Mont-Aux-Sources Hotel is just around the corner of the entrance to the Royal Natal National Park. The hotel is strategically located and offers a magnificent view of the Amphitheatre.
As a bonus, the restaurant of the hotel has good food and drinks to offer. This is a place where you can find rest for your soul. Sitting on the patio with a view of the Drakensberg Amphitheatre is tantamount to experiencing a moment of paradise on earth.
Although a bit more expensive, the hotel has some good accommodation as well. This makes it ideal for those who want to do the Tugela Gorge hiking trail, but who also want the comfort of luxurious accommodation afterwards.
To make a booking you can visit the Orion Mont Aux Sources Booking Page.
As you begin to discover the majesty of the Drakensberg, you realise there is more to do than you can fit into one holiday.
This list of highlights on this page is by no means exhaustive, and it is a good idea to do your own research before you go. There are many other activities in the area, ranging from horse riding to tree top canopy / zip line tours.
The Drakensberg region is one of the most exciting places where you can dream, explore and discover.