Drakensberg South Africa tips
If you are going to South Africa you cannot skip Drakensbergen. Yet many people do not stay overnight and that is a very serious mistake! You can already see the beautiful Drakensbergen from the Panorama route. The Drakensberg is the highest mountain range in South Africa and is about 622 M long. It is a stunning area to stay for a few days, especially if you like peace, beautiful views and adventure. I am happy to give you my tips about things to do in Drakensberg and where to stay!
North, Central and South Drakensberg
Drakensberg is situated parallel to the east coast and is about 622 M long. Some mountains reach a height of 3808 yards. It is a natural border between Lesotho and South Africa. The Zulus (largest population group in South Africa) call the mountains uKhahlamba, which means “barrier of spears”. Drakensberg is subdivided into three parts: north, central and south.
North Drakensberg – Amphitheatre
The northern part of Drakensberg is approximately 187 miles from Johannesburg. You can reach it by car in about 3 to 4 hours. In the north you will find the Royal Natal National Park with beautiful mountain tops that are also referred to as Amphitheater. This part of Drakensberg is best to visit when you are driving to or from Johannesburg. The north is gorgeous, ideal for mountain climbers and hikers.
Central Drakensbergen – the Champagne Valley or Cathedral Peak
We stayed in Central Drakensbergen. It’s a large area, but the Champagne Valley and Cathedral Peak are very popular. You can enjoy walking, hiking and more fun activities in this area! I will return to that in a moment. The Central part is at least a 4-hour drive from Johannesburg and a 2,5-hour drive from Durban. Hire a car in South Africa to get to Drakensberg. When you stay in central Drakensberg, you can easily make a day trip to the north and the Amphitheater (approx. a 1-hour drive).
South Drakensbergen – Sani Pass / Underberg
The most important reason to visit the south of the Drakensberg is the Sani Pass. This is the highest mountain pass in South Africa and also the border crossing to Lesotho. You can only pass the Sani Pass with a 4X4 (four-wheel drive). You can stay in the town of Underberg. From there, many 4×4 tours are also offered for +/- R850 ($62 per person). The tour starts at 9 a.m. and ends at 2:30 p.m. Underberg is a 2.5-hour drive from Durban and a 3-hour drive from Central Drakensbergen. If you’re planning to visit the Sani Pass, it’s best to stay in Underberg.
What to see and do in Drakensbergen?
We stayed for two nights in Central Drakenbergen. We stayed at the fantastic Ama Casa cottages. Two nights at this breathtaking location was obviously too short! There is so much to do.
1. Ziplining with Canopy Tours
I always wanted to go ‘tree hopping’! Playing Tarzan and Jane and swing from tree to tree. Ziplining! We booked this activity with Canopy Tours. It is a very adventurous and beautiful way to see the nature of Drakensberg. In total you will hop over 14 different treetop platforms. It is a very nice experience and an adrenaline booster. Mike is afraid of heights but nevertheless thought it was cool to do! It is of course also completely safe. You are chained at three different points with a steel cable.
This tour costs R650 per person ($47,50) and you absolutely must add it to your bucket list! The tour lasts 2 to 3 hours and can be booked every half hour from 8 a.m. Canopy Tours was a 10-minute drive from our accommodation in Drakensberg!
2. Hiking in Drakensberg
You can have a lovely stroll from Monks Cowl. This is a 10-minute drive from Ama Casa. From Monks Cowl there are walking routes from one to eight hours! The nature is absolutely stunning. We opted for a one-hour walk to the Sterkspruit Falls. We already had some kind of feeling that it was going to rain and we should have acted on that feeling. We were completely soaked! Right down to our underwear. It was, shall we say, absolutely worth it.
You can choose from different walking routes:
- The Sphinx – 3 M in +/- 3 hours
- Blindman’s corner – 8 M in 6 hours
- Hlatikhulu Nek – 9 M in 8 hours
- Hlatikhulu Forest – 4 M in 5 hours
- Sterkhorn – 9 KM in 10 hours (this one is tough)
- Sterkspruit Falls – 1 M in 1 hour (we took this one)
- The Gorge – Nandi Falls – 4 M in 5 hours
- Bush Reserve NO 2 – 2 M in 2 hours
3. More adventure?
How about river rafting? Mountain biking, ATV-ing, abseiling, horseback riding are all possibilities! There is plenty to do in the area to plan out a whole week!
Where to stay in Drakensberg: our hotel tips
After a long search, I had really found a gem. Really a wonderful stay with fantastic views. And yes, that jacuzzi also caught our eye!
We chose: Ama Casa Cottages
Does enjoying the jacuzzi also count as a must-do activity in Drakensberg? If you spend the night at this location, you don’t even have to leave your cottage. From the jacuzzi you really have the most fantastic view ever! Ama Casa is located in Cathkin Park, in Central Drakensberg. In the area you can go for a nice walk, go ziplining and do other activities. The Amphitheater in the Royal Natal National Park is 1 hour and 15 minutes away and can therefore be easily visited from here by car.
At the accommodations you’re provided with all modern conveniences: a kitchen with everything you need, a cozy fireplace and a wonderful king-size bed. Super romantic! You can go out to dinner in the neighborhood, but we enjoyed cooking ourselves. The village of Winterton is a 30-minute drive from the property. We did our grocery shopping there.
In addition to the double cottages (Hoopoe & Kingfisher), they also have a cottage for 6 people (Sunbird). Ama Casa is unfortunately not suitable for families with young children (under the age of 12). You can book a cottage through Booking.com.
How to get there?
We drove from St. Lucia to Drakensbergen in the morning, a ride of approximately 280 miles. There is really only one road to Drakensberg and this will lead you to Durban first. It’s a highway (toll road) where driving 75 mph is allowed, but always pay attention because people and cows will be walking along the road. Ama Casa is easy to find with the directions you receive from Les and Dave (the friendly owners). The accommodation is also easy to find via Google Maps or Maps.me. It is a 5-hour drive from St. Lucia and a 3-hour drive from Durban. From Johannesburg you should be able to reach Ama Casa within 4.5 hours.
Read more about South Africa!
Heading off to St. Lucia after Drakensberg?
Read more about sights and things to do in Cape Town
Our check out our complete road trip itinerary South Africa
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