The Drakensberg Mountains are undoubtedly one of the most spectacular places to visit in South Africa. It is known for its dramatic and awe-inspiring scenery and wealth of incredible outdoor activities.
Divided into three parts: North, Central, and South, each region have something unique to offer. Once you’re here, it's hard not to fall in love with the Drakensberg.
Since there is so much to see and do around the area, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to the top things to do in the Drakensberg Mountains to help you plan your next adventure.
Where Is Drakensberg Mountain?
The Drakensberg Mountain Range is located in South Africa. The mountain range is situated mainly in the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal but also extends into the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, and the Free State. It also borders Lesotho.
Best Places To Visit In Drakensberg
Here are the best places to visit in the Drakensberg:
Cathedral Peak is situated near the northeast border of Lesotho. It's one of the most recognizable landmarks in the Drakensberg Mountains and is known for its incredible waterfall, hiking trails, and towering mountain peaks.
The Champagne Valley
The Champagne Valley is situated in the Central Drakensberg region, in between Cathkin Peak and the Champagne Castle.
There are various sporting centers, golf courses, hiking trails, and other activities such as the Falcon Ridge Rehabilitation Center for rescued birds where kids can learn about these critters. It's also known for being the home of the iconic Drakensberg Boys Choir.
The Giants Castle Nature Reserve in the Central Drakensberg is best-known for its ancient rock art by the San people. There are a few places to see this incredible art form in Giants Castle, but one area that we recommend visiting is the Main Caves Museum. Not everything here is archaic though, a restaurant and well-stocked bar also wait.
The area is also home to a range of wildlife and hiking trails and is great for mountain climbing and trout fishing.
The Royal Natal National Park
Located in the Northern Drakensberg, the Royal Natal National Park is an area home to one of the most iconic landmarks in the whole Drakensberg region, the Amphitheatre.
The Royal Natal National Park also offers a wealth of scenic hikes, horse riding, and a golf course. It’s also home to one of the tallest waterfalls in the world, the Tugela Falls.
Crossing through the mountains in Underberg, Kwazulu-Natal, and the Mokhotlong in Lesotho, the Sani Pass is a legendary route not for the faint-hearted. It earned the reputation as the toughest 4×4 route in South Africa and travels upward over 9,400 feet in under 9 miles.
Tip: Click here to book a guided 4×4 day trip to Sani Pass if you’re not comfortable navigating the pass on your own.
Top Things To Do In Drakensberg Mountains (North)
Here are the top things to do in the Northern Drakensberg mountains:
Areas In The Northern Drakensberg Mountains
The most popular areas in the Northern Drakensberg region are the Royal National Park, the Amphitheatre, Mont-aux-Sources, and Singati Valley. You’ll also find the Rugged Glen Nature Reserve and the Ifidi Mnweni & Ntonjelana valleys.
Northern Drakensberg Hiking Trails
Tugela Gorge Chain Ladder Hike: The Tugela Gorge Chain Ladder Hike is believed to be one of the most spectacular hikes in the whole area. It begins at the Gorge Car park and stretches through the gorge. It's a moderate day hike that takes about 5 hours to complete one way.
Along the way, you’ll discover smaller waterfalls, pools, and vistas. The ultimate prize of this trek, though, is the Tugela Falls themselves.
Policeman’s Helmet Hike: This 4-hour moderate hike starts at the Gorge Car Park. It's a 3-mile hike with an elevation of about 1115-feet. As you ascend up the trail, you’ll discover some incredible views and landmarks.
Then there are more moderate walks that can take up to six hours. These walks include a 7-mile hike through the Sigubudu Ridge and Rugged Glen Nature Reserve to enrich this San art site.
Mont-aux Sources Hike: If you’re looking for a challenge, then take the grueling 5-hour trek up to the highest point in the Drakensberg – The Mont-aux-Sources. This peak rises up at 10,768-feet.
While it is quite the challenge, once you make it to the top, you’re rewarded with unrivaled views of the whole Drakensberg Mountain range.
Other Drakensberg Activities Located In The North
- Sigubudu Rock Art: There are two options to get to the Sigubudu Rock Art. The one is a short 1-hour hike that takes you along Otto’s Walk through the Sigubudu Valley.
Top Things To Do In Drakensberg Mountains (Central) – Most Popular Area For First-Timers!
Here are a few places and activities to check out if you’re visiting the Drakensberg for the first time:
Areas Included In The Central Drakensberg Mountains
The main Central Drakensberg area is made up of Cathedral Peak, Cathkin Park, Champagne Castle, Giant’s Castle Game Reserve, and the Mlambonja Wilderness Area.
