The 15 Best Things to Do in Lesotho

Traditional rondavel huts in the Lesotho mountains

BartCo / Getty Images

Completely enclosed by South Africa and spanning just over 11,500 square miles, Lesotho is often overlooked in favor of its more famous neighbor. However, there are many reasons to visit the Kingdom in the Sky; so-called because it is the only independent state on Earth that lies entirely above 1,000 meters (3,281 feet). The Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains that range across much of the east and central sections of the country lend Lesotho the Alpine climate and astonishing mountain scenery for which it is best known. Explore these magnificent landscapes on foot or horseback; stopping at villages where smiling people still wear traditional Basotho attire.

Looking for other ways to spend your time? Here’s our choice of the best things to do in Lesotho. 

01 of 15

Drive the Jaw-Dropping Sani Pass

Looking down the Sani Pass between South Africa and Lesotho

Westend61 / Getty Images

Address
Sani Pass, Mkhomazi Wilderness area, South Africa

For many visitors, Lesotho is a natural addition to a larger South African itinerary. Instead of flying between the two countries, consider hiring an all-wheel-drive vehicle and cross the land border via the notorious Sani Pass. This spectacularly scenic gravel road connects Underberg in KwaZulu-Natal with Mokhotlong, Lesotho, and climbs 4,370 vertical feet via a series of hair-raising switchbacks. Advisable for experienced off-road drivers only, the pass boasts some of the most beautiful vistas in Southern Africa and also affords the opportunity to stop for a drink at Sani Mountain Lodge (better known as the Highest Pub in Africa). 

02 of 15

Go Hiking in Tsehlanyane National Park

Mountain scenery from Maliba Lodge, Lesotho

Lukas Bischoff / Getty Images

Address
Lesotho

Located roughly in the center of the country amid the southern Maloti Mountains, Tsehlanyane National Park is the most accessible of Lesotho’s two national parks. Come to admire its breathtaking sub-Alpine scenery, including crystal clear highland rivers, plunging waterfalls, and montane landscapes dotted with indigenous fynbos. The park is best explored via an extensive network of hiking and riding trails, while wildlife to look out for ranges from the eland (the world’s largest antelope) to one of Lesotho’s biggest birding draws, the endangered bearded vulture. Trails start from Maliba Lodge, which also offers the only five-star accommodation in the country. 

03 of 15

Discover Fantastic Rock Formations at Sehlabathebe

Rock arch in Sehlabathebe National Park, Lesotho

HannesThirion / Getty Images

Address
Lesotho

Lesotho’s other national park is remote Sehlabathebe, a UNESCO World Heritage Site situated on the eastern border with South Africa. Here, the jagged peaks of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg escarpment provide a dramatic backdrop for geological wonders that range from soaring arches and deep caves to towering pinnacles and isolated outcrops. All were formed by erosion processes that have taken place over millions of years. Top activities include hiking, riding, fly fishing, and visiting the 65 ancient rock art sites located within the park’s borders. November to February is the best time to visit to catch Sehlabathebe’s annual wildflower blooms. 

04 of 15

Learn From Ha Baroana’s Ancient Rock Art

Ha Baroana Caves

Courtesy of Visit Lesotho

Address
Maseru, Lesotho

If you love Sehlabathebe’s rock art sites, be sure to visit Ha Baroana as well. Located in the west near Matela village, the name of this site translates as “Home of the Bushmen,” a reference to the people of the San tribe who once dwelled in this area and were descendants of Africa’s earliest people. The paintings are all found on a massive sandstone wall that overhangs the Liphiring River. Paintings of sacred eland are most common, although hunters and their prey are also depicted. The oldest paintings are thought to be 2,000 years old. Ha Baroana is an easy one-hour drive from Maseru. 

