Did you know?
The Drakensberg is Africa's highest mountain range south of Kenya's Kilimanjaro.
uKhahlamba is a prime South African eco-tourism destination. Framed by the Drakensberg Mountains and punctuated by yellowwood forests, indigenous grasslands and many rivers and streams, the region forms part of the 243 000-hectare uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
With such natural beauty to its credit it's not surprising the mountainous region literally bursts at the seams with exhilarating adventure activities.
Hiking is a major Drakensberg attraction, with a vast network of trails – of varying lengths and difficulties – spanning the entire region. Hikers can opt for guided or self-guided trails, all of which take advantage of the spectacular mountain views.
The Giant's Cup Trail is a good all-round hike, while the Cathedral Peak Trail provides experienced hikers with access to this iconic 3 004 metre-high peak. The 12km hike to the top of Mont-aux-Sources (3 282m), complete with its 100-rung chain ladder, is a must for the experienced.
Rock climbing and ice climbing (in winter) are also frequently sought-after uKhahlamba adventures, and Giant's Castle, Lotheni and Sani Pass offer excellent climbing conditions.
What goes up, must come down... and there are plenty of ways to do just that. Abseiling is available at sites throughout the region; try the popular Tugela Gorge or Maletsunyane Falls abseils, which see you descending hundreds of metres into picturesque gorges.
Or stay airborne and see the Drakensberg from up high: enjoy paragliding, hang-gliding and helicopter or gyrocopter flights for an invigorating bird's eye view of this wilderness wonderland.
There are also dozens of 4x4, mountain bike and horse-riding trails that traverse the region, providing ample opportunity for more thorough explorations.
In summer when the rains have come and the rivers are running high, kayaking, river tubing and swimming are favoured activities. Equipment is hired out by local companies in the area.
uKhahlamba is also renowned for its well-preserved San (Bushman) rock art sites as well as its exceptional wildlife and birdlife. Make sure you add these to your list for the ultimate Drakensberg adventure getaway.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Drakensberg Tourism Association
Tel: +27 (0)36 448 1557
How to get here
If you’re driving, from Johannesburg take the N3 south (towards Durban), turning off at Winterton, from where you can start to explore the uKhahlamba region. From Cape Town, take the N2 motorway to Durban, and then the N3 north to Winterton. Or fly directly from any of South Africa’s major cities to Durban International Airport and then take the N3 north to Winterton. The mountain range is divided into the southern, central and northern Berg for practicality.
Best time to visit
uKhahlamba-Drakensberg is an all-year-round destination, as temperatures are relatively moderate. Winter (May to August) days are mild, but it can get very cold at night. Snow in the higher regions is common in winter. Visit in winter if you’re looking to ice climb and spring/summer (September to March) if you’re looking to enjoy the mountain pools and wild flowers.
Around the area
Rock art at Cathedral Peak and Battle Cave; Marble Baths, for a dip in the natural pools; Lammergeyer Hide, a vulture restaurant catering to local raptors; Sani Pass.
Tours to do
4x4 trails, canopy tours, quad biking, horse riding and a tour of the Midlands Meander, about two hours' drive away.
There are many tour operators in the area but self-drive is the best option if you want to explore at your own pace. Though roads are good and normal sedan cars are fine for much of the region, if you really want to get off the beaten track, hire a 4X4.
Length of stay
Anything from a few days or weekend to two weeks or more, depending on how much you want to do and see.
What to pack
Always pack plenty of sunscreen and a hat, no matter what the weather. You will need warm clothing if visiting in winter as it can get very cold in the evenings. Good walking shoes or hiking boots are also a must.
Where to stay
Accommodation options range from exclusive sports to camping and caravan parks, B&Bs, hotels and lodges.
Splashy Fen Music Festival near Himeville in April; Giant’s Castle Mountain Bike Challenge in April; Polar Bear Swim at Dragon’s Peak Dam at Estcourt in June; The Berg & Bush cycling race in October/November; Fly-fishing Challenge at Himeville in October/November; Sani Stagger Endurance Race along Sani Pass in November.
Locally made art, curios and crafts, including superb beadwork and woven baskets, at shops and roadside stalls throughout the region.