Small though it is, Lesotho is packed with great things to see and do. You can ride a pony through the mountains, walk in the footprints of dinosaurs along a riverbed, and even go skiing. Lesotho is entirely surrounded by South Africa, but despite its location inside Africa's powerhouse, Lesotho remains its own country with its own unique, dynamic personality. The country is noted for its mountainous landscape; it is the only nation in the world with an elevation entirely above 1,400 meters. Commit to spending a few days, or even a week or two, in Lesotho, and you will have a remarkable experience. And when you're ready to move on, choose any direction, put your walking shoes on, and start exploring South Africa.
1. Malealea: The village of Malealea is situated in some of Lesotho’s most majestic and mountainous landscapes. Pony treks are available, as are guided day trips, but we recommend staying overnight.
2. Sehlabathebe National Park: With its awesome hiking trails, sandstone rock formations, and miles of beautiful landscape, Lesotho’s first national park warrants a visit. Traveling to the park requires the use of a four-by-four, and we recommend hiring a guide to show you around. You can ride a pony along the paths to see the park’s waterfalls and rare birds; you can stay the night in the park’s accommodations, or take along a tent and camp out.
3. Thaba-Bosiu: Located 15 miles (24 kilometers) east of Maseru and considered the greatest historical site in the country, Thaba-Bosiu is the flat-topped mountain where the Basotho nation originated. This is where Moshoeshoe sought refuge from attacking forces, and it is said that the mountain was never conquered. At the bottom of the hill, there is a visitor center where you can find a guide to take you to the top of the mountain and teach you the site’s detailed history.
4. Mokhotlong: Situated at the top of the Drakensberg Ridge, Mokhotlong is one of the country’s most remote regions, as well as one of its poorest. We recommend hiring a guide in Maseru to show you around Mokhotlong: despite its economic condition, Mokhotlong is stunning and serene. Because of its remote location, traveling alone in the area is not recommended.
5. Sani Top Chalet: We highly recommend this spot—no pun intended, okay?—as Sani Top Chalet is Africa’s highest pub. Situated between the border of Lesotho and South Africa along the Drakensberg Ridge, the chalet is accessible only by four-by-four. Once you are at the Sani Pass, you can spend the night, have a meal, and enjoy the view at 9,429 feet (2,874 meters) above sea level. ((033) 702 1069)
6. Semonkong Falls: Reached by a 3 mile (5 kilometer) walk along the Maletsunyane River, the Semonkong Falls are an amazing sight, as they mark the single highest drop in all southern Africa. A visit to the falls makes for a great day hike.
7. Subeng River’s Dinosaur Footprints: Few pursuits are more remarkable than tracking dinosaur footprints along a riverbed. Located just north of Hlotse (also called Leribe) are the Subeng River dinosaur footprints. Follow the signs, and have a blast walking exactly where those creatures did.
8. Oxbow Skiing: Just beyond the Moten Pass is Oxbow, a village with a .9 miles (1.5-kilometer) ski slope. It’s not the Alps, but don’t discount it. The snowfall can be erratic, so the best time of year to visit Oxbow is in July and August. A bus travels daily between Mokhotlong and Butha Butha, stopping in Oxbow along the way. There is also a lodge in Oxbow where you can stay the night.
9. Maseru: While many travelers skip Lesotho’s capital city, we think it is definitely worth your while. Shopping and restaurants are easy to find, and the surrounding hills are great for hiking.
10. Maliba Mountain Lodge: Pamper yourself at the most luxurious lodge in all Lesotho. Situated in the mountainous terrain of Tsehlanyane National Park, Maliba Mountain Lodge has the world’s highest subalpine botanical garden, an open viewing deck, a restaurant bar, and Basotho-style chalet rooms. There are hiking trails and pony rides just a few minutes away, and the views from the rooms are breathtaking.
The weather in Lesotho can be unpredictable: the country is likely to have snow, rain, and high temperatures during the summer. Most of the country’s rainfall occurs during the summer months (October through April); January and February are the hottest months. We recommend planning your trip during January and February, but good weather can be experienced year-round.
Visas: Make sure your passport is valid for six months past your last day in Lesotho. If your visit to Lesotho is shorter than 30 days, no visa is required.
Transportation: If you are entering Lesotho from South Africa, it’s best to travel by train. There are also roads linking the two countries, but they’re not always in the best condition. Regardless, car services are available in South Africa to take you to Lesotho. Moshoeshoe I International Airport is located in Maseru and is accessible through flights via South Africa.
Taxis and minibuses are readily accessible in Lesotho’s main cities. As is true in many African countries, the minibuses are inexpensive but can be crowded; be prepared to feel cramped during your ride. There are also buses that travel between cities for a reasonable price. Make sure you establish the price of the trip before you depart.
If expense is not an issue, we recommend hiring a taxi to drive you between cities. Ask your hotel staff for their recommendation of a reputable taxi service.
Mobile Phones: The most convenient way to stay connected is with a SIM card–enabled phone. You can purchase one cheaply in Lesotho or take one along. Airtime cards are sold all around the country.
The U.S. Department of State’s consular website has a great deal of information about safety and security in Lesotho.
It can’t be repeated enough: be sensible when you travel. Crime rates vary throughout Lesotho. Be alert and aware about your surroundings. Always keep important items like passports and excess cash in a safe place.
The Mo Ibrahim Foundation has created a security ratings system called the Ibrahim Index, wherein scores are based on each country’s quality of government. Before traveling to Lesotho or anywhere on the continent, check the index and do your research.
In 1818 a man named Moshoeshoe (often spelled “Moshweshewe”) brought together groups of Bantu-speaking people who were dispersed throughout the region owing to conflicts with the Zulu and Matabele tribes and established the Basotho nation at Butha-Buthe. For many years, the Basotho defended their land against the Boers. In 1868, Moshoeshoe appealed to Britain for protection, and the region became a crown protectorate. As a result, the English divided the land between the Basotho and the Boers. Moshoeshoe died in 1870, and in 1871 the English annexed the country to the Cape Colony region, now a part of modern-day South Africa. The annex occurred without consultation with the Basotho and caused a great deal of conflict. In 1880, Cape Colony forces fought and were barely defeated by Basotho fighters. The battle is called the Gun War of 1880; it led to an ineffective truce and the eventual return of the land to the English, who renamed the country Basutoland.
When the Union of South Africa was founded, in 1910, there was talk of absorbing Basutoland into the country, but the people of the region opposed the idea, and it remained an independent territory. For much of the 20th century, Basutoland was largely self-governed, and in the 1950s two political groups, the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) and the Basutoland National Party (BNP), gained popularity. On October 4, 1966, the English granted independence to Lesotho, and Moshoeshoe II became king. In 1997, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) was created; today the country’s prime minister is Pakalitha Mosisili of the LCD, and the king is Letsie III, the son of Moshoeshoe II.
1. Lesotho is a landlocked country, completely surrounded by South Africa. The capital of the country, Maseru, is also the capital of the Maseru District, one of the country’s ten districts.
2. The currency of Lesotho is the loti (maloti is the plural form of the word). There are 100 lisente in every loti. The symbol for the loti is L.
3. While radio is the most popular means of disseminating news in Lesotho, a few newspapers are published in the nation, including the Public Eye, The Mirror, Makatolle, and MoAfrica.
4. The official language of Lesotho is English. Many people also speak Sesotho (the designation is drawn from the country’s eopnym), Xhosa, Phuthi, and Zulu.
5. No public smoking ban exists in Lesotho.