The added-value of South Africa is definitely its tremendous landscape diversity. From savanna, semi-deserts, cliffs, caves to mountains. Due to our hiking joy, we chose to spend a few days in the Drakensberg mountains. In this blog post, you can expect a photo diary of the hikes we went on, a short description of the paths and, we will give you the information where to stay in the South African mountains.
After immersing in the beauty of Blyde River Canyon,
observing wildlife in Kruger Park and driving through Swaziland, we wanted
to spend some more time outdoors. Therefore, we booked 3 nights in a lodge, situated in the Central Drakensberg mountains. We assumed that the Drakensberg area will leave us speechless. And guess what, of course it did (with a small exception)!
NOTE: Even if you are not into hiking, the landscape near the Drakensberg mountains is very impressive and worth a visit!
The Drakensberg mountains, derived from the Afrikaans name the Drakensberge meaning "Dragon Mountains", are divided into 5 regions: Bergville and the Northern Drakensberg, Winterton and the Central Drakensberg, Himeville, Underberg and the Southern Drakensberg and the East Griqualand and uMzimkhulu. With its 3,482 metres, the Thabana Ntlenyana is the highest peak of the mountain range. Apart from the hikes we are going to mention in this blog post, the most popular peaks to visit are the Champagne Castle (3,377 m), the Giant's Castle (3,315 m) and the Cathedral Peak (3,004 m).
Day 1 - The Blindsman's Corner Hike
The first goal of our hiking adventure in South Africa was to ascend to the Blindsman's Corner. To access the starting point of this first trail up, we had to take the scenic drive from Winterton to Monks Cowl. Once there, we paid approx. 20R (2 eur) at the office, wrote down our names at the entrance (a common process in the Drakensberg mountains) and then started to walk up.
The path took us first through the misty forest, until it finally opened up, offering amazing views over the spectacular mountains and valleys. The hike was steady, not too steep.
This hike offered some amazing panoramic views. It was absolutely a great decision to visit this part of the Drakensberg mountains.
Finally we reached the top of the Blindman's Corner. Beautiful, isn't it?
From Blindsman's corner we chose to descend via the scenic Keartland's Pass. The walk down was a bit steep but nothing to worry about.
After all, the hike took us approx. 6 hours (with some breaks). With all these great panoramic views, believe me, you forget all the drops on your forehead.
In our eyes, the Blindman's Corner is a hike everyone should do while wandering around the Drakensberg mountains. It is not that tough, the views are incredible and the
path is anything but crowded.
Day 2 - Tugela Gorge
On day 2, we decided to go for the Tugela Gorge hike. The path of the 5-hour hike started at the Royal Natal car park.
The first part of the day-hike was quite easy and extremely beautiful, with some picturesque views of the river and the valley. We were surrounded by awe-inspiring nature which
took our breaths away.
After 2.5 hours of easy and comfortable hiking, the path took us suddenly along a river, which forced us to
climb over some huge bolders.
What is more, the path got increasingly narrow, we were surrounded by some huge stone walls and frankly, there was not much to see (I didn't take any photos of it - all photos in this blog post show the landscape of the first 3 hours of hiking).
Well, also the 6-hour hike on the previous day left its marks on our bodies - all these facts led to the conclusion to not continue the path. We turned around. Apparently, at
the end of the path we would be awarded with the Tugela falls.
The first 3 hours of the Tugela Gorge Hike were great and totally worth it. But in the end of the hike, it wasn't as promising as expected (just our opinion!). That is why I would suggest to only go for the first part of this hike. Unless you plan to only do 2 hikes in the Drakensberg mountains, you should consider hiking to the Blindman's Corner and to the Amphitheater's peak. And what is the Amphitheater? It is one of the most imposing features of the Drakensberg mountain range. It is a mighty wall of basalt, constraining you to climb the famous chain ladders of Sentinel Peak. For this once time experience you should have another 3 days, forcing you 6-8 hours walk per day, but rewarding you with wonderful views over plateaux. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough days to experience the Amphitheater hike. Next time, I guess :)
Watch our short video of the Drakensberg hike!
Day 3 - The Canopy Tour
On the 3rd day we joined the Canopy tour (=zipline tour) in the Drakensberg mountains. The funny thing was that we were the only tourists who went on the tour in the
morning. It actually turned out to be to our advantage since we could hold talks with some of the employees of the tour. There were some very touching moments, people asking us
how it is to travel on a plane, visiting other countries and working in Europe. They were curious to see the photos we took with our camera. At some point, we felt very guilty and angry,
asking ourselves, why this world is so unfair.........some part of the world can travel, other don't. Apart from this frustration, the canopy tour was great. We did about 7 lines through the
forest. We felt very safe, sometimes even too safe with all the precautions ;)
Where to stay
Our trip to South Africa was going to an end, that is why we wanted to enjoy the last days in a cozy place. We booked the lovely Cayley Lodge, located in the Central Drakensberg mountains. We got a very clean and nice studio, with a kitchen included. The surroundings were amazing, with amazing views over the Bell Park Dam, the Cathkin Peak and Champagne Castle. A studio with a double bed for a night comes with the price of 50 EUR.
Having breakfast on one of the benches with the view of the lake, was one of the most charming moments in South Africa.
At the lodge, it is possible to take a swim in the outdoor pool, play mini-golf and show your talent on a tennis court.
Although we didn't experience the most famous Amphitheater route, we were very impressed by the Blindman's Corner Hike. Everyone who likes hiking, the Drakensberg mountains are a must see in South Africa. I can imagine revisiting the mountainous area on our next trip to this beautiful country, apart from exploring Cape Town and the famous Garden Route.
Did you hike the Drakensberg mountains? What paths did you take? Please share it in the comments below!