""THERE BE DRAGONS IN THEM HILLS THERE!"" Top 5 Page for this destination Drakensberg by mtncorg
Drakensberg Travel Guide: 144 reviews and 425 photos
The Zulu and Afrikanse name are both used for this exceptional mountain range and both names are superb in their own rights. "uKhahlamba" is the Zulu name and it means 'Barrier of Spears' which the Escarpment resembles from the distance. "Drakensberg", the Afrikanse name, means 'Dragon's Mountain', a mythical beast one would not be altogether surprised at seeing when climbing/hiking amongst the often misty rock walls and towers of the range. Coming from the western US, the dramatic rock wall escarpment is similar to those found in the Great Basin country - the Sierra Nevadas or South Warner Mountains of California; Ruby Mountains of Nevada; Steens Mountain of Oregon. All of these ranges - and here in South Africa, as well - gradually gain height in the west, terminating in a grand wall of cliffs and towers along the eastern side.
Man has lived in and round the Drakensberg for centuries - San rock art can be found at many sites throughout the range. You can visit these sites though you usually will need to pay for the service of one of the Park's guides at the many different sites: Battle Cave, Main Cave, Didima Valley, and Kamberg to mention a few.
CLICK on the next two pictures for full panoramas.
Tourist centers are scattered about the natural highpoints of the range - Royal Natal National Park, Cathedral Peak, Monk's Cowl, Injusthi, and Giant's Castle (from north to south). From these centers, one finds a myriad of accommodation choices, though it is best to book ahead, especially on the weekends, just in case. Trails of all types emanate from the centers taking you to destinations far and wide.
Before the establishment of the uKhahlamba/Drakensberg as a UNESCO Worldwide Heritage site - one of seven in south Africa - the range had been protected by a mixture of administrative bodies, a fact still reflected by your 'destination' choices here on VT, but those units have been expanded and combined into one administrative unit which protects the entire eastern side of the range with the exception of the Zulu traditional lands of the Mnewi lying between Royal Natal National Park and Cathedral Peak.
Needless to say, the Drakensberg is an outdoor paradise whether for nature viewing, hiking, horseback riding, fishing or any number of other attractions taking place just outside of the Park. Mountaineering is what brought me here and the Drak is considered the premier playground for South African alpinists. It is important to remember the climate when visiting the range. Summers are hot and humid with dramatic thunderstorms occurring most afternoons. Much better to visit in the Spring or Fall - even Winter though occasional snowfall can occur below the highlands. The rock of the cliffs and towers is basaltic meaning a far from ideal climbing venue. One of the great outdoor adventures in all of Africa is the multiday trek that takes you across the top of the Escarpment, normally starting from the Sentinel trail just to the west of Royal Natal National Park in the Free State. The main trek, undertaken at elevations of 3000 meters and slightly higher, consists of the Amphitheatre, Mnwei Rockeries and the free-standing peaks of the Cathedral Peak area and takes about 5-6 days to complete, but there is nothing to stop you from continuing on to Cathkin Peak, Giant's Castle, Sani Pass or beyond. Another option lower down is the Contour Path which is a path that runs at about 2000-2100 meters and runs from Cathedral Peak in the north to Bushmans Nek far to the south of Sani Pass. The trail is mostly continuous so you could do the entire affair or since there are many access points along the way, you can bite off smaller sections.
CLICK on the next picture for full panorama.
The Drakensberg is a wild and lonely land of mountains. There exists a fair network of trails near the base of the range... more travel advice
Most of South Africa, with the exception of Cape Town, is best visited out of the summer season. This really holds true... more travel advice
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