The Drakensberg’s top hikes

The Drakensberg (which means Dragon’s Mountain), is the largest mountain range in South Africa and is a spectacularly beautiful region. J.R.R Tolkien saw this landscape as inspiration for the part of Middle Earth called the Misty Mountains. 

According to, the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park is home to 35 000 examples of San rock paintings and a huge diversity of protected plant and animal species. KwaZulu-Natal's 200km long uKhahlamba-Drakensberg escarpment is one of the most impressive mountain ranges in South Africa. With peaks that exceed 3 000m, the Berg forms the backbone of the Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation and Development Area between the Kingdom of Lesotho and South Africa.

The uKhahlamba has river valleys, mountain streams, rugged cliffs, hiking trails and magnificent scenery that attracts thousands of travellers every year, many of whom come for the incredible hikes. Here, we’ve rounded up some of the most loved ones:

This is considered one of the most scenic day hikes in the Cathedral Peak part of the Drakensberg. The 5.5km trail starts at Didima Camp at Cathedral Peak Hotel, and goes through woodland, following the Ndumeni River upstream. You walk through a forest, and into a gorge, past rock pools, rapids and waterfalls.

Good to know: The trail is not too challenging, and suitable for families. There are wildlife and birdlife to be seen.

This is for experienced walkers only, and takes hikers up the Amphitheatre, a cliff face that is more than 1,2km high. It starts at the Sentinel car park and includes scaling ladders on the rockface, before getting to the top and enjoying some spectacular views. For those who don’t want to do the chain ladders, there is another route available. 

Good to know: You can camp at the top and do the 18km trail over two days.

This 12km trail starts at the Injisuthi Rest Camp, and goes along the Injisuthi River Valley, with its beautiful views. It passes Battle Cave, well known for its San rock art and Boundary Pool, where you can swim. 

Good to know: You can split up the trail over two days, overnighting in the cave at the end of the trail, and head back the next day.

This is a 46km hike that is usually done over two days, and for more experienced walkers. It has beautiful views of Cathedral Peak and rock pools along the route.

Good to know: This is a less frequented hike and is considered a hidden gem.

This 7km hike in Royal Natal Park starts at the Mahai campsite. The route includes a steep climb, before a descent to the Ploughman’s Kop rockpools at the end.

Good to know: You can dip in other plunge pools on the way, and take in beautiful Amphitheatre views.

This 68km trail in Ukhahlamba Park starts at Sani Pass and finishes at Bushman’s Nek, and takes about five days to do. It’s a well-marked trail and easy to follow, and there are huts available every night.

Good to know: The trail isn’t very strenuous, and you can do it independently or with a guide.

This is an extreme and beautiful hike and involves scaling the Sentinel ladders. It is regarded as the most difficult non-rock pass in the entire Drakensberg

The three-day hike starts at Mnweni Cultural Centre, Mnweni Valley

 and follows the Amphitheatre route, and goes to the Tugela Falls, and then Icidi Gorge

Good to know: This hike is quite remote. There is accommodation at the start (if you want to stay over the night before), and on the hike, there are caves plus places to pitch a tent. 

This is one of the most popular hikes in the Berg and offers rock pools, diverse vegetation and beautiful views of the Amphitheatre. It starts at Thendele Camp in the Royal National Park and takes around seven hours.

Good to know: This is a moderate route, and suitable for families. There are several large crystal-clear rock pools to cool off.

Your body might be ready to take on the challenge of one (or all!) of these hikes, but is your vehicle in tip-top condition to get you there? Before you head out, be sure to check when your next car service is due. Is the journey longer than the number of kilometres you have left until your next service? A service plan through MotorHappy will help ensure you have already budgeted for your car services, which means you don’t have to dip into the spending money you’ve saved up for your trip. 

Road trip planning is essential before you start your journey. Explore our blog to find out what you need to ensure your car is in good condition for a long road trip – but essentially, it’s important to check that all fluids are topped up, if your windscreen wipers in good condition, check that all lights are working and your tyres have good tread.



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