The mountainous Kingdom of Lesotho is small androunded in shape, enclosed by South Africa on all sides. Separatedfrom its neighbour by the huge Drakensberg and Maluti ranges, it'ssituated on a plateau over 3,281 feet (1,000m) high and has peaksreaching summits of more than 10,000 feet (3,000m).
Sani Pass is a breathtaking entry-point into Lesothofrom South Africa's Drakensberg National Park and acts as a thegateway to the Roof of Africa scenic route, linking the magnificentscenery of the two mountain ranges.
Popularly described as the 'Kingdom in the Sky', thelofty highlands of Lesotho are characterised by majestic mountainscenery, crisp mountain air, and the simple serenity of thetraditional lifestyles of its people.
Pony trekking is one of the finest ways to experiencethe Lesotho highlands, with time spent in remote Basotho villagesscattered among the grassy hills. Here, waterfalls saturate thesurrounding rocks with rainbow-coloured mist and crystal clearstreams criss-cross the landscape.
The region is also perfect for those who prefer toput their hiking skills to the test, with miles of solitary sceneryto appreciate, an abundance of trout in the rivers and dams, andthe assurance of a warm and friendly welcome in the rugged mountainhamlets.
The central highlands are home to the highestwaterfall in southern Africa, the Maletsunyane Falls nearSemonkong. Meaning 'Place of Smoke', it thunders from a height of624ft (190m) and is at its most spectacular during the summer rainyseason.
Blanket-clad horsemen sidestep the traffic jams ontheir way to market, and woven handicrafts sit displayed on thebusy pavements outside new glass buildings filled with hardworkingoffice employees and officials.
The land descends from the top of the MalutiMountains down to the western lowlands, which contain all majortowns and around two thirds of the population. Maseru, the capital,is a fascinating city of contrasting modern and traditionallifestyles.
Time spent in Lesotho will allow visitors to observean African country that has extraordinary appeal, a kingdom ofrugged beauty and unchanging culture that remains pristine andlargely unaffected by tourism.
Known as the Mountain Kingdom, Lesotho boasts some ofthe most scenic mountain peaks in Southern Africa, making it anideal destination for travellers who love the outdoors, fresh air,and wide open spaces.
The lush and beautiful landscape allows for manythings to see and do in Lesotho. Sought-after activities includebirdwatching and wildlife safaris, offered at the likes ofSehlabathebe National Park. It's a nature reserve made up of 6,500hectares and positioned at an elevation of 7,874 feet (2,400m).
This protected wilderness area is the ideal spot forhiking, pony-trekking, and scenic explorations. While gamesightings are limited to antelope, the landscapes and naturalwonders are more than enough to excite lovers of the outdoors.
Another tourist favourite in Lesotho is Thaba-Bosiu.This sandstone plateau is a national monument and considered thebirthplace of the Basotho nation. It's worth a visit for itshistory and spectacular views. From Thaba-Bosiu, travellers can seethe Qiloane pinnacle which was the inspiration for Lesotho'scelebrated hat, the .
While there are water sports aplenty at the greatKatse Dam in the summer months, skiing in the Maloti Mountainsduring the winter months is a big drawcard for tourists the worldover. Skiing in Lesotho offers travellers a unique winterexperience not usually found in Africa.
For the culturally inclined, other touristattractions in Lesotho include a chance to delve into history atthe Lesotho National Museum in Maseru and the Morija Museum andArchives, offering collections on archaeology, ethnography, andgeology.
Visitors can also discover the Kome Cave Dwellings,now a National Heritage Site where the rich culture of Lesotho'speople is contained. Rock art is also a popular find in Lesotho, asare the famed Dinosaur Footprints found at Morija, Subeng Stream,and Tsikoane, to name a few.
Maseru has a subtropical highland climate. This translates totwo distinct seasons: warm summers (September to March, hottest inJanuary) characterised by beautiful, refreshing electric afternoonthunderstorms, and then cold, dry winters (April to August, coldestin June).
Maseru's temperatures generally range from between 79°F (26°C)and 54°F (12°C) in summer, and 61°F (16°C) and 27°F (-3°C) in thewinter. Although sub-zero temperatures are common in June andJuly.
Weather conditions in Lesotho vary greatly depending on thealtitude. Summer (October to April) is the hot, rainy season, withthe hottest days in January and February, and the most rain fallingbetween March and May and between October and November.
Days are sunny with electric afternoon thunderstorms, andtemperatures range from around 86ºF (30°C) in the lowlands.Temperatures cool down as the altitude increases, averaging about64°F (18°C) in the mountains. Snow falls mainly in winter from Mayto September, but can occur in the mountains at any time ofyear.
Winter can be bitterly cold, particularly in the highlands, butdays are usually clear and sunny. Temperatures can fall to 20°F(-7°C) in the lowlands and 0°F (-18°C) in the highlands. At anytime of year, the weather can change very rapidly in the highlands,from warm sunshine to mist, rain and freezing temperatures.
The Lesotho loti (LSL) is the official currency of Lesotho, andis divided into 100 lisente. It has the same value as the SouthAfrican rand, which is accepted as legal currency. Banks andexchange bureaus are found in Maseru and in most main towns.
Most major hotels, shops, restaurants, and travel agenciesaccept credit cards. Although it is best to check with credit anddebit card companies as to their acceptance before leaving home.Travellers' cheques can be cashed at banks in Maseru. Local ATMs inLesotho have the facility to accept international ATM cards but areunreliable.
