You may not have heard of this tiny African country, but once you have, you’re going to want to visit. Lesotho (pronounced le-soo-too) is a landlocked nation, entirely surrounded by South Africa. What it lacks in size it more than makes up for in splendour. Here are three reasons why you should visit Lesotho.
The entire country of Lesotho sits at 1000 metres above sea level or more. From craggy peaks to high plateau, you never forget you’re in the mountains. That’s especially the case in winter, when the landscape gets a dusting of snow. As you wind your way up to high altitude passes, you might feel the impact of the thinning air on your lungs. Relatively few people choose to live up here, and you’re more likely to encounter isolated huts and shepherds tending flocks of sheep, goats or cattle than sprawling towns. The result? Views that seem to stretch endlessly to the horizon and big skies that make every panorama truly magnificent. Make the most of this wild and unspoilt place on two feet. There are few signposted trails, so if you plan to hike, we’d recommend you hire a guide to show you the way to pretty waterfalls, knife-edge ridges and craggy peaks. Alternatively, save your legs and saddle up for the horseback ride of your life on a Basotho pony. From an hour’s taster to multi-day treks, there’s a horseback tour to suit every level of experience.
Between May and September, make the most of snowfalls and book a ski trip. AfriSki hosts proficient skiers though frequently icy conditions mean this isn’t a resort for novices. Over on the other side of the country, Semonkong is another must for thrill seekers, or more accurately, Maletsunyane Falls a few kilometres down the road. This impressive waterfall boasts the highest single-drop commercially operated abseil in the world. To conquer it, like the river, you’ll need to descend 204 metres down to the ground. If that sounds too daunting, content yourself with an easy but beautiful hike to the Phororo viewpoint instead. For the ultimate Lesotho adventure, plan to arrive via the Sani Pass. This steep gravel road boasts endless switchbacks and a rough surface that requires a skilled driver as well as a high clearance 4×4. Technically, it’s no man’s land. You clear South African immigration at the bottom but have to climb eight vertiginous kilometres before you reach the Lesotho equivalent. The ride is hair-raising – particularly when the clouds are low or the fog rolls in. Celebrate making it to the top with a drink at Africa’s highest pub.
You won’t be in Lesotho very long before you realise how important headgear is to the local population. Pretty much everyone’s wearing a hat of some kind – even in the not inconsiderable heat of summer. From balaclavas to beanies, there’s no end to the variety. The ubiquitous conical straw hat known as the mokorotlo is a much-loved national symbol and appears on the country’s flag and number plates. Some say that its shape was inspired by Mount Kiloane. Pick up a souvenir version in any curio store or at the airport before you leave. Another must-have item of clothing is a woollen blanket. Designs vary, but each has a particular significance. Look closely to see whether the top is folded inwards or outwards – men and women wear theirs differently. There are blankets for every rite of passage. Unique blankets represent each important milestone in a person’s life, including birth, marriage and death. For instance, a lekhokolo blanket signifies that a man has reached adulthood, while a woman is typically gifted a serope blanket when she delivers her first child.
International flights arrive in Maseru’s Moshoeshoe Airport from Johannesburg in neighbouring South Africa. From there, you can connect to cities worldwide. Alternatively, book a shuttle or tour departing from Underberg or Himeville to begin your Lesotho adventure at Sani Top. Locals get around on foot, by horse or donkey, and via town-to-town minibuses. For more comfortable transportation, consider a private tour or shared shuttle service.
Where to stay
Lesotho’s lodges offer a reasonable standard of accommodation, such as Sani Mountain Lodge and Semonkong Lodge. Both offer a range of cultural or sightseeing activities that can be booked in advance or fixed up on arrival. Opt to stay in a circular hut called a rondavel. Tradition has it that the lack of corners means the room will be free of evil spirits. In Maseru, consider staying at the Hokahanya Inn. This comfortable hotel isn’t deluxe, but profits support the Kick4Life charity which offers football coaching and culinary training to young people.
Why not let Mundana help you arrange your Lesotho adventure? Get in touch today.
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