If you like to experience a variety of culture, craft and art, the Maloti-Drakensberg Heritage Route is yours for the travelling. From the landscape painters of Clarens to the Basotho cultural villages and the vast network of rock art by the San in Lesotho, it's an unbeatable experience.
Lesotho's ponies are famed for their sure-footedness and pony treks into the mountains are a popular attraction.
The Maloti-Drakensberg Heritage Route features approximately 13 000km2 of the most awe-inspiring mountain scenery in South Africa.
The route covers South Africa's north-eastern border with Lesotho, embracing large sections of the Drakensberg Mountains on the KwaZulu-Natal side. It contains a national park in Lesotho and a World Heritage Site in the form of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park.
Famous names like the Amphitheatre and Giant's Castle fall within its ambit and if you're a hiker or nature lover, you will fall in love with the wild all over again.
Over 22 000 San rock art paintings, recording the daily lives and spiritual adventures of the First People, are to be found on this route,
Every year, thousands of adventurers take the South African winter by its proverbial frosty horns and drive down to the Maloti Drakensberg Heritage Route, where the raptors crest the ridges and the air tastes like champagne.
In summer, the Maloti Drakensberg Heritage Route is a place of extraordinary beauty – pistachio-green grasslands, high twists of montane forest, clear streams, a fairy world of tree ferns and mosses that just begs to be explored on foot.
But winter is when the mountains are at their grandest, their most implacably majestic, covered in a fondant-white frosting of snow.
One of the most convenient starting points is Clarens in the Free State, a 3-hours drive from Johannesburg. But if you'd prefer to start from the Eastern Cape side (there's an airport in Port Elizabeth), head for the mountains near Lady Grey and Tiffendell.
Around the area
Must-sees in the area include Cathedral Peak, Champagne Castle and the Royal Natal National Park, the Amphitheatre, Sentinel, Eastern Buttress and Mont-aux-Sources - the summit of which can be reached via a 100-rung chain ladder.
Tours to do
If you have 2 days or more to spare, consider a guided pony trek in Lesotho. You can do an overnight tour, staying in a Basotho village.
Hiring your own vehicle is best if you want to full explore the route.
Length of stay
Dedicate at least 5 days to this experience.
What to pack
In winter, bring your warmest woolies. In summer, light clothes and perhaps a raincoat for the thunderstorms. You will want your camera and lightweight binoculars. And don't forget your passport for forays into Lesotho.
Where to stay
There is a range of accomodation available all along the route, from hotels and B&Bs to basic camp sites.