It also includes regions such as Ndumendi, Organ Pipes, Nedema Gorge, Mdedelo Wilderness Area, Monk’s Cowl, and Injasuti.
Central Drakensberg Hikes
- The Sphinx Hike: The Sphinx Hike is a moderate walk of just over 1 mile and takes about one hour to complete one way. It starts at Monks Cowl and makes its way up to “The Sphinx,” an interesting rock formation in the mountains. Along the way, the trail passes the stunning Crystal Falls.
- Blindmans Corner Hike: The Blindmans Corner Hike is a challenging 5-hour trail near Okhahlamba. It is a circular route that is quite uphill. It starts at Monk's Cowl Cap and takes you past Crystal Falls, The Sphinx, the Breakfast Steam, and then up to Blindmans Corner.
From there you’ll get to see other landmarks such as Cathkin Peak, Sterkhorn, and the Champagne Castle.
- Sterkspruit Falls: Another short and easy hike in this area is the Sterkspruit Falls hike. It starts at Monks Cowl, which then takes you down to the majestic Sterkspruit Falls before returning to the starting point. It takes about 2 hours to complete in total.
- Nandi and Sterkspruit Falls: This hike is a 4-mile circular trail that takes you to both Nandi Falls and the Sterkspruit Falls. It starts at the Monk Cowl and takes you past vistas, smaller waterfalls, and pools.
- Hlatikulu Forest Hike: Another way to reach the Sterkspruit and Nandi Falls is through the Hlatikulu Forest Hike. It takes you down to the Sterkspruit River and passes both falls through the tranquil Hlatikulu Forest. It takes about 4 hours to complete one way.
- Main Caves Hike: This is a short 1-hour hike from the Giant’s Castle camp. It takes you to a bushmen cave where you can discover rock art and a bushman model scene, highlighting the life of a bushman family.
- World’s View: The World’s View hike is a moderate 3-hour hike that crosses the Bannerman Bridge and Sugarloaf Kop. Once you get to the top, it will feel as if you’re on top of the world with matching views to go with it.
- Bergview: This trail is a short 4-mile that takes 4 hours to complete and takes you up to the popular Bergview viewpoint. From here, you’ll have unparalleled views of Giant’s Castle, Cathkin Peak, and other landmarks.
Other Drakensberg Activities Located In The Central Region
- Discover Rock Art at Main Caves: The main caves are the best place to discover the San rock paintings. There's even a replica of how the San people lived.
- Drakensberg Boys Choir: Discover the angelic voices of one of South Africa’s most well-known choirs through one of their performances.
- Drakensberg Ballooning: Soar high over the area and see it from a different perspective with a hot air balloon ride.
- Horse Riding: Another great way to discover the Drakensberg is to trot through various trails on horseback and take in the wonderful scenery.
- Cathedral Peak Wine Estate: After a day of exploring, indulge in a fine selection of wines through a wine tasting at the Cathedral Peak Wine Estate.
Top Things To Do In Drakensberg Mountains (South)
Here are the top things to do in the southern Drakensberg Mountains.
Areas Included In The Southern Drakensberg Mountains
The southern areas in the Drakensberg Mountains include The Mkhomazi Wilderness Area, Highmoor, Kamberg, Vergelegen, Sani Pass, Garden Castle, Devil’s Knuckles, Bushman's Nek, and the Sehlabathebe National Park.
Southern Drakensberg Hike Trails
- Sani Pass: While the Sani Pass Drive is challenging, the hike is truly not for the faint-hearted. It is a challenging 9-mile hike that can either be done in a day or as an overnight hike. As a day hike, it takes about 8 hours to complete one way. It's long and steep, but once you get to the top, you’ll feel as if you’ve conquered the world.
- Cedric’s Pool Hike: The Cedric’s pool hike is a short 2-hour hike from Bushman’s Nek Camp. It passes through small waterfalls and pools before arriving at the main pool, which is the highlight of the hike.
- Other Hikes: There are plenty of other hikes to discover in the southern area. These take you past waterfalls and peaks. You can also explore various rock art paintings in the caves.
Other Drakensberg Activities Located In The South
- Self-Drives: The southern Drakensberg Area is a great place to discover on your own. There are plenty of self-drive trails that you can explore in a day.
Final Thoughts On Top Things To Do In The Drakensberg Mountains
The Drakensberg Mountains are an incredibly beautiful and diverse area. With three regions all offering something different, it's a no-brainer that the Drakensberg should be on your South Africa itinerary.
Be prepared to be amazed by vistas, waterfalls, challenging hikes, and caves that share insight into the lives of the San people.