Lesotho Travel Guide
🗝️ Key Facts
💶Currency: Lesotho Loti (LSL)
🕙Time Zone: +2 GMT
📞Phone Code: +266
🌐Language: Lesotho and English (Xhosa and Zulu understood)
✈️Best time to visit: Dec to Mar (Summer)
🍴Eat: Braai (BBQ)
🍷Drink: Imported drinks only
🗺️Don't miss: Sani-Pass Tour (from South Africa)
🗺 Menu of Contents:
Few people have heard of Lesotho when planning a holiday to Africa. The mountainous Kingdom of Lesotho, can easily escape many travellers since its enclosed by South Africa on all sides. Separated from its neighbour by the huge Drakensberg and Maluti ranges, it's situated on a plateau over 1,000m high and has peaks reaching 3240 m.
Sani Pass is a breathtaking entry-point into Lesotho from South Africa's Drakensberg National Park and acts as a the gateway to the Roof of Africa scenic route, linking the magnificent scenery of the two mountain ranges. It is the most popular way of "visiting Lesotho" by this pass, which only allows official vehicles due to the rugged and dangerous steep roads to reach the top.
The highlands of Lesotho are characterised by majestic mountain scenery, crisp mountain air, and the simple serenity of the traditional lifestyles of its people. Pony trekking is one of the finest ways to experience the Lesotho highlands, with time spent in remote Basotho villages scattered among the grassy hills. Here, waterfalls saturate the surrounding rocks with rainbow-coloured mist and crystal clear streams criss-cross the landscape.
The region is also perfect for those who prefer to put their hiking skills to the test, with miles of solitary scenery to appreciate, an abundance of trout in the rivers and dams, and the assurance of a warm and friendly welcome in the rugged mountain hamlets.
The central highlands are home to the highest waterfall in southern Africa, the Maletsunyane Falls near Semonkong. Meaning 'Place of Smoke', it thunders from a height of 190m and is at its most spectacular during the summer rainy season.
The land descends from the top of the Maluti Mountains down to the western lowlands, which contain all major towns and around two thirds of the population. Maseru, the capital, is a fascinating city of contrasting modern and traditional lifestyles.
Lesotho will allow visitors to observe an African country of rugged beauty and unchanging culture that remains pristine and largely unaffected by tourism.
Lesotho is one of the poorest countries in the world, and sadly it's to no surprise that it remains well unknown by the travel community. To access Lesotho you can only fly direct from Johannesburg (South Africa) with a couple of flights operating daily to Moshoeshoe International Airport in Maseru (code MSU). Making a connection in Johannesburg is a must if you are flying into the country.
Lesotho has no official airline, but travelling into South Africa with South African Airways to Johannesburg and then connecting to Maseru is the best alternative when flying.
However most people when they visit Lesotho, use the Sani Pass, which is a road connecting South Africa to Lesotho on the southern side of the country. It is mostly used as a tourist tour spot and serves as well as a vital link to the communities which live in the high mountains. (see below guide on Sani Pass).
If you are visiting the capital, Maseru, you can't expect exactly any form of public transport. From the airport there are only taxis to start with (cabs) and once you arrive you will see that even going from one side of the city to another you will also need to hire a cab from door to door.
✔️Tip: When travelling in the country, make sure safety is the number one concern. If you are not sure about somewhere to go, always refrain or ask for advice from the hotel.
Safety in Lesotho is still a big criteria when visiting. Generally, when travelling in tours, this should not generally be a serious issue. But if you venture alone or small groups, be aware that there has been an increase in opportunistic crime and gun-related crimes, due to a high unemployment rate in the cities. Most incidents occur in Maseru, but visitors should also be alert elsewhere to theft, car hijackings, and muggings.
Muggers often target foreigners and foreign vehicles have been involved in hijackings in the past, near Malealea Lodge south of Maseru.
❗Attention: Safety and security in Lesotho are low, specially for visitors who venture without a tour in the bigger cities. Although in comparison to South Africa crime levels aren't so high, there is still a lot of petty crime related to theft, bribery and corruption. Visitors are encouraged not to wonder on the streets alone, even in day light, and specially when the sun sets. Should always ask the locals at Hotels if the areas are safe to go out or not.
If you encounter any threats, it's advised always to stay visible on main streets, walk away from any conflict and stay alert of your possessions. Never expose your mobile phone, camera, digital equipment etc and it's recommended to under-dress. Don't wear (expose) any jewellery or items of value on the street. Also, if you are alone make sure nobody follows you when walking around the city and frequently cross the street to avoid any followers. Don't take much money with you and only one credit card, not a wallet.
Lastly, driving through rural areas after dark is also not recommended. Sporadic demonstrations are possible and should be avoided if possible.
Because of its altitude, Lesotho is cooler throughout the year than other regions at the same latitude. Most of the rain falls as summer thunderstorms. Maseru, the capital and surrounding lowlands often reach 30°C in the Summer. (December to March).
