Drakensberg: A Photojourney to S. Africa’s Highest Mountain Range

This post is also available in: German

Drakensberg mountains cathedral peak, South Africa

The Drakensberg, “Dragon Mountains” is not only the highest mountain range in S. Africa, but all of southern Africa,  reaching heights up to 3482 meters.

It is a hiker’s paradise with sandstone cliffs, pinnacles and with nearly 98% of its plant species endemic or almost endemic.  The Drakensberg is simply stunning and one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever hiked!  No wonder it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site!

We hiked to Orange Peel Gap, a 5 hour+ hike which offered views over the Drakensberg:

Drakensberg mountains sandstone cliffs, South Africa

View of the sandstone cliffs in the Drakensberg

Me at Drakesnberg Mountains, South Africa

Enjoying the views in the Drakensberg.

Drakensberg mountains trail, South Africa

The hiking trail to Orange Peel Gap offers amazing views throughout the entire hike!

Drakensberg mountains orange peel gap, South Africa

View from Orange Peel Gap – worth the effort!

Wiseman in Drakensberg mountains, South Africa

The open trail ensures stunning views for the entire hike to Orange Peel Gap.

Hiking to Orange Peel Gap requires a guide, which can be arranged through Didima Chalets.  Wiseman, was our local guide from a nearby Zulu Village which we had visited the day before.  I would have hated him for barely breaking a sweat while I was soaking wet but he was so nice – even if he thought my husband had gotten a bad deal by marrying me since he does the laundry!

But my favorite views weren’t looking outwards, but rather upwards, towards the famed Cathedral Peak, a popular but very strenuous, 10 hour hike that I’m saving for my next visit:

Looking towards cathedral peak in Drakensberg mountains, South Africa

The majestic peaks in the Drakensberg – some seriously beautiful mountains!

Drakensberg mountains, South Africa

View of Catherdral Peak, a famous mountain in the Drakensberg.

I’ve done a lot of hiking, but the Drakensberg is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever hiked.  I’ve already got my next two hikes planned out for when I return!  Besides I’ve never had a return welcome  like the one I received when I wearily returned to Didima Chalets, –  a troop of baboons, including this adorable baby baboon!  Suddenly I was no longer tired as I snapped over 300 photos of the baboons.  My sore muscles could be attended to later!  Besides, I had another hike to plan – Cathedral Peak here I come!

Know Before You Go Hiking in the Drakensberg:

  • The best time to go hiking in the Drakensberg according to our guides is in April and May, which is fall.  Temperatures are cooler, but not too cool and except for the Easter weekend, it’s not likely to be overrun with tourists.
  • The Drakensberg receives snow in winter (June – August).  Hiking is still possible, but  check the weather conditions before you go so that you bring the appropriate clothing.
  • Many hikes (including Orange Peel Gap and Cathedral Peak) can only be hiked with guides for safety reasons.  Didima Chalets can arrange for a guide, or ask for Wiseman, who works as a private guide (he has a cell phone but no website)
  • The #1 hike that Wiseman (our guide) recommended in the Drakensberg is Mushroom Rock for its scenery, caves and chance of seeing wildlife (baboons and elan – no lions – don’t worry!)
  • Contact the South Africa Tourism Site (in German) or the South African Tourism Site (in English) for more info on hiking and accommodations in the Drakensberg.


View Cathedral Peak in a larger map

Disclosure:  I was a guest of South African Tourism, but all opinions expressed as always remain my own.

Comments

  1. says

    I always called myself a beach person. Then I went to SA and fell in love with mountains. The Drakensberg is such a spectacular mountain range. Unfortunately, we had just 3 days in Durban so we drove up the Sani Pass to Lesotho. We felt as if we could touch the sky! Thanks for helping me relive some wonderful memories.

  2. says

    @Bob – I didn’t know about it either until my recent trip to S. Africa.

    @InsideJourneys – i think the Drakensberg could convince almost any beach person to like mountains :). Glad it helped you relive some memories.

    @Italian Notes – I loved the colors, much different landscape than what I’m used to.

  3. says

    What glorious mountains to hike in. I would love to follow your footsteps and could see spending a good week exploring here. Any wild animal concerns? How was the birdlife? It must rain a lot to look like that. BEAUTIFUL!!

  4. says

    Interesting, Laurel. I’ve been horse riding in the Drakensberg, only within the peculiar little country Lesotho. A beautiful area, indeed!

  5. says

    I hiked to the base of Cathedral Peak from Monks Cowl. Absolutely stunning! The running water is pure enough to drink right from the streams. But you do want to watch out for the pesky monkeys and best to watch the baboons from a distance. Plan to hike there again.

  6. says

    What an incredibly beautiful mountain range – I don’t think that I have ever seen mountains so green! So completely unlike anything I imagined when I thought of South Africa.

  7. says

    Wow! Those peaks and all that greenery are just stunning. I love the name too – Orange Peel Gap -so unique. What a beautiful hike and I don’t blame you for wanting to return. Thank you for enhancing my image of South Africa and moving it up a few notches on my travel list.

  8. Collin Trent says

    Luckily I’ve seen the Photographs of UNESCO World Heritage Site! Really I’m enjoying the beauty of Drakensberg. Thanks for your excellent post with nice photos.

  9. says

    Lucky girl! I love the Drakensberg, however a pity I got mostly bad weather and couldn’t enjoy the same gorgeous views as shown in your photos.
    Well… Means that I’ll have to go back :-)

  10. says

    That’s so awesome! Great hiking AND baboons all in the same day! I would love to make it to South Africa sometime in the near future. Until then I will live vicariously through you!

  11. says

    Thanks for your comments and enthusiasm everyone. @Leigh – no wildlife concerns except snakes, we covered a few on our hike but they just slithered away as soon as they heard us. The Drakensberg is famous for it’s bird watching but unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to do any.

    @Gaelyn – Thanks for sharing your experience, I would love to do that route. Good advice about watching the babboons from a distance. I wish we would have seen other monkeys as well – maybe next time!

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