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05 of 15

Add to Your Birding Life List at Lake Letsie

Lake Letsie, Lesotho's only Ramsar wetland site

Lehlohonolo Chefa / Getty Images

Address
30°18'35.3"S 28°09'54.3"E, Lesotho Sun Rd, Maseru, Lesotho

Keen birders should definitely make the trip to Lake Letsie, the largest freshwater lake in Lesotho and the country’s only Ramsar wetland site. Part of Letsang-la-Letsie Nature Reserve, the lake attracts many different waterbird species. It’s also surrounded by grassland that provides an important habitat for specials like the blue crane and southern bald ibis; while the fringing foothills offer opportunities to spot endemics like the Drakensberg rock jumper and the Drakensberg siskin. Summer is the best time to visit for a chance of catching seasonal migrants, while the closest accommodation is a two-hour drive away at Mount Moorosi Chalets.

06 of 15

Marvel at the Mighty Maletsunyane Falls

Maletsunyane Falls and a dramative cliffside in Lesotho

Edwin Remsberg / Getty Images

Address
Maletsunyane Falls, Lesotho

Centrally located in the heart of Lesotho, Maletsunyane Falls is arguably one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Africa. A single cataract on the Maletsunyane River, it plunges in an unbroken veil from the top of a sheer escarpment surrounded by impossibly green foothills. With a drop of 630 feet, it’s also one of the tallest single-dropping waterfalls in the world. Nearby Semonkong Lodge offers many ways to experience Maletsunyane in all its glory, from guided hikes and treks to the summit, to the famous waterfall abseil. The latter holds the Guinness World Record for the longest commercially operated single-drop abseil in the world. 

07 of 15

Fly Fish for Trout at Semonkong Lodge

Brown trout caught on fly rod

KevinCass / Getty Images

Address
Lesotho
Phone +266 2700 6037

Semonkong Lodge is a hub for many outdoor activities. In addition to its waterfall abseil, it is especially known as a fly fishing base. From here, you can join guided day trips and multi-day fishing expeditions to two distinct fishing areas. The first (the river above the falls) is famous for its trophy-sized wild brown trout. The second (below the falls) offers the opportunity to catch the Lesotho “grand slam” in a single day: brown trout, rainbow trout, and yellowfish. All fishing is conducted on a catch-and-release basis, and permits can be purchased from the lodge reception. 

08 of 15

Take a Boat Trip and Visit the Botanical Garden at Katse Dam

Aerial view of Katse Dam, Lesotho

YolandaVanNiekerk / Getty Images

Address
Unnamed Road, Lesotho

Many of the country’s trophy trout are bred in fish farms on the Katse Dam, an impressive man-made lake in central Lesotho. Impounded by the second-largest dam of its kind in Africa, the lake covers almost 15 square miles when full. Head to the visitor’s center to arrange a boat trip or a guided tour of the dam wall; leaving plenty of time in your schedule for a wander through the Katse Botanical Garden. Populated by rare Afro-Alpine plants, it boasts more than 500 indigenous species including the Lesotho lily and the spiral aloe, Lesotho’s national flower. 

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09 of 15

Walk in the Footsteps of Dinosaurs at Subeng River

Man's hand next to a fossilized dinosaur footprint, Lesotho

Nektarstock / Getty Images

The rural town of Leribe on Lesotho’s northwest border is famous amongst paleontologists for its fossilized dinosaur footprints. Imprinted into the sandstone rocks along the Subeng River, the footprints were discovered in 1955 and are believed to belong to at least three different dinosaur species. Some experts hypothesize that the marks could have been made by as many as six species. To reach the site, drive roughly 4.3 miles north out of town until you see the signpost for the prints; then pay M50 to the local man who owns the land to gain access to the river. 

10 of 15

Visit the Cave Dwellings of Ha Kome Village

A woman sitting on the stoop of the Kome Cave Dwelling

Amada44, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Address
Unnamed Road, Lesotho
Phone +266 5883 5143

For an insight into Lesotho’s human history, pay a visit to Ha Kome Village near the western town of Teyateyaneng. Here, descendants of the country’s Basia tribe continue to live in the cave dwellings in which their ancestors first sought refuge during the Lifaqane Wars of the early 19th century. Known as Mfecane in South Africa, this period saw widespread conflict between the tribes of Southern Africa, with several wiped out completely and others in Lesotho driven to cannibalism by drought and famine. For more information, book a guided tour of the cave dwellings at the Kome Crafts and Information Center. 