December to March is also the best time to explore the country and make the tours from neighbouring countries around Nov to March. Winters (June to September) can be cold with the lowlands getting down to −7°C and the higher altitude villages can reach −18°C at times. Snow is common in the mountains between May and September.
Food limitations are quite severe in the country, due to the high altitudes and limited resources to buy them. There is a lot of farming where towns and villages have their own crops and animals which they feed and eat. The main hotels in Maseru serve international food, but there are also some interesting places to dine in the main towns which can offer African dishes with a unique twist. Hotels and restaurants in Lesotho cater for all nationalities. , but food has to be imported from South Africa mainly.
Specialities include, Braai (a southern African barbecue). Cooking styles include French, Italian, continental and Chinese.
As for drinks, Lesotho does not have much on offer, most (if not all) drinks are coming from South Africa or other imported countries. Beers, wines or spirits are generally available and popular to drink.
Travelling to South Africa was the reason that I came to Lesotho as a day tour to complete the Sani-Pass adventure journey across the mountains, which lead to the border between South Africa and Lesotho. It is a very undiscovered country, completely unknown from the more typical African destinations guides.
Despite the day went by really fast during the tour, it made me curious to come to this land and see it for myself the beauty of Lesotho and the people's ways of life here, who still live in very prehistoric clay huts and houses, making bread, walking sheep and performing basic trades in order to survive.
Coming to this land, made me feel very humble, and even lucky, to be able to travel and see the difference in lifestyle, that sometimes we take for granted, when living in more developed countries. Despite Lesotho being ranked a very dangerous place to come, when taking a tour or visiting the isolated communities, the adventure is really rewarding and it was a true life experience for me, to learn, to share and help others to survive by giving small gestures of food or items to the less fortunate people of Lesotho.
Sani Pass Tourism Information Guide
Day tour from South Africa to Lesotho:
We encourage you to visit Lesotho, a unique experience to travel to, specially by it's proximity to South Africa. When you stay in the city of Durban there are many tour agencies which offer this package to visit Lesotho and even stay there a few days on the Hotel which is situated upon the mountains. Most tourists however choose to do the one day tour which lasts for around 12-13 hours from the moment you are picked up from your accommodation in Durban to the moment you return back to the Hotel. The tour usually starts by 6.30am. Remember, don't forget your passports!
The Tour is called, The Sani Pass, which is also a high mountain pass at an elevation of 2,876m, located in the western end of Kwa Zulu-Natal province of South Africa on the road between Underberg and Mokhotlong, Lesotho. It is a 33km gravel route that connects Kwazulu-Natal and Lesotho. It is a notoriously dangerous road, which requires the use of a 4x4 vehicle. There are a series of winding twists, hairpins, plunging drops and mind-blowing scenery.
It’s one of the famous hairpinned roads in the world. Sani Pass pass road was built in 1950’s and remains a challenging drive in 4x4 vehicles with all the drama, scenery, bad weather and treacherous conditions expected of a pass with this altitude. The road from on the South African side is in the process of upgrade and refurbishment, with a wider road, a bridge and safety protections. However as you drive up the mountain the terrain is very raw, and attention must be paid if it's wet or snowy. That's why it's only advised to go there by tour, which use the 4x4. (Although there are numerous other vehicles trying to reach the mountain top, despite the damage to the suspension system if the car is not suitable). The road over the pass (After entering Lesotho) is already in the process of upgrade. It will be totally tarred in 2019 by the Chinese, who have been commissioned to construct this road.
Once you have had your passports stamped to enter Lesotho, the tours either stop at the restaurant/pub for toilet and for food or for some tourists to get of and stay at the Hotel. The 4x4 can then take you around the refurbished roads to the highest point of Lesotho at 3240m. There are excellent photo opportunities as well as, meeting some local sheppard who will pose for a picture in return for some loose change or food. It's also typical to visit the local huts and houses which form the little village area on the side road.
These communities survive mainly on donations from the tour guides, and tourists who come to visit. It's recommended to buy some basic food on your way from Durban, (oil, flour, sugar, biscuits, fruit, potatoes the most typical), although anything you have is greatly appreciated by the local people, from clothes, sweets for children to hygiene products or cosmetics. When you visit the huts, sometimes they will offer you bread in exchange which is freshly baked and you can buy also some handcraft items which are made in Lesotho by the local people.
The total time spent actually in Lesotho itself is quick, only 2 hours. Tour vehicles make their way back to Duran around 3pm and reach Durban around 7-8pm. it's important you bring plenty of drinking water for the long trip, as well as water proof gear, comfortable walking shoes and sun-cream for sunny days. The prices are high for this tour, around €170 per person. But this includes all entry fees, transport, experienced tour guides and information.
The trip is recommended during the Summer time (November to March) for better weather conditions, other times you will experience snow and freezing winds.
Book the trip at www.zulusafaris.com.