Seldom even recognized as a nation in its own right, Lesotho is a small, mountainous country swallowed whole by South Africa but with its own distinct cultural identity. Its high altitudes (the lowest point in the country is 1,400 meters) make Lesotho a great place for hiking and climbing, with warm weather in the lowlands and snow on higher peaks. Scenic highlights include the Lesotho Highlands, featuring the largest single-drop waterfall in Southern Africa, Maletsunyane Falls, and the Katse Dam, which although manmade is stunning.
Reasonably priced lodges can be found in rural Lesotho which offer restaurants, outdoor activities and transport to surrounding areas. In the capital, accommodation is often overpriced, especially given that the service in some hotels is lacking to say the least. Options for eating out in Maseru are better, even if the cuisine is limited mainly to Chinese with a few western restaurants. There are also supermarkets that cater to westerners in the capital.
When to Go
Lesotho’s is cool in summer and cold in winter.
From November to February, the summer is warm in the lowlands, but there is persistent snow at the highest altitudes. Winter runs from May to September and is cold countrywide, with heavy snowfall on higher ground.
Getting There & Away
Direct flights from Johannesburg fly daily courtesy of South African Airlines. Surprisingly, no buses run directly from South Africa to Lesotho, although mini-buses ferry visitors in from Johannesburg, Ladybrand and Bloemfontein. There is no rail system in the country. Travel within certain parts of the country is only possible by plane, foot or pony. More inaccessible parts of the country require a sturdy four-wheel drive to navigate the unsealed, pot-holed roads, even in Maseru. It is preferable to hire a car in South Africa, where the vehicles are better maintained.
Health & Safety
With an HIV/AIDS prevalence rate currently running at more than 25 per cent of the population, Lesotho is not a place to practice unsafe sex and the risk must be taken into consideration when visiting the below-standard hospitals, should the need arise. Bring sterile syringes to be on the safe side. The high altitude means that travelers should be weary of the symptoms of altitude sickness. Crime in Lesotho is not as bad as in neighboring South Africa, but muggings are on the rise.
Two days in Maseru
Four days in Maletsunyane Falls and Lesotho Highlands
One day in Phomolong
Four days in Mohktolong, Sani Pass and the Drakensberg Mountains
Two days in Teyateyaneng
Maseru: Lesotho’s laid-back capital is small and easily navigated on foot, with a number of lively nightspots frequented by both locals and westerners.
Phomolong: one of the many ‘urban villages’ outside the capital, offering a taste of traditional Lesotho culture.
Maletsunyane Falls and Lesotho Highlands: the highest falls in Southern Africa and the tallest commercial abseil in the world at 200 meters. The surrounding highlands are perfect for trekking, and afterwards, finish with a dip in Katse Dam.
Mohktolong: gateway to the exceptionally picturesque Sani Pass and Drakensberg Mountains, a popular spot for walking and pony-trekking.
Teyateyaneng: the centre of Lesotho’s arts and crafts universe and therefore by default the perfect place to stock up on souvenirs.
Trekking: in Lesotho’s tall but often gentle mountains in the highlands, Sani Pass and the Drakensberg Mountains.
Pony trekking: a good way to rest weary legs when you still want to see more of the country’s mountainous terrain.
Trout fishing: in the country’s mountain rivers and streams; the perfect setting for anglers looking for somewhere a little different.
Shopping: for traditional handicrafts. For lots of choice, head to Teyateyaneng as well as the villages in and around the capital.