Photos That Will Make You Want to Hike in the Drakensberg, S. Africa

The Drakensberg (Dragon Mountains) are not only the highest mountain range in South Africa but in all of southern Africa. At its tallest, they reach 3482 meters.

drakensberg mountains

Drakensberg, one of the most beautiful mountain rangers I have ever seen.

It’s a hiker’s paradise with sandstone cliffs and pinnacles. Nearly 98% of its plant species are 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! You can read more about my epic day in the Drakensberg that featured both monkeys AND mountains!

The Hike to Orange Peel Gap

It’s a 5 hour+ walk that will get you sweating. Fortunately, it poses no technical difficulties until the last few steps near the top. Your reward is a fantastic view over the Drakensberg:

You get a great view of the sandstone cliffs that form the Drakensberg mountains while hiking to Orange Peel Gap in South Africa

View of the sandstone cliffs in the Drakensberg

Adventure travel blogger, Laurel Robbins enjoying the views of the Drakensberg Mountains in South Africa

Me enjoying the Drakensberg vista.

Hiker on the trail to Orange Peel Gap in the Drakensberg Mountains South Africa

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

View over the Drakensberg mountains from Orange Peel Gap, South Africa

The “gap” part of Orange Peel Gap.

drakensberg mountains wiseman

Our guide Wisdom hiking on the open trail which provides stunning views for the entire hike to Orange Peel Gap.

Hiking to Orange Peel Gap requires a guide. You can arrange one through Didima Chalets who arranged our guide, Wiseman. He lived in a  nearby Zulu Village which we had visited the day before.  I wanted to hate him for barely breaking a sweat while I was soaking wet, but he was so patient as I unsuccessfully tried to master a sentence in the Zulu language. That’s in spite of the fact that he thought my husband had gotten a bad deal by marrying me since he does the laundry!

My favourite views weren’t looking outwards, but rather upwards, towards the famed Cathedral Peak. It’s a very strenuous, 10-hour hike. I’m saving it for my next visit:

drakensberg mountains looking towards cathedral peak

Looking towards Cathedral Peak and planning my next hike.

Gorgeous view of Cathedral Peak in the Drakensberg Mountains, South Africa

View of Cathedral Peak, a famous mountain and strenuous day hike in the Drakensberg.

 

Where Else to Hike in the Drakensberg

I’ve done a lot of hiking, but the Drakensberg is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever explored.  In addition to hiking to Orange Peel Gap, I also rambled in the Drakensberg Amphitheatre and Giants Castle. It’s one of the richest rock painting sites in the world and in the Drakensberg Amphitheatre.

Not only did I LOVE hiking in the Drakensberg, but I also enjoyed the warm welcome I received when I wearily returned to Didima Chalets. A troop of baboons greeted me including this adorable baby baboon!  No, they didn’t hand out a cold beer, but they did cure my weariness. Despite being tired,  I snapped over 300 photos of baboons.  They’re one of the best cures to sore muscles I’ve found.

Know Before You Go Hiking in the Drakensberg:

  • Be sure to check out AccommodDirect for a great choice of accommodation in the Drakensberg.
  • The best time to go hiking in the Drakensberg according to our guides is in April and May. That’s fall in South Africa. Temperatures are cooler then, but not too cool. It’s not likely to be overrun with tourists, except on Easter weekend.
  • The Drakensberg receives snow in winter (June – August).  Hiking is still possible, but see what the weather conditions before you go so that you bring the appropriate clothing. Check out my Day Hiking Gear Guide for tips.
  • There are many hikes (including Orange Peel Gap and Cathedral Peak) that you can only walk with a guide for safety reasons.  Didima Chalets can arrange for a guide. You can also ask them to put you in touch with Wiseman, who works as a private guide. He has a cell phone but no website.
  • Wiseman (our guide) said his #1 recommended hike in the Drakensberg is Mushroom Rock. It’s known for its scenery, caves and you have a good chance of seeing wildlife like baboons and elan. No lions or elephants, so don’t worry!
  • Contact the South African Tourism Site for more info on hiking in the Drakensberg.

 

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

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Laurel Robbins is the founder of Monkeys and Mountains, an adventure travel blog and company that helps people plan their active holidays in a sustainable way. Although Canadian, she lives in Germany. You can find her in the mountains on most weekends.

2017-11-10T13:40:43+00:00

22 Comments

  1. Bob R June 1, 2012 at 12:42 pm - Reply

    I knew nothing about this area. Looks stunning!

  2. InsideJourneys June 1, 2012 at 3:22 pm - Reply

    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.

  3. Italian Notes June 1, 2012 at 3:31 pm - Reply

    Wow – that green moss looks so soft, I can almost feel it.

  4. Laurel June 1, 2012 at 3:51 pm - Reply

    @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.

  5. Leigh June 1, 2012 at 6:26 pm - Reply

    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!!

  6. Cathy Sweeney June 1, 2012 at 6:34 pm - Reply

    Gorgeous scenery on that hike. The path looks like one I’d like to take. The mountains are so green! – Beautiful.

  7. Sophie June 1, 2012 at 6:58 pm - Reply

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

  8. Jenna June 1, 2012 at 8:45 pm - Reply

    All I can say is wow. The views and colors are amazing.

  9. Nancie June 1, 2012 at 11:06 pm - Reply

    This is gorgeous beyond words. I love the baboon shots too!

  10. Zhu June 1, 2012 at 11:16 pm - Reply

    Wow, looks like you are alone in the world!

  11. Steve June 1, 2012 at 11:21 pm - Reply

    Beautiful scenery Laurel, but why am I not surprised to find out that there were babboons involved.

    • Steve June 1, 2012 at 11:22 pm - Reply

      Oh man…of all the blogs to do it on….I’m going to lose points for mis-spelling baboon aren’t I?

  12. Gaelyn June 2, 2012 at 12:35 am - Reply

    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.

  13. Lisa June 2, 2012 at 12:50 am - Reply

    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.

  14. Mary @ The World Is A Book June 2, 2012 at 6:14 am - Reply

    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.

  15. Collin Trent June 2, 2012 at 3:39 pm - Reply

    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.

  16. Simon June 2, 2012 at 5:14 pm - Reply

    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 🙂

  17. Jennifer Dombrowdki June 2, 2012 at 10:08 pm - Reply

    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!

  18. Laurel June 3, 2012 at 11:24 am - Reply

    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!

  19. […] Monkeys and mountains: A day trip to Orange Peel Gap in Cathedral Peak […]

  20. Cathy January 13, 2016 at 7:45 pm - Reply

    I had never heard of this area and I am in love after seeing your photos! I have added this to my long hiking wish list, simply stunning!

    • Laurel January 13, 2016 at 10:45 pm - Reply

      @Cathy – The Drakensberg is incredible! You just have to watch for the snakes 😉

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