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Hiking through South Africa's Drakensberg

Is your backpack ready? Are your hiking boots laced up? If so, then let me take you on a trek through of one South Africa's jewels: the Dragon Mountains of Drakensberg,

Hiking across the southern slopes

Heading out from Underberg, you'll find yourself in an infinite landscape of green, rolling hills. Any hiking fan should spend a few days here and explore the kilometres of trails that weave their way around the southern foothills of the Drakensberg range.

To be sure of decent weather, plan the time of year you come - the South African Autumn (March to May) and Spring (October/November) are clement months.

Drakensberg can be explored in any number of ways such as on horseback, by foot or by all terrain bike. Whatever your choice, one thing's for sure - this vast landscape and scenery will blow you away. You'll be even more impressed if, along your way, you come across one of the 150 rock art caves that are scattered around the hills. The oldest paintings date back thousands of years and most are incredibly well preserved. Heaven on Earth for archaeology and pre-history fans.

Popular trails used by hikers on holiday in South Africa include the easy going Pholela River Trail (15km) and the slightly harder Emerald Stream Trail (20km). The latter takes you to the peak of Pinnacle Rock from where you'll get amazing, panoramic views of its surrounds.

Another great option is to follow the 8km of winding, vertiginous path that leads to Lesotho - a real, authentic little piece of Africa.

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Hiking across the central and northern regions

If the southern parts of the Drakensberg were beautiful and enjoyable to walk, here you'll hit the jackpot. Suffice to say that this naturally stunning region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Consequently, this part of the range is more popular with tourists than the southern section. But don't worry - there are so many trails that you won't be tripping over other hikers and you'll be able to walk for hours without crossing a soul. It's a real joy!

The landscape is a breathtaking, neverending myriad of colors, If you like uphill climbs, then there are several peaks that reach over 3,000m. Giant's Castle, Champagne Castle, Cathedral Peak and Mont-aux-Sources await! You'll also find that fewer tourists head towards the summits. However, even though climbing these mountains is easy enough, you'd still be wise to take along warm clothes. The wind at the top is strong and, at this altitude, can feel glacial.

You'll also find well preserved rock art in the central and northern parts of the Drakensberg. The images are strikingly realistic - they'll plunge you back in time. And it's amazing to get such a glimpse of how the country's forefathers lived.

What better way to spend a few days and lose yourself in such a magnificent setting. You'll take home a treasured memory from your trip to South Africa.  

David Debrincat
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Updated 29 March 2018
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