11 of 15

Tour the Architectural Highlights of Maseru

Mokorotlo Hat building in Maseru, Lesotho

Earl & Nazima Kowall / Getty Images

More conventional homes are found in Maseru, Lesotho’s capital, largest city, and primary gateway. Some of the city’s edifices are of significant architectural interest. These include the sandstone buildings leftover from Maseru’s time as the administrative center of the Basutoland colony; including the Resident Commissioner’s House and Our Lady of Victories Cathedral. The most interesting building of African origin is the Mokorotlo Building, designed to resemble the traditional woven Basotho hat of the same name. The Mokorotlo Building houses an important local crafts cooperative and is a great place to purchase souvenirs. 

12 of 15

Explore the Former Royal Capital of Thaba Bosiu

Ruins of King Moshoeshoe's compound at Thaba Bosiu, Lesotho

steve_is_on_holiday / Getty Images

Before Maseru, the capital of the Sotho Kingdom was Thaba Bosiu, located approximately half an hour away by car. The former capital was founded in 1824, when Moshoeshoe (father of the Sotho Kingdom) climbed up to the mountain plateau and realized that it offered the perfect natural stronghold from which to defend his people during the Lifaqane Wars. Today, visitors can view Moshoeshoe’s partially restored royal compound and also tour the Thaba Bosiu Cultural Village with its replica traditional Sotho homesteads and an excellent museum. Accommodation in the village can be booked via its website.

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13 of 15

Experience Snow in Africa at Afriski Mountain Resort

Person carving on snowboard with a cloud of snow
Courtesy of Afriski Mountain Resort
Address
Oxbow - Mapholaneng Rd, Lesotho
Phone +27 861 237 4754

Afriski Mountain Resort makes the unlikely possible with full-service snowsport facilities including slopes for all abilities, ski lifts, and modern snow-making machines for when nature needs some help. You can rent all your equipment for skiing, snowboarding, and tubing from the rental shop, or sign up for lessons at the Mountain Ski & Snowboard School. The resort also boasts the only freestyle snow park in Africa, with jumps, rails, and boxes for the experienced boarder. With accommodation and a lively après-ski scene on-site, you're invited to stay as long as you like. 

14 of 15

Shop for Local Crafts in Teyateyaneng

A blanket being woven in Teyateyaneng

Paul / CC BY-NC 2.0 / Flickr

Located an hour’s drive northeast of Maseru, Teyateyaneng was founded towards the end of the 19th century by King Moshoeshoe’s son. Today, this busy market town is best known among visitors as the premier place to shop for authentic, handmade, traditionally Basotho crafts. These are sold at a series of different craft cooperatives, including Lesotho Mountain Cooperative and Elelloang Basali. Look for intricately woven straw mokorotlo hats as well as wool and mohair products dyed in a rainbow of different colors. To have your choice of shopping venues, be sure to visit from Monday to Saturday as some places close on Sundays. 

15 of 15

Sample Traditional Basotho Cooking

African staple foods (pap, wild spinach, and grilled meat) on plate with a feminine, brown skinned hand taking a piece of pap

ivanfolio / Getty Images

While Lesotho isn't famous culinary destination, the local fare is quite delicious. Basotho cooking is typically simple, with a focus on preserved vegetables and starches that are both filling and cheap. Pap, a stiff porridge made from maize or corn, is a staple throughout Southern Africa, as is traditional borotho bread. These are typically served with grilled meats or slow-cooked stews, with oxtail and chicken being the most popular flavors for the latter. For vegetarians, butha-buthe soup is a must-try, featuring spinach and tangerine and typically served with a dollop of yogurt.

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The 15 Best Things to Do in Lesotho