Sani Pass is one of the most spectacular mountain passes in South Africa, meandering over the Drakensberg escarpment into Lesotho. It’s accessed via 4x4, mountain bike, quad bike or motorcycle – or you can join legions of runners who tackle it on foot each year – if you’re up for the challenge!

Did you know?

Sani Pass was originally a pack-animals trail and was only opened to traffic in 1955.

Sani Pass is synonymous with adventure because of its remote locale and the white-knuckle rides it takes to get to the top.

Peaking at 2 873 metres above sea level, the pass is also aptly referred to as the Roof of Africa.

Sani Pass is a popular mountain biking destination which plays host to the annual Sani Pass Transfrontier Mountain Bike Epic in December. Providing two routes – 42km and 26km – the race sees biking enthusiasts charging up and back down the pass in pursuit of glory.

Quad biking is another awesome, if slightly less demanding, way to enjoy the pass. Guided day and overnight trails up the pass and into the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho are available, with most offering lunch and refreshments at the Sani Top Chalet, home of the highest pub in Africa.

Combination packages featuring quad biking and 4x4 driving are also available. Sani Pass is only accessible by a 4x4 vehicle and makes for an exhilarating ride. Longer overnight 4x4 trails are also offered, including trips up some of Lesotho's highest peaks.

Sani Pass can also be accessed with off-road motorbikes and combined with motorcycle tours of the southern Drakensberg or Lesotho. Lesotho hosts the annual Baboons' Roof of Africa motorcycle event every November, ranked as the most gruelling endurance event of its kind in southern Africa.

Endurance of a different kind is called upon if you decide to run, or walk, up Sani Pass as part of the suitably named Sani Stagger marathon, which takes place annually in November.

Be aware that before you reach the summit of Sani Pass, there is an international border post and passports are required to access the top. Also, the weather can change very quickly and dramatically in the mountains, so come prepared.

On the topic of weather, the heavy snowfalls that blanket the escarpment in winter offer an added attraction in the form of skiing. A short drive into Lesotho from the Free State side will enable you to access the ski resort.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Central Drakensberg Information Centre
Tel: +27 (0)36 488 1207/1273
Email: cdta@futurenet.co.za

Sani Top Chalet
Tel: +27 (0)33 702 1069 or +27 (0)82 715 1131
Email: sanitop@futurenet.co.za

How to get here

Fly directly from any of South Africa’s major cities to Durban's King Shaka International Airport. From Durban take the N3 to Howick, then follow the signs to Underberg. The Sani Pass starts just outside Underberg.

Best time to visit

In summer and spring, between September and April, especially if you plan to hike or bike in the pass. Winter usually brings snow and ice to the pass, very pretty but hazardous.

Around the area

uKhahlamba-Drakensberg National Park; the quaint country towns of Underberg and Himeville.

Get around

If you decide to drive, remember that you will need a 4x4 (available for hire at all major car rental companies). You can also get around by mountain bike, quad-bike, off-road motorcycle or on foot.

What to pack

In summer bring plenty of sunscreen, a hat and comfortable hiking boots. In winter bring plenty of warm clothing. Even if the weather seems fine, it can change in an instant.

Where to stay

Sani Top Chalet at the top of Sani Pass or at the Sani Pass Hotel down below.

What to eat

Authentic South African country cooking at the Sani Top Chalet pub, the highest pub in Africa.

What's happening

The Sani Stagger marathon in November, the Sani Pass Transfrontier Mountain Bike Epic in December.

Best buys

Look out for a traditional Basotho hat, a conical straw creation with three interlocking rings on top.