Fondly known as ‘the Berg,’ the Drakensberg is a magnificent natural playground for adventure seekers, nature lovers and those looking to lace up their hiking boots. Breathe in the fresh air and hit the trails in South Africa’s very own version of the Alps.
The Drakensberg is a UNESCO World Heritage site overflowing with soaring peaks, waterfalls and rivers. It’s a veritable paradise for hikers.
Lace up the boots and hit the trails on those popular Drakensberg hikes:
Did you know that the world’s second-highest waterfall lies in the Drakensberg? That’s right. The Tugela Falls, situated within the Berg’s Royal Natal National Park in Northern Drakensberg, holds this prestigious title.
Water rushes 948 metres down in a terraced set of five cascading waterfalls. They’re at their most magnificent after a bout of rain.
It’s spectacular year-round but for the most otherworldly view, go in winter, after a snow spell. The water freezes mid-air in long pillars and columns and looks like something out the Frozen movie set.
Two popular hiking trail options are:
The ‘easy’ version starts from the Royal Natal National Park. This trail takes around 6.5 hours, covering 22 km to reach the base of the falls.
The more experienced hiker can opt for the Sentinel Trail which takes you along the waterfall’s source, the Mount-Aux-Sources, to the top of the falls. This trail takes about five to eight hours. This one is not for hikers who are nervous about heights.
Royal Natal National Park
If you want to enjoy a pleasant walk in the fresh air, without committing to too strenuous of a hike, pop into the Royal Natal National Park. There are many short trails and walks so you can choose your pace. It’s also a popular spot for birding, horse riding and trout fishing if you’d like to dabble in these pursuits too.
Other great Drakensberg hiking trails include:
• The Golden Gate National Park which falls within the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park in the Northern Drakensberg.
• Cathedral Peak, Champagne Castle and the Giants Castle Reserve, amongst others, in the Central Drakensberg region.
Each area is home to trails that suit any fitness level.
No matter where you’re choosing to hike, you’re bound to find ample accommodation to suit your needs.
One of the most popular choices for all types of travellers, particularly groups and families, is the Alpine Heath Resort. The resort offers self-catering chalets that sleep up to six.
With pools, kids programmes, and many on-site activities, as well as a host of dining options when no one feels like cooking, you could never even leave the resort – if it wasn’t for the beckoning of the Berg.
How to get to the Drakensberg
Fly into Durban or Joburg’s OR Tambo airport (they’re almost equidistant from the Berg) and pack the family (kids, grandparents, aunties, uncles and all the cousins) into the car to make the roughly three-and-a-half-hour journey.
When to go to the Drakensberg
Hiking is magnificent year-round in the Berg. Expect summer rainfall and dry winters.
For warm weather and lush, green rolling hills and mountains (even greener than usual), plan a trip in the summer months. Budding horticulturalists can visit in spring when flora and fauna are abundant and colourful. For a Frozen winter wonderland, visit in the winter months to see the peaks dusted with snow.
No matter when you visit the Berg, or whether your version of a hike is a six-hour trek or a ramble around the garden, the Berg is just the ticket to the Alps.