The Drakensberg Experience Route
Did you know?
Every year in April/May, the Splashy Fen Music festival is held in Underberg, in the foothills of the Drakensberg.
The base area of the Drakensberg Experience Route is the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, from where you're always aware of the rugged mountain peaks the Zulus call Ukhahlamba – ‘the barrier of spears'.
There is so much to the Drakensberg tour, so many villages in its valleys to explore, trails to hike, people to encounter and sites to visit, that one needs to set aside a good few days for this experience.
Here you will find Anglo-Boer battlefields like Spioenkop, Fort Durnford and the place of Winston Churchill's capture, Frere.
The Drakensberg mountains also have the second-highest waterfall in the world. Here the Tugela river tumbles in a long thin thread over the escarpment.
The highlight of most people's South African Drakensberg tour comes on a Wednesday evening, as the world-famous Drakensberg Boys Choir sings to you with the magnificent peaks forming a perfect backdrop to their angelic hymns.
To the south, the freestanding basalt block of Giant's Castle looms large, clouds steaming off its flanks. Just out of sight is another one of the Drakensberg's highest peaks, the delightfully named Old Woman Grinding Corn.
Part of the magic of the mountains is in their names, given to them for their shapes, sculpted by water and weather: Cathedral's Peak, Devil's Tooth, Champagne Castle, Monk's Cowl, and the Sentinel, to name a few.
Tendele Camp at Royal Natal National Park in the Northern Berg presents one of the Drakensberg's Experience route's most compelling views.
The Drakensberg is immensely important in terms of culture. Almost every rocky overhang has Bushman (San) rock art. There are estimated to be about 35 000 paintings in all. Some have said this mountain range is the greatest outdoor art gallery in the world.
The mountains protect rolling grasslands and endemic species. They are also critically important for their role as a massive water catchments area. It was for these reasons that the Drakensberg Mountains were declared a World Heritage Site (natural and cultural) in 2000.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
How to get here
You could fly into King Shaka International Airport in Durban and drive to the mountains via Underberg and Himeville. From the Johannesburg side, head towards Harrismith and the Sterkfontein Dam.
Best time to visit
The high mountains can cause extreme weather with dramatic thundershowers in summer, icy cold and frequent snow in winter. Both are wonderful, but autumn and spring are more temperate.
Around the area
Don't miss out on a visit to the Drakensberg Boys' Choir School next to the Dragon Peaks Resort.
Tours to do
Bushman paintings; tubing down the river; Midlands Meander art and craft tours; 4x4 trails; quad biking trails.
Self-drive is best if you want to explore the area at your own pace.
Length of stay
Spend three or four days if you can.
What to pack
Good walking shoes or boots, your camera, and, in summer, a hat and sunscreen. In winter, don't stint on the warm clothes, gloves and beanies. Even when heading out in sunny weather, take a warm jacket as the weather can turn stormy within minutes.
Where to stay
The Drakensberg is home to many of the country's most charming guesthouses and B&Bs. Luxury hotels and resorts are also available.
If you're in the area during April or May, look out for the Splashy Fen Music Festival in the Underberg region.For more laid-back music, try the White Mountain Festival in late September.