The kingdom of Lesotho, or the Kingdom in the Sky, is the “highest” country in the world, being the one and only country having its whole territory at least 1000m above sea level.
It is a landlocked country, surronded by South-Africa, therefore very dependent on it economically. Its main resource is water, and most people are working in agriculture.
One of the main reason we came to Lesotho was to drive up this road. Stunning views and many turns await you along this road, as well as a surprise of finding a ski slope suddenly in the middle of nowhere, but more on that later.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll let them speak for themselves. But it is on this road that you get the full extent of the Kingdom in the Sky.
Sani Pass & Lodge
This pass is your entrance to the country if you’re coming from Underberg in SA and… drive a 4-wheel drive. And are not afraid by challenging turns. At the top of it reigns the highest pub in Africa, the Sani Pass Lodge.
We did not fulfill these requirements, therefore took the easy way and chose to walk down the pass, and have the driver from the Lodge pick us up on his way back.
The views are tremendous, luckily enough the sun was with us, and the afternoon chill at the lodge next to the fire and sipping hot drinks (which later turned into actual drinks) made it for a very pleasant day.
The border posts for each country are each at one end of the pass. Therefore, know that if you say at the top border post, on the Lesotho side, that you will not be going through to South-Africa, they will not stamp your passport.
The lodge offers top range bungalows right next to the pass, or rougher backpackers standard rooms in a building a 5′ walk down the road, which do fine if you have a tighter budget (you do have to work up your will to walk down there after dinner).
Several treks are available departing the lodge, ask at the reception for more information.
Like I said earlier, what a surprise to find a ski resort down here. I had read about it very quickly during my research, but did not expect it to be so easily accessible. Therefore, we had to go for a run. We got quite lucky, as the weather was not so good on the way up to the Sani pass, but the sun was out on the way down, and it had snowed while over there, so we got perfect conditions.
Don’t expect to much, there’s… only one slope and one lift. Well, you can count several if you separate the slope into beginners, middle and good level areas.
The level of service is very good. There is a rental shop (don’t expect too good quality equipment, though), a nice restaurant, etc… And people are all into it, with their own (expensive!) equipment and ski station look, and staying several days, coming from all over South-Africa.
Outside of winter months, many activities and shows are planned, as big dj fests and also biking events, etc…
More information here: www.afriski.net
For a break on the way down from Sani Pass, we chose to stop at Maliba Lodge, and arrived at a beautiful and luxurious resort. The lodge is inside the Tshehlanyan National Park, and is divided in two main areas. First the main lodge, uphill, with a quality restaurant around the fireplace, and luxurious rooms. Then the downhill river lodges, which are actual individual houses along the river. These are big, with plenty of room to accomodate a family and friends. Ours had a big kitchen, living room with fireplace and terrace on the river, and 4 bedrooms.
For those staying a little, the lodge offers horse riding, hiking, 4×4 rides, and many other activities.
South from Maseru, another main attraction in Lesotho are the Maletsunyane falls, the highest single-drop in Africa. Very impressive. They are about a couple hours walk from the lodge.
The nearby Semonkong Lodge is another great place to stay. Very easy going, the place is next to a river, for great scenery. There is a big and good quality restaurant, and the rooms are neat, especially the rondavels. They offer several activities, such as horseback riding to the falls, hiking or even abseiling down the falls!
Access to the lodge is frightening, to say the least. Once you get off the main road and go through the village, you will have to go down a very steep path leading to a bridge to cross the river and park. We arrived after a rainy day, and a huge puddle had formed 100 meters before the steep part. Everything was mud. But lodge employees in front of us in a 4×4 told us to follow them, through the puddle and down the hill, and it all went well. We thought we’d never get back up, but that was no problem either, and you know they’ll find a solution if it gets too slippery.
All the info here: www.semonkonglodge.com
Get in, out, and around
We came in through this border post, coming from Clarens and Golden Gate National Park. Easy enough.
- Road conditions (2016)
From the border, we went straight up the Maloti road all the way to Sani Pass, and the road was in amazingly pristine condition. Top quality. You won’t meet to many cars, so take your time and enjoy the many, many turns.
We went on this same road back down all the way to Maseru, and it was fine also. As well as to go from Maseru to Semonkong Lodge and all the way to Qacha’s Nek border post.
The roads that definitely require a 4×4 are the Sani Pass and also the road crossing through the mountains through Thaba Tseka. As well if you wish to access to Sehlabathebe National Park.
Trafic in Maseru is bad, as in any big town in Africa.
- Qacha’s nek
The road up to the border post is perfect, although a little lonely. It gets trickier afterwards, right after you cross the border to South-Africa, where the road is gravel for about 30 miles. Then it is tar road again all the way to Matatiele.
Other useful websites:
- Weather forecast:
- National: http://www.lesmet.org.ls
- Snow-forecast: http://www.snow-forecast.com/maps/dynamic/southafrica
- 4×4 community: http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/forumdisplay.php/173-Lesotho