Sani Pass & Lesotho

The Sani Pass is the only vehicle route over the Drakensberg escarpment and into the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho. It is a spectacular 4x4 track twisting and snaking its way through the rocky cliffs to the top of the world. Before the 1950's, it was a trail for pack animals to carry goods through to the isolated town of Mokhotlong in Eastern Lesotho. Now, the road carries 4x4 vehicles, though the odd donkey and horse can still be seen plodding slowly up the steep route. Crossing the border at the top of the pass, one enters not only another country (passports required (Please click here for Lesotho visa requirements)), but another world. The Basotho have a unique African mountain culture, reminiscent of Tibet! People live in traditional rondavels(huts), herd goats and sheep in the high mountains and grow crops by ox-ploughing and hand-hoeing in a lifestyle fascinating for the visitor. Come and experience the wonders of the mountains. Visit Lesotho under your own steam, or on one of our tours. The South African border post opens at 6am and closes at 6pm.

In 2005, the South African government started a process proposing to upgrade the Sani Pass with a hard surface. This was part of a joint project with Lesotho to upgrade the whole route across that country. On the Lesotho side of the border, the tarring of the road from Mokhotlong to Sani Top began in November 2012 with construction by a Chinese contractor proceeding at great pace. They have had little regard to local people, their land and crops, or to the environment (they have caused great environmental damage). They have worked with much manpower and many resources, and finished the road in 3 years. It appears to be a well constructed road – time will tell! On the South African side, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process had to be followed before any work can begin. The EIA began in 2007, and after much public consultation, was concluded in late 2012. The EIA report then went to the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, and they gave their decision in mid-2013. To the delight of most local people on both sides of the border, the decision was that the upgrade could take place, but only with an upgraded gravel surface which would preserve the character of the Pass itself. However, the Department of Transport appealed, and in mid-2014, the Minister handed down her decision in upholding the appeal and giving permission for the hard surface. A very sad day indeed! As of May 2017, work on the first phase of the project which goes as far as the South African border post has begun and this should take three years. The second phase, from the South African border post to the top is still some way off – the design of the road (a very difficult task given the terrain) has not yet been completed.

4 x 4 tours

up the spectacular Sani Pass into the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho. Drakensberg Adventures, based at Sani Lodge runs 4x4 tours in their own landrover.

Standard Day Tour
This popular day tour gives an all round taste of Lesotho via the spectacular gateway of the Sani Pass (2874m). Travel up the only road through the Drakensberg cliffs in a 4x4, hearing tales of the pioneering of the route, learn about the natural history of the Drakensberg and see the beautiful wildflowers, wildlife and birds which inhabit the slopes. We drive further into Lesotho, visiting a household in a small shepherd’s village to get a feel for the unique way of life. We visit the shearing shed to view sheep and angora goat shearing (by hand) in season. Ascend Black Mountain (3240m), second highest road pass in Lesotho and picnic with stunning views. We will meet the shepherds who spend the summer months in the highlands tending flocks of sheep and goats and get a sense of the life they lead. We take a short walk to view Thabana Ntlenyana, the highest point in southern Africa at 3482m, then return via a stop at Sani Mountain Lodge for a drink in the highest pub in Africa. You can also go on this tour as part of one of the special package deals offered

Tour departs from Sani Lodge at 09.00 and returns around 17.00-17.30 hours.

Download a kit list for the tour here

Passports essential.
Tour price includes a contribution to the Sani Top community which we visit. Our ground-breaking approach to community tourism means that your tour trice brings the benefits of tourism to a wide segment of the local community. To find out more, click here.

Please have a look at our tour map or download Tour Brochure pdf file

Support Basotho crafters at source

Hodgson's Peaks
For those looking for a Sani Pass experience with a challenging hike added on, see the Hodgsons Peaks Trip.

More About Lesotho
For those who do a tour and want to know more, or for those wanting to travel deeper into Lesotho for a longer period, "A Backpacker's Guide to Lesotho" is an invaluable little book. Written by Russell in 1993, the book has been regularly updated and offers background information on the country as well as specific travel information on where to go, what to see, how to get there and where to stay. The current edition was updated in November 2009. If this isn't enough, then come to Sani Lodge and ask the author himself for the latest information. A trip through Lesotho should be an incredibly rewarding experience, start it with us and we'll help you get the most out of it. Click here for more information on the book.

If you are interested in longer Lesotho trips please look here for a directory of all our tours

If visitors take photos of any local people, we encourage them to print some of the best ones out and to send them to us at Sani Lodge. People in Lesotho do not own cameras, and absolutely love receiving actual printed photos of  themselves. If you post them back to us at Sani lodge, we will take them into Lesotho on future tours and try and ensure that the photo reaches its rightful owner! Post photos to us at P.O. Box 485, Underberg, 3257, South Africa.


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