Destination: Lesotho


By Paul Drake

Paul is a semi-retired patent attorney residing in Texas with his wife, Robin.

The Kingdom of Lesotho is a landlocked country surrounded by South Africa. With a population of two million, it is about the size of Belgium or Maryland. Nicknamed the “Kingdom of the Sky,” Lesotho is the only country in the world completely above 1,000 meters, with its lowest point at 1,400 meters (4,600 feet). As seen from the roads of South Africa, Lesotho appears as a wall of mountains from the distance.

Getting there
Airlink provides flights from Johannesburg to Lesotho’s capital city, Maseru, several times each day. One can also take single or multi-day trips/tours from the tourist towns of Clarens, Underberg or Himeville in South Africa. Although trips may originate from Durban, Bloemfontein, or Johannesburg. Lesotho has a limited number of land entrances, with the Sani Pass being the most rugged and spectacular, requiring a four-wheel-drive vehicle to ascend. Self-drive is also an option. The main roads are paved, but many side roads are quite rough. Nationals of several countries do not need
a visa, otherwise one may acquire an E-visa.

The 192m Maletsunyane Falls near Semonkong.

The Lesotho Loti (LSL) is the official currency. The South African Rand is widely accepted, although, expect to receive change in loti. Some businesses accept credit cards, but not widely. ATMs are hard to find outside of the larger towns. It is recommended to carry sufficient cash.

Places to stay
Outside of Maseru, the selection of accommodation is limited and may not include air conditioning or heating. Some have a fireplace and all provide plenty of warm bedding.

Semonkong Lodge is nestled in a narrow river valley off the beaten path. One can stay in a personal rondavel, bunkhouse or campsite. With an excellent restaurant and bar, travelers can be heard swapping stories. Activities include pony rides, abseiling and outings to Maletsunyane Falls.

Food and drink
There are few restaurants outside of Maseru. We found the best food in our accommodation. The service may be slow, but the home-cooked results are generally worth the wait.

Getting around
Lesotho remains largely untouched by development, yet easily accessible and affordable, making it an excellent destination for casual or intrepid visitors. One can travel here most of the year, although there may be periods of difficult travel due to snow and ice in the winter.

Due to the mountainous terrain, there are many scenic sights throughout Lesotho, including the Maletsunyane Falls, the Maluti Mountains, the Mafika Lisiu Pass, and the Maloti-Drakensberg highlands. Also, the Sani Pass Gate has tremendous views looking back at South Africa, particularly from the Sani Mountain Lodge, reputed to be the “Highest Pub in Africa.”

The owner of a traditional rondavel making bread from stone-ground grain

Things to see and do
Birding is excellent in Lesotho, In the summer, migratory birds from Europe and northern Africa are present. The bearded vulture, which is critically endangered in Southern Africa, was sighted soaring over the Maletsunyane Falls valley.

Other outdoor activities include snow skiing at the Afriski Mountain Resort, abseiling the Maletsunyane Falls, hiking, fly fishing, kayaking and canoeing, horse trekking, etc.

The Thaba Bosiu National Monument, close to Maseru, hosts guided tours that include the Cultural Village, a replica of a traditional village, and a history and culture museum of Lesotho. The National Monument is a plateau used as a hideout by Moshoeshoe I, the founder of the Basotho nation, which later became Lesotho. The plateau contains the gravesite of Moshoeshoe I and other members of the royal family. The Monument is on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The Kome Caves were used as hideouts from adversaries during an 18th-century drought and are still inhabited by the descendants of the original people who built the cave dwellings. The Liphofung caves contain ancient paintings, both from the San and other Neolithic people. Near the Sani Mountain Lodge, there is a small village where you can visit a traditional rondavel and be introduced to the Basotho way of life, including sampling some homemade bread made with flour that’s stone ground by hand.

Other points of interest include Leribe Dinosaur Footprints, Katse Botanical Garden and Katse Dam.

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