Rugged, mountainous and pristine, Lesotho is a country landlocked within South Africa. Its unspoiled natural beauty lures hikers and backpackers from around the globe. Also known as a mountain kingdom, Lesotho is a trekker’s paradise with its jagged peaks, plateaus, and wild mountain rivers. Traditional thatched villages dot its backcountry and green wooded hills provide shelter for a wide array of animals. Lesotho is not a wealthy nation, but it is rich in culture and natural splendor.
Tsehlanyane National Park is located in the Maloti Mountains and regarded as Lesotho’s natural jewel. The park rises more than 18,373 feet above sea level and features sub-alpine woodlands where rare species of fern and bamboo dwell. Mountain animals like baboons, serval cats, and jackals make their home within the lush grounds. There are many trails throughout Tsehlanyane National Park that are popular with hikers and horseback riders. With its waterfalls, wildflower groves, and river valleys, the park is a must-visit attraction for outdoor enthusiasts.
Maseru is the capital of Lesotho and its largest city. Situated on the Caledon River, it lies just along its eastern border with South Africa. The city is named for the red sandstone cliffs and canyons that surround it. It straddles the line between modern and traditional, as it features many modern buildings—including a South-African style mall and cinema—and colonial structures. Attractions of the city include the Royal Palace, National Stadium, and the Lesotho National Museum.
The Maletsunyane Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in the world, is a dramatic sight on the Maletsunyane River. The falls are 630 feet in height and arc over a basalt ledge, dropping down into a verdant river gorge. Trekkers will find plenty of mountain trails and plunge pools to explore after taking in the falls. The nearby town of Semonkong is the typical starting-off point for visiting the falls and features a lodge, restaurant, and tavern. Because many tourists visit the small thatched-hut village, residents have created a truly enjoyable atmosphere complemented by music and dance.
Within the wetland setting of the Bokong Nature Reserve, the Bokong and Lepaquo Rivers begin their journeys. The reserve is a popular site for horseback riding and exploring the mountainous terrain during the warm months, but in winter there’s good reason to make the trek simply to witness Lepaquo Waterfall in its frozen state—a rare sight to behold in Africa. There are many meandering hiking trails and campsites scattered throughout the area.
Katse Dam is a among Lesotho’s more modern attractions. The concrete arch dam is located on the Malibamat River and it's a part of a larger dam project that supplies Lesotho’s neighbor, South Africa, with much-needed water. For Lesotho, the dam is a spectacular engineering feat, as it's the second-longest double-curvature arch dam in all of Africa. While the dam helps supply water to South Africa, it also supplies hydroelectricity to Lesotho. You will find an information center on-site and can sign up for activities like tours and boat rides.
As Lesotho’s only ski resort, Afriski attracts ski enthusiasts from all over the globe to its location in the Maluti Mountains. In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another in Southern Africa; there is just one other located in the same mountain range, but on the South African side of the border. The resort is more than 10,600 feet above sea level. Unfortunately, even in winter, snowfalls at the resort can be few and far between, but snow machines keep the mountain in ready condition for skiers. During the summer months, outdoor enthusiasts are welcome at Afriski to enjoy mountain biking, paintball competitions, hiking, and more.
Sehlabathebe National Park is located on the very rooftop of the country. It boasts dazzling views of highland savanna, mountain valleys, and flower-filled meadows. The best way to trek across the landscape is on horseback. Located in the southeastern part of the country, the park is celebrated for its pristine wilderness, superb fishing, and its array of trails that pass near natural attractions like waterfalls, dramatic cliffs, and even ancient rock art.
A visit to the Liphofung Caves offers guests a double delight--cave exploration and visits to the Basotho people. The caves and nearby Moteng Valley contain evidence of human settlement dating as far back as the Stone Age. The caves are important to Lesotho's history as they reveal Neolithic rock art. At the visitor center, tourists can learn about the Basotho people, their kings and their highly developed crafts. There are plenty of trails and campsites surrounding the area too, making it a must-visit site for backpackers.
Thaba Bosui is a sandstone plateau that’s important to the people and history of Lesotho. The plateau and its rock formations provided a natural fortress for the Basotho people. The plateau contains six passes and eight natural springs and is located in the east-central region of the country. As a national monument, Thaba Bosui is a well preserved, popular attraction. On close examination, you’ll be able to spot rock paintings and other archaeological evidence of its past.
The town of Morija is a cultural hot spot. In many ways, its calling is to preserve and display the relics and treasures of Lesotho’s past and help visitors understand and enjoy the traditions of its cultures. The town is home to the Morija Museum and Archives and is the site of the annual art and culture festival. The people of Lesotho refer to Morija as the “well-spring of learning.” Anyone who wants to delve more deeply into the region’s cultural past, its wars, and colonial influences will find Morija fascinating.