Lesotho

Lesotho Travel Guide

Introduction

A fascinating country surrounded by South Africa, Lesotho owes its existence to the mountains that have acted as its fortress walls throughout its existence. Paired with the bravery and character of its people, it has allowed the Basotho people to hold on to their native territory for countless generations.

Fans of sweeping vistas, winter sports, and wide open spaces should make room in their southern African itinerary for this tiny but impressive country.

Currency: Lesothoan Lotis, South African Rand
Languages: Sesotho, English, Zulu, Xhosa

What To Do

Start your time in Lesotho by getting a background in its culture at the Morija Museum & Archives. Opened in 1956, it contains a number of artifacts related to traditional Basotho life.

It also contains a number of exhibits related to the Boer War, as well as reconstructions of traditional Basotho huts. While small and humble in its appearance, there is much that you can learn about this tiny country here.

The story of Lesotho cannot be told without bringing up its struggle against repeated attempts at subjugation by outside forces. One of the primary locations where their fight for independence was waged was upon the sandstone plains of Thaba Bosiu.

The 19th century was a time fraught with conflict, as their soverignty was challenged by the Ndebele (present day Zimbabwe), as well as by the Dutch inhabitants of the Orange Free State. However, the plateau of Thaba Bosiu was well defended by a steep slope that put them more than the 120 metres above the surrounding landscape.

This gave them a defensive advantage that made it immensely difficult for invading forces to make any headway. This allowed them to hold the territory atop this plateau throughout the 19th century, causing the forces of the Ndebele and the Orange Free State eventually to withdraw in defeat. As a result, Lesotho continues to exist as a sovereign nation to this day.

Lesotho is also home to the Katse Dam, which is the second largest hydroelectric project in Africa. Completed in 2009, it stands an imposing 600 feet above its gorge, and more than 2,000 feet from end to end.

While the creation of this project was not without its controversy, it has become a clean source of electricity for the nation, and it allows them to export water to South Africa. It has also created a reservoir that is home to a wilderness lodge, where many outdoor activities can be pursued.

As a highland nation, there isn’t exactly a shortage of waterfalls in Lesotho, but in our estimation, Maletsunyane Falls is the best of the bunch. A single drop waterfall with a plunge of over 630 feet, it is certainly one of the most photogenic sites in this country.

Hiking down to the base of the gorge can be a tough task, but persevering has its rewards. The spray that comes off this powerful cataract will fill you with awe, and you might even run into some leftover snow from the previous winter, as little or no sun penetrates the base of the falls.

Speaking of snow, did you know that there are ski resorts in Africa? Many assume that there aren’t, simply due to the stereotypes of Africa being half jungle and half desert. However, due to the high elevations throughout Lesotho (no place in this country is below 1,000 meters above sea level), snowfall is a very real phenomenon here.

While it can be erratic from season to season, it gets cold enough for modern outfits such as AfriSki to make enough man-made snow to cover what Mother Nature does not provide. Located within a four-and-a-half-hour drive of Johannesburg, this resort has quickly become a way for South Africans to engage in snow sports without having to leave the country.

Though it is rather small compared to resorts found in countries like New Zealand or Australia, its one kilometre long slope for intermediate skiers and better and its beginner slope for novices provide plenty of terrain for adventurous locals and snow-starved travelers.

What to Eat

Much of the food found in Lesotho mirrors what can be found in South Africa, so referring to our article on that country will give you a general idea of what you can expect. Having said that, there are a few regional peculiarities when it comes to meals in this country.

One thing that you will notice is that Beetroot Salad will often be served as a side to many of the dishes that you order here. Consisting of diced portions of this sweet root vegetable mixed with various greens, it is a healthy accompaniment to the many meat-heavy dishes that you will be served in Lesotho.

Papa is another dish that is often served with main courses. A porridge that is prepared from maize grains, is consistency can vary depending on the cook, but often it will be so thick that you can hold it in your hand, or it will be dry and crumbly.

When it comes to main dishes, many locals in Lesotho share a love for Oxtail Stew. Made from the gelatinous meat of a cow’s tail, this delectable meal is prepared over many hours of slow simmering, making for an amazing meal when the time finally comes to sit down to eat it.