For travelers with both the time and the stomach, a trip to Lesotho by way of the Sani Pass is an absolute must when visiting Lesotho and South Africa.
The Kingdom in the Sky, as Lesotho is known, is a small mountainous country that is surrounded on all sides by South Africa. For those travelers who have the time and are up for an adventure, the spectacular drive leading up to Sani Pass on the Lesotho's eastern border, is undoubtably one of the country's highlights and it should not be missed.
In addition to the early mentioned prerequisites, a 4 wheel drive automobile is required to safely drive up the Sani Pass. Do not attempt to drive up the pass in your typical rental car. There are a handful of ill-equipped cars littering the roadway to the pass already and you don't want to add to that total. Any modest SUV or truck that will be available for rent will be sufficient. You don't need much, just a little extra clearance for the modestly rocky terrain. If you're not sure if you have the right vehicle, there is a border patrol station at the beginning of the pass road where patrolmen will advise you if your vehicle is suitable or not.
Most travelers who wish to experience the dramatic Sani Pass will make the drive from Durban (3.5 hour drive) or Pietermaritzburg (3 hour drive), both of which have airports with frequent connecting service to Johannesburg and Cape Town. The drive from both cities to Lesotho's Sani Pass to the northwest will take you through the winding, dramatic farmlands of Zululand and the Drakensberg mountains a portion of which have been named a World Heritage Site.
The drive up to the top of the pass is spectacular with every passing switchback offering views more expansive the last into the Drakensberg valley. The driving conditions on the steeper approach road, are not technically difficult and only require the proper vehicle and, perhaps an absence of vertigo.
After successfully navigating the 9400-foot (2865 meter) pass, you will find yourself in Lesotho a land dominated by wide open skies and dotted by the simple, stone houses of the Lesotho people.
Near the top of the pass you will also find the small establishment which houses the Sani Pass Hotel, which boasts the "Highest Pub in Africa", serves basic meals, hot coffee and tea, and offers some basic guest accommodations. This provides a good venue from which to enjoy watching a sunrise and to begin your Lesotho adventure.