Sesotho and English are the official languages, but Xhosaand Zulu are widely spoken.
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Thethree-prong, round pin South African plug is used.
US citizens must have a passport that is valid upon theirarrival in Lesotho. No visa required for stays of up to 180days.
British citizens must have a passport that is valid upon theirarrival in Lesotho. British passport holders can obtain visas onarrival. Overstaying without proper authority may lead to time indetenion.
Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid upon theirarrival in Lesotho. A visa is required.
Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid upontheir arrival in Lesotho. A visa is required.
South African citizens must have a passport that is valid upontheir arrival in Lesotho. No visa is required.
Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid upon theirarrival in Lesotho. No visa is required for stays of up to 90days.
US citizens must have a passport that is valid upon theirarrival in Lesotho. No visa required for stays of up to 180days.
New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid upontheir arrival in Lesotho. A visa is required for stays longer than14 days.
All foreign passengers to Lesotho must hold return/onwardtickets, the necessary travel documentation for their nextdestination, and sufficient funds to cover their expenses while inthe country. Visa-exempt visitors who wish to stay in Lesotho forlonger than their allotted 14 days, should apply for extensions atthe Lesotho Immigration Authorities within the initial 14-dayperiod. Note that a yellow fever vaccination certificate isrequired to enter Lesotho, if arriving within six days of leavingor transiting through an infected area. NOTE: It is highlyrecommended that your passport has at least six months validityremaining after your intended date of departure from your traveldestination. Immigration officials often apply different rules tothose stated by travel agents and official sources.
Lesotho's high altitude and crisp mountain air does not presentmany health problems for travellers, although its high elevationdoes make altitude sickness a possibility for recently arrivedvisitors. A yellow fever certificate is required from travellerscoming from an infected area.
HIV/AIDS is prevalent. Water should not be drunk unless it isboiled or filtered. There is a lack of good medical facilities, andmedical attention is often sought in neighbouring South Africa.Visitors should carry a personal supply of medicine as supplies arelimited.
Lesotho's Flying Doctor service provides emergency medicalservices to remote parts of the country. Medical insurance isessential and should include emergency air evacuation coverage,especially if planning to spend time in remote mountainousregions.
All service staff, including tour guides and game rangers, arecustomarily tipped between 10-15 percent, which they rely on toboost their low wages.
Safety in Lesotho is not generally a serious issue but there hasbeen an increase in opportunistic crime and gun-related crimes, dueto a high unemployment rate in the cities. Most incidents occur inMaseru, but visitors should also be alert elsewhere to theft, carhijackings, and muggings.
Muggers often target foreigners and foreign vehicles have beeninvolved in hijackings in the past, near Malealea Lodge south ofMaseru. Avoid walking around with valuables or else keep them outof sight, and do not walk alone in isolated areas or in Maseruafter dark.
Driving through rural areas after dark is also not recommended.Sporadic demonstrations are possible and should be avoided ifpossible.
Don't take photographs of government buildings, the airport, orthe palace. It is always best to ask if unsure. It is customary toask permission from the local village Headman or Chief beforecamping, and to inform them if spending any time within hisvillage. Sadly, homosexuality is illegal so visitors should becautious and discreet.
Business in Lesotho tends to follow usual business practices: bepunctual, exchange business cards, and show respect for your hosts,but anticipate a generally relaxed atmosphere. Suits and ties arethe norm, though a lightweight material is best. Business hours areusually from 8.30am to 12.30pm and 2pm to 4.30pm Mondays toFridays, and 8am to 1pm on Saturdays.
The international dialling code for Lesotho is +266. Theoutgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g.0027 for South Africa). There are no city/area codes required.Telephone and fax services are available in all main towns and atmajor hotels.
Internet cafes are available in Maseru. A GSM 900 mobile networkis limited to the main urban areas and has limited active roamingagreements with other mobile phone operators. Visitors should checkwith their local networks to see if they have roaming agreementswith the operators in Lesotho.
Travellers to Lesotho do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes,20 cigars, and 250g tobacco; 2 litres wine and 1 litre of alcohol;250ml eau de toilette and 50ml perfume; other gifts to the value ofLSL 5000. No liquor may be imported by South African nationals.
Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture, Maseru: + 26622313034 or www.gov.ls/
Kingdom of Lesotho Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202797 5533.
Kingdom of Lesotho High Commission, London, United Kingdom: +4420 7235 5686.
Kingdom of Lesotho Consulate, Vancouver, Canada: +1 604 6819887.
Kingdom of Lesotho High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +2712 460 7648.
Kingdom of Lesotho Embassy, Tokyo, Japan (also responsible forAustralia): +81 3 3584 7455.
Kingdom of Lesotho Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 6762233.
Kingdom of Lesotho Embassy, Beijing, China (also responsible forNew Zealand): +86 10 6532 6843.
United States Embassy, Maseru: +266 2231 2666.
British Honourary Consul, Maseru: +266 223 13929.
Canadian High Commission in Pretoria, South Africa (alsoresponsible for Lesotho): +27 12 422 3000.
South African High Commission, Maseru: +266 2222 5800.
Australian High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa (alsoresponsible for Lesotho): +27 12 423 6000.
Irish Embassy, Maseru: +266 2231 4068.
New Zealand High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa (alsoresponsible for Lesotho): + 27 12 435 9000.