Did you know?
The highest African pub is at the top of Sani Pass, the road to the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park.
UNESCO is lavish in its description of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park, which encompasses South Africa's highest mountain range. We quote the organisation's words because we couldn't have said it any better. This KwaZulu-Natal World Heritage Site, it states, 'has exceptional natural beauty in its soaring basaltic buttresses, incisive dramatic cutbacks, and golden sandstone ramparts.'
A spine stretching some 150km long, the most scenic sights in the park carry equally evocative names – Cathedral Peak, Giant's Castle and Monk's Cowl are just some.
A particularly renowned attraction of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park is the Amphitheatre, a wall of rock 5km in length and 1 000m high. From its domed summit at Mont-aux-Sources spill the spectacular Tugela Falls. Brushed with a dusting of snow in the winter, the 'berg', as the site is affectionately termed by locals, is picture-perfect.
This is a place to exercise the body, fuelled with crisp, clean air. Hiking, rock climbing and fly-fishing are popular activities. There are several game parks in the area where a wide variety of African antelope such as the large eland, can be seen, and the bird life is nothing short of magnificent, with the bearded vulture or lammergeier often circling in the sky above. Flora includes the indigenous protea, rare cycads and ancient tree ferns.
For 4 000 years or so, these precipices were home to the indigenous San. Though the inhabitants have largely disappeared from the area, they have left their mark in the form of fascinating rock art. Some 30 000 paintings in 600 caves and overhangs have been recorded in the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, yet another reason the area has earned World Heritage Site status.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Drakensberg Tourism Association
Tel: +27 (0)36 448 1557/2455
How to get here
From Durban, take the N3 using Exit 194 to reach the Central and Northern Berg, and Exit 99 for the Southern Berg.
Best time to visit
The park is a good year-round destination, but particularly beautiful in the autumn (May) and spring (November).
Around the area
Loads of holiday accommodation, farm lodges, B&Bs, adventure activity centres and fresh produce stalls along the route into the mountains.
Tours to do
Hiking is a popular activity, but there are also birdwatching tours, tours to the Drakensberg Boys' Choir School and for the younger set, rafting, abseiling and mountaineering options.
Your own motor vehicle is recommended to travel between the towns, valleys and attractions in the 'Berg.
Length of stay
A weekend is minimum.
What to pack
Hiking boots, fishing gear, a raincoat in summer and warm clothes in winter, and always take plenty of sunscreen and a hat.
Where to stay
Accommodation in the area runs the gamut from luxury hotels and game lodges to guest houses, B&B establishments, self catering facilities, caravan parks and camping sites.
Locals make great hiking poles from indigenous timber which they sell along the roadside.