If you’re looking for postcard scenery, crisp air, clear streams, luxury, leisure, rare flora and the choice of laidback or adventure activities, the Southern Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal has it all.
The Southern Drakensberg is known as a land of great contrasts, with green gently-rolling hills and valleys giving way to the jagged basalt peaks of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg mountains – and you simply won’t find a better countryside escape.
The Southern Drakensberg stretches from Bushman’s Nek to Kamberg and Bulwer Mountain. The area includes the country towns of Underberg, Himeville and Bulwer as well as the southern section of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park.
This beautiful part of KwaZulu-Natal consists largely of farmland and used to be considered a bit off the beaten track. But today it is a popular destination for travellers who want to explore unparalleled natural beauty and take on thrilling adventure activities.
The spectacular escarpment of the Southern Drakensberg hosts a rich biodiversity of rare plant and animal species, including unique high-altitude Alpine vegetation.
The Southern Drakensberg also plays host to the annual Splashy Fen Music Festival, which sees thousands of people congregate on a farm near Underberg for four days to celebrate life, art, music, fun, food and enjoyment - all within an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Visitors can get away for a weekend with relatively little hassle and enjoy the incredible scenery and fantastic variety of outdoor activities on offer. There’s mountain biking, horse riding, trout fishing, birding and wildlife, and much, much more. You can also explore a fascinating array of San rock art, as well as the local arts and crafts.
For the adventure traveller, the most epic experience of the Southern Drakensberg is undoubtedly the hair-raising Sani Pass - one of the most spectacular and picturesque 4x4 mountain passes in Africa.
Sani Pass rises to an altitude of 2 874 metres, and links KZN to the Kingdom of Lesotho. The best time to visit is during winter, when the heavy snowfalls that blanket the escarpment enable an added attraction in the form of skiing.
The Maloti Drakensberg Park, a World Heritage Site, should be part of every journey to the Southern Drakensberg. This spectacular natural site contains many caves and rock-shelters, with the largest and most concentrated group of rock paintings in Africa.
This area is also the perfect destination for artists, photographers, freshwater fishing enthusiasts, birders, campers and hikers.
Birdwatchers come to the Southern Drakensberg to see rare cranes, endemic raptors like the mighty Bearded Vulture, and mountain grassland species like the Drakensberg Siskin and the Orange-breasted Rockjumper.
There are many good quality accommodation options available. These include Premier Resort Sani Pass, Penwarn Country Lodge, Mkomazana Mountain Cottages, Amazian Mountain River Lodge, Qambathi Mountain Lodge, Castleburn and many others. All offer breathtaking views of the mountains and a comfortable place to snuggle and relax.
Activities and attractions to choose from include Pennygum rafting and tubing, the Gxalingenwa Cave hike, the Himeville Museum, the Underberg Art Gallery, Garden Castle Nature Reserve, historical Rhodes Village, hot-air ballooning, zip-lining and paragliding.