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The Drakensberg Mountains, which rise to 3000 m and extend 180 km along the western edge of KwaZulu Natal, form the backbone of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, and determine the border with Lesotho. This formidable mountain range is one of South Africa’s most staggeringly beautiful destinations, and in 2001 it was awarded the status of a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, both for its diverse flora and fauna and its impressive San rock paintings.
The mountains were formed as part of a geological process that began around 140 million years ago when Africa was still part of Gondwanaland. Massive eruptions of lava spread from an area near where Lesotho is today reaching as far as the Natal coastline. The lava flows solidified over sandstone and have gradually been eroded over millions of years. Today the bands of rock revealed by the erosion show layers of different coloured sandstones capped by basalt.Read more
The Drakensberg are divided into two areas known as the High Berg and the Little Berg. The High Berg, covering the area which rises steeply up to the plateau, is the more interesting of the two with its spectacular scenery of high peaks and cliffs. The top of the escarpment averages an altitude of around 3000 m and forms the western boundary of the park along the watershed between Natal and Lesotho. The Little Berg lies at lower altitude and consists of the spurs of sandstone which stretch out towards the plains of Natal. The landscape here is of rolling hills and grassland divided by forested ravines. The Little Berg is the most popular area for hiking and many of the KZN Wildlife resorts are located here.
The Drakensberg hiking trails offer hikers numerous opportunities to explore this unique mountain environment. Trails vary between short well-marked leisurely strolls to challenging hikes at high altitude lasting several days. The majority of visitors to the Drakensberg prefer to complete a number of day hikes and stay overnight in KZN Wildlife parks. Experienced hikers have compared some of the longer trails to hiking in the Himalaya, where several days are spend in isolated wilderness areas at altitudes of up to 3000 m. Some of the longer hiking trails can last up to 10 days crossing through isolated and challenging mountain passes such as the Mnweni and Ifidi, which are amongst the wildest and most beautiful trails along the Northern Berg.