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Ukhahlamba (Drakensberg) or "The Berg" is a mountainous region in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa.


The name 'Drakensberg' is derived from the Dutch and means "mountains of the dragon". The mountain range was formed by a lava flow.

Get in[edit]

By car[edit]

The N3 highway (a toll road) is the major road artery through KwaZulu-Natal and connects with Durban to the south and Johannesburg to the north. One of the regional roads leading off the N3 will get you to where you need to be. Please note that many of these regional access roads include sections that are not tarred, and in many cases the roads are in poor condition with potholes. Most of the regional roads go through community villages where many animals and people use the road for foot traffic, so it is advisable not to drive at night.

By plane[edit]

There are no major airports in the region. The nearest international airport is in Durban. Pietermaritzburg has a smaller regional airport with daily domestic flights.

By bus[edit]

Get around[edit]

By car[edit]

Map of Ukhahlamba Drakensberg

Most of the roads going into the Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg World Heritage Site (UDPWHS - shown in green on the map) end at the reception offices or campsites of the provincial or private tourism facilities. Once you are 'in' the only way around is by foot into the mountains. The one exception is the Sani Pass road from Underberg which goes through the UDPWHS to Mokhotlong in Lesotho.


On the ridge of the Drakensberg Amphitheatre, close to the lip of the Tugela Falls, overlooking the Tugela Valley and the Royal Natal National Park


Northern Drakensberg[edit]

The Northern Drakensberg is generally the warmest area of the berg in Winter, with little to no snow and higher temperatures than Johannesburg.

  • Hiking around the Amphitheatre. Spectacular hiking around a mountain feature known as the "amphitheatre" or "theatre" for short. Hiking on top of the theatre itself is possible. If you are staying in the Royal Natal, it is either a two day hike or to the top, or a one hour drive to a gate near the top. The hike on the top takes place on comparatively gentle terrain. At one point, it is necessary to either climb a steep gully or to climb up chain ladders. Chain ladders are the easiest but the gully may be more rewarding.
  • 1 Royal Natal National Park. It features excellent hiking and accommodation facilities. In particular, there is the Tugela Falls Gorge Walk, which is about 22 km on relatively flat terrain. Royal Natal National Park (Q1381505) on Wikidata Royal Natal National Park on Wikipedia
  • 2 Rugged Glen Nature Reserve. Rugged Glen Nature Reserve (Q32010570) on Wikidata
  • 3 Monk's Cowl Nature Reserve. The entry point to the Mlambonja and Mdedelo Wilderness Area.

Central Drakensberg[edit]

Southern Drakensberg[edit]

The Southern Drakensberg is generally the colder area of the berg in Winter, with often thick snow and cooler temperatures than Johannesburg though spring and summer can be as hot.

Gateway to the Southern Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal is primarily through Underberg and Himeville.

Easterly access by road from the N3 is via Exit 99 Howick South onto the R617 via Boston and Bulwer to Underberg and Himeville.
Southerly access by road from the N2 is through Kokstad onto the R617 via Sartberg to Underberg and Himeville
  • 4 Sani Pass. Sani Pass is an 8-km mountain pass that can only be traversed by four wheel drive vehicles. These 8 km are "no man's land" because the South African border post lies at the bottom and the Lesotho border post lies at the top. Four-wheel drive minibus taxis can be used by travellers to get up or down, but the wait might be considerable. Several tour operators/guides offer various excursions, from one to multiple days in Lesotho, up/down Sani Pass. On the Lesotho side, a spotless tarred road (1Nov 2016) begins after the border post. Sani Pass (Q127968) on Wikidata Sani Pass on Wikipedia
  • 5 Giant's Cup Hiking Trail (1570m AMSL), KZN Nature Conservation Services, +27 33 845-1000, fax: +27 33 845-1001. This is a 5-day hike covering about 13 km every day in unspoilt mountain terrain with ample pristine water sources and streams along its route. Being at altitude of about 1,570 m above mean sea level on average can in some cases be taxing on those with a medical condition of the lungs or heart, especially on hot days. In general, a very enjoyable and scenic route with lots of interesting fauna and flora to be discovered. Not to forget the historic rock art of the San people.
  • 6 Cobham Nature Reserve (150 km north of Pietermaritzburg), +27 33 702 0171. It has beautiful basaltic cliffs, sandstone ramparts, rolling high altitude grasslands, steep-sided river valleys and rocky gorges. The reserve is rich in biodiversity and has many endemic species.
  • 7 Garden Castle Nature Reserve, + 27 33 701 1823. The reserve offers a variety of hiking paths and is a popular destination for nature lovers.



Stay safe[edit]


  • 1 Amphitheather Backpackers Lodge (follow the R74 north out of town for 21 km, signpost will indicate the lodge on the left), +27 36 438-6675, fax: +27 36 438-6675. Camping: R45, dorm bed: R75, basic twin: R85 per person, budget double: R100 per person, deluxe double: R110 per person.
  • 2 Sani Lodge Backpackers Hostel. Located near Sani Pass. Accessible via Underberg Express shuttle service. Offers excellent multi-day tours to Lesotho and nearby hikes to Bushman paintings. Restaurant food is mediocre and overpriced at R50 for breakfast and R70 for dinner so it is advisable to bring food. Kitchen facilities are available. Camping: R60; Dorm bed: R90, Standard rooms: R240.
  • 3 Orion Mont Aux Sources, R74 Bergville, +27 36 438-8000.
  • 4 Witsieshoek, +27 58 713-6361. Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge offers a variety of accommodation and activities, such as hiking trails, camping, bird watching and rock climbing. From R550.
  • 5 Karma Backpackers, 2 Piet Retief Street, Kestell, +27 83 442 3973, . Check-in: 06:00, check-out: 21:00. Karma Backpackers is in a central location midway between Johannesburg and Durban, and is the closest backpackers lodge to the start of the Amphitheatre/Tugela Falls hike by over 100 km. It used as a base for the Amphitheatre Hike, the hikes at Golden Gate Highlands National Park, and tours of Lesotho. R200.

Go next[edit]

  • Lesotho can be accessed via the Sani Pass and border post. A 4x4 is recommended for Sani Pass.
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