Drakensberg Escarpment

  • Drakensberg Escarpment - ? From near the Sentinel - © William Mackesy
  • Drakensberg Escarpment - Mnweni Cutback - © William Mackesy
  • Drakensberg Escarpment - Across the Amphitheatre - © William Mackesy
  • Drakensberg Escarpment - ? From Mponjwane - © William Mackesy
  • Drakensberg Escarpment - Grasslands - © William Mackesy

Key information: Drakensberg Escarpment

  • The amazing Drakensberg run north-west to south-east for over 200km, dividing the plains of Kwazulu-Natal from the mountain kingdom of Lesotho.
  • The Drakensberg are in fact an escarpment at the edge of the high Lesotho plateau, although they look like mountains from below: a long line of vast cliffs, eroded into fantastical shapes and famous formations. The foothills, the little Berg, are very beautiful, and outstanding walking in their own right.
  • The range is so vast that few will walk its full length. The best of the Drakensberg walks are the North Drakensberg Traverse and the South Drakensberg (walk description in preparation). But the walking options, including day walks, are legion. See Walk Summary below.
  • These are tough treks in remote mountains, on which you will have to be completely self-sufficient. Come prepared.
  • Take a look at the fantastic array of Drakensberg walking tours available on the Traverseline website.

Walkopedia rating

(Top 100)
  • Walkopedia rating94
  • Beauty35
  • Natural interest17
  • Human interest6
  • Charisma36
  • Negative points0
  • Total rating94

Vital Statistics

  • Length: 65km, 5 days
  • Maximum Altitude: Around 3,000m
  • Level of Difficulty: Variable
Top
Drakensberg Escarpment - Across the Amphitheatre - © William Mackesy

WALK SUMMARY

The magnificent Drakensberg escarpment forms the edge, at around 3,000m, of the high Lesotho plateau. Volcanic basalt was forced up some 180 million years ago, and spread to form a layer more than a kilometre thick over earlier sandstone. The eastern end has eroded into a line of tremendous cliffs over 200km long, which form the effective border between South Africa and Lesotho. Here you will gaze on famous and fantastical formations and long, grassy ridges and gorges descending into the plains some 1,800m (6,000ft) below.

The sandstone foothills the Little Berg are very special in their own right, a maze of canyons and grassy ridges. Their lush, flowery greenness for much of the year will surprise many travellers expecting sparse grass and dry rock.

The scale here is deceptive: you have to concentrate to appreciate the vastness of the cliffs drops of 1,000 metres are not unusual. You can sometimes feel you are looking down at the gorges of the Little Berg through the wrong end of a telescope.

Behind the escarpment is a broken, treeless plateau of rough grass and low alpine shrubs which is reminiscent of Scotland or parts of Mongolia almost anywhere, in fact, other than Africa. Meeting the sudden jagged edge of the escarpment as you tramp across this beautiful but seemingly regular landscape never ceases to amaze.

Lesotho is a small, dirt poor kingdom trapped within South Africa. Here on the high plateau, you may meet Sotho herdsmen living in rough little kraals in summer.

Drakensberg means Dragon's Mountains in Afrikaans; they are the Barrier of Spears to the Zulus, whose kraals are scattered up the valleys of the Lower Berg, their herds grazing on the lower slopes.

Much of the walking above the escarpment crosses rough ground, sometimes on tenuous animal trails. That said, much of it is easier going than you might fear.The walking opportunities are endless and hugely varied. As well as the great high walks along the top of the escarpment:

    • the Central Drakensberg Traverse
    • the South Drakensberg Traverse

(Our terms - these are not official designations), you can do other high walks, such as:

    • the wonderful day walk from the base of the Sentinel to the Tugela Falls and back
    • Day or multi-day walks from the top of the 4WD Sani Pass
    • Day walks to Champagne Castle and Cathedral Peak

The Little Berg foothills provide wonderful, varied walking. Some of the best includes:

    • Around the Amphitheatre area (including to the foot of the spectacular Tugela Falls).
    • Mnweni area
    • Cathedral Peak area (including up onto the escarpment)
    • Champagne Castle area
    • Giant's Castle area

 

Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

We have a lot of helpful practical information and tips about this walk, covering everything from the best books and maps, to timing and weather, geting there, possible problems, whether you need a guide and where to find them, and useful websites. This section is only open to members.

Membership is FREE AND JOINING TAKES 30 SECONDS. To login or sign up click here

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

Drakensberg Escarpment - ? From Mponjwane - © William Mackesy

OTHER ACCOUNTS
share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

Top
Drakensberg Escarpment - Grasslands - © William Mackesy...
Top

Responsible travel matters, a lot. How you travel will make a real difference - for better or worse. PLEASE consider this when making plans. Read more

All material on this website is © Walkopedia Ltd 2008 - 2015, unless specified otherwise.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED