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LLying in the foothills of the mighty uKhahlamba-Drakensberg, a World Heritage Site, is a typical rural farm town – where dusty roads, pristine mountain streams and enormous sandstone backdrops have sculpted the rustic haven that is Underberg.
Although relatively small, Underberg is surrounded by farms, so it’s always bustling with vehicles and locals stocking up on groceries and farm supplies. The town features a few grocery stores and general dealers, 2 small malls, hardware suppliers, a butchery, art and craft stores, a few restaurants, quaint pubs, clothing stores and a petrol station.
Travellers from afar use the town, founded in 1886, and its surrounds as a convenient base from which to explore the Sani Saunter. This is a tourism region demarcated by Loteni in the north and Bushman’s Nek in the south, and includes Underberg’s cosy neighbour, Himeville, 5km down the road.
Thanks to the Mzimkhulu River, the most popular attraction in this part of South Africa is fly-fishing, followed by hiking, with the Underberg-Himeville Trout Fishing Club alone enjoying rights to more than 160km of river and 60 dams.
The 35 300-hectare Garden Castle State Forest offers lovely scenic walks and numerous rock-art sites in the sandstone caves that are so typical of these mountains.
Hiking, biking and river tubing opportunities abound. Hikers can take on slow, meandering trails if they prefer, but the strong and fit will want to try the challenging trek up Rhino Peak to enjoy magnificent views over neighbouring Lesotho.
Golf junkies are even catered for – there are 18 holes to be played at the Glengarry Golf Course, the only golf course in the area.
Nature lovers will be in their seventh heaven at the 104-hectare Himeville Nature Reserve, or the Swamp Nature Reserve near Pevensey, where endemic wildlife and bird species abound. Add to this the trout-fishing allure of the 1 159-hectare Vergelegen Reserve, and you have a well-rounded day fill of wildlife viewing that ends with a dinner you caught yourself.
One of the most enjoyable means of sightseeing in the Drakensberg is on horseback. Khotso Horse Trails head out into the foothills on horseback tours at 9am daily.
During Easter, the Splashy Fen Music Festival attracts thousands of visitors to the southern Drakensberg for 4 days of music, art, crafts, food and drink. But no matter when you visit, Underberg truly is the gateway to all the attractions of the southern uKhahlamba-Drakensberg.
TTravel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Southern Drakensberg Tourism
Tel: +27 (0)33 701 1471
How to get here
Take the N3 from Durban or Johannesburg as far as Howick (about 90 minutes from Durban, about 5 hours from Johannesburg). Take the Bulwer/Underberg turn-off (Exit 99) onto the R617 through Bulwer, then follow the signs to Underberg.
Best time to visit
Summer days (December to February) can get very hot, and winter (June to August) can be cold, especially at night and especially when it snows. Any time between these two extremes is ideal, unless all you’re intent on doing is building snowmen and sitting in front of a roaring fire drinking hot toddies...
Tours to do
A drive up the Sani Pass into Lesotho – using a 4-wheel drive – is a memorable trip unless you have a problem with heights. Remember to take your passport, because this entails crossing the South African border.
A 4-wheel drive vehicle is recommended, as many roads in the area are quite rough.
Length of stay
A weekend minimum, but preferably a week to fully explore this beautiful region.
What to pack
Hiking boots, a hat and sunscreen, camera, binoculars, fishing equipment.
Where to stay
Cottages, guesthouses and B&Bs are plentiful in Underberg and Himeville.
- Underberg Accomodation
- Splashy Fen Music Festival
- Central Drakensberg Information Centre
- Maloti-Drakensberg Heritage Route