The Mountains of the Dragon (Drakensberg) area, known as Ukhahlamba or Barrier of Spears to the Zulu people provides a wonderful natural semi circular border between KwaZulu-Natal and Lesotho. Rising to over 3,000 metres in height the Drakensberg escarpment can frequently be seen covered in snow in the winter providing wonderful photo opportunities. It is about a 4 hour road trip along the N3 route from Johannesburg to the Drakensberg. To fully appreciate the natural beauty and tranquility of the Drakensberg it is a must to get off the main roads and explore the roads off these. Around every corner there are new vistas to discover driving along roads with wild flowers along side you.
The Central Drakensberg encompasses five different regions of which Bergville and the Northern Drakensberg are the most popular. The region also comprises the spectacular Cathedral Peak and Monks Cowl. Cathedral Peak is wonderfully dramatic with soaring peaks and sheltered valleys. Within the valleys you can discover cave painting sites and a guided tour is well worth it to discover places like Leopards Cave and Poachers Cave. The Cathedral Peak Hotel puts on guided tours of this area. There is a fabulous 10km hike to the top of Cathedral Peak and once you are at the top you will be able to enjoy splendid views to both the north and south.
On the road to Monks Cowl you will pass through some of the most developed areas in this region. This area just outside the Drakensberg has a number of hotels, golf courses, and timeshare developments and is known as Champagne Valley. Here you will find Champagne Castle, Monks Cowl and Cathkin Peak. Champagne Valley offers a number of shorter hikes but these can get rather busy with people that visit the area for the day or you could take the longer and more challenging 2 day hike to Champagne Castle.
The area is very popular with hikers, rock climbers, trout fishermen and general holiday makers and is served by Hotels, Guest Houses, Lodges and camp sites. For the more athletic among you there are many trails up the mountains where caves are used as overnight stops. A perfect way to reinvigorate you and wash away the cobwebs of city life is to spend a weekend hiking and climbing stopping to dip into the icy pools or rivers along the way.
There are lots of 'day-hikes' through the Drakensberg including the 3km valley hike from the Thukela Car park up to Devil's Hoek, or the eaiser hikes to McKinley's Pool, Gudu Falls or the Grotto. A longer hike of 14km will take you from Rugged Glen Nature Reserve to Mahai and will take you between 5 and 6 hours.For the more 'hardcore' hikers out there why not test yourself with a 20km hike to Mont-aux-Sources via Basotho Gate and the Chain Ladder. This hike is likely to take 10 hours. If you fancy the idea of boulder hopping and crossing rivers then try the 6 hour hike from Monk's Cowl to Sterkspruit Falls and Gorge.Another testing hike is along the Cathedral Peak hike which starts at the Cathedral Peak Hotel and leads you up to the top of the ridge.
For the adventurous the mountains provide sheer rock or ice-climbing - or you may prefer the adrenaline rush provided by abseiling, white water rafting. Of course you could treat yourself to a truly memorable helicoptor ride to view the Drakensberg Mountains from above. The driving time from Johannesburg is approximately 4 hours while Durban is about 3 hours drive away.
Some of the towns in this area include Winterton, Underberg and Bergville.
For a winter holiday experience visit the Tiffindell Snow Resort in the Southern Drakensberg. This is South Africa's only ski resort and reopened in June 2013 after a 2 year closure while the chalets and snow park were refurbished. The resort also now has a dedicated freestyle section for both snowboarders and skiers. A new dam has also been built which will be used to create snow when required in the winter and where fishing will happen in summer months.