Nicknamed 'The Kingdom In The Sky', Lesotho's high-altitude and scenery both take the breath away. The tiny country is enveloped like an island in a mammoth lake by South Africa, but has its own distinct and welcoming atmosphere, with craggy peaks, horseback journeys and tribal cultures to be unveiled. Most visit Lesotho as an aside from a trip to South Africa, yet it makes an attractive (if poverty stricken) destination in its own right.
Even the lowest parts of Lesotho still clock in at over 1,000 meters, and that’s where you’ll find laid back capital city Maseru. This backwater city didn’t get its first finished roads until 1947, but has developed steadily since, and is now a respectable place to sample your first maize beer, peruse the markets for multihued woolens, or listen to smiling musicians play stringed setolo-tolos with their mouths.
It’s the countryside you’ll have come for, though, and an exceptional place to start is rustic Semonkong, where you’ll find towering waterfalls and unspoiled, misty, rural slopes. The sporadic traditional Basotho villages feature grass-roofed huts and smiling tribes’ people. The plateaus and winding roads of Sani Top offer astonishing panoramic vistas, while Thaba Bosiu – arguably the birthplace of Lesotho – is a bizarre and intriguing cone-shaped hill from where King Moshoeshoe the Great based his nation’s defense. The views from the peak made for an effective protective position; now tourists gaze down in awe from the flat, rocky peak.
Back in the ‘lowlands’, the remote Sehlabathebe National Park is an atypical African wildlife experience. This certainly isn’t a place to come and try to spot the big 5 from the back of a jeep: the most exciting creatures you’ll come across are baboons and vultures, but there are other draws. The striking waterfalls that you’ll stumble across after a full days hiking, for example, or pounding across the plains on horseback to a remote lodge: Sehlabathebe is isolated and slow-paced, and that in itself makes it special.
Whilst most come to Lesotho on their way through South Africa, wandering amongst the pointy ‘Red Hot Poker’ plants amongst the grassy, jagged foothills make’s this tiny corner of Africa more than worthy in its own right.