Guided Day Hikes in the Drakensberg
A wide range of easily accessible walking options for all levels of ambition
All prices on application owing to diversity

Whatever your ambitions, when it comes to day hikes, the Drakensberg truly has something for everybody, ranging from short ambles beside crystal clear streams with a beautiful mountain backdrop, to full day out-and-back hikes to a 3,000m summit. What’s more, trailheads can mostly be accessed very easily – wherever you walk from, you get into interesting terrain quickly. Much of the Drakensberg’s accommodation has access to good walks straight from the door, whereas other walks require a short drive. The only difficulty may be deciding where to start – the main Drakensberg escarpment runs for about 200km and there are many access points. We strongly recommend guided day hikes to get the best from the area. Walks in Africa uses guides we know well and trust and has extensive knowledge of the walking areas to help you choose.


  • Sublime mountain scenery that can be accessed easily
  • Unspoiled, pristine terrain
  • Good network of clear paths, supported by 1:50,000 contour maps
  • It’s uncrowded – huge amounts of space with very few people about
  • A good choice of accommodation to suit a range of budgets
  • San Bushman art can be viewed in some areas
  • Dip in crystal clear pools beneath soaring sandstone buttresses
  • Interesting flora and fauna

frequently asked questions

How do I get to the Drakensberg?

The easiest way to get to the Drakensberg is by car, as there are no public transport options which take you anywhere close. Having a car also gives you the most flexibility and one is essential if you are touring. Walks in Africa has a trade contract with Europcar and can arrange a suitable car as part of your holiday package. We will provide clear, written driving directions for you.


An alternative way to get to the Drakensberg is by private transfer, usually from either Johannesburg or Durban Airports. Depending upon how long you intend to stay in the Drakensberg, arranging a private transfer starts to become cost-effective for 4 or more persons travelling together and works best if you are undertaking a multi-day trek from one base.


An extension of this idea is to undertake a privately guided trip, wherein a guide collects you from an airport and acts as both your guide and driver. Such trips are full flexible and can be multi-locational.


The Northern Drakensberg is approximately 4 hours’ drive from Johannesburg and 3.5 hours’ drive from Durban. The Central Drakensberg is rarely more than 3.5 hours’ drive from Durban, and a minimum of 4.5 hours from Johannesburg. The Southern Drakensberg is best accessed from Durban and takes around 2.5 to 3 hours.


Note that it is also possible to fly by private charter from Johannesburg direct to the base of the Central Drakensberg and take onward transfers from the airstrip. Walks in Africa know how to make the necessary arrangements and have done so in the past.

Do I need a guide?

Not necessarily, but we think it’s a good idea. You can buy contour maps very easily and self-navigate, and we can help you select walks. However, hiring a guide will add a lot to your experience. We’ve been working with carefully selected guides over the years, who we know and trust and count among our friends. These guides have consistently been rated “excellent” by our clients. Other than selecting and modifying hikes to suit your abilities, as well as ensuring safety, our guides are very personable companions who will give you insights into local history, nature, local culture and more besides. You’ll be exploring the mountains with a South African companion as opposed to simply following a map with no commentary.

Which areas are best for day walks?

There’s no straight answer to this as there are good day walks in most parts of the Drakensberg. It will depend to some degree on what sort of accommodation you are seeking and where guides live – only some valleys contain hotels, whereas many have parksboard accommodation, which is mostly self-catering. If guides don’t live in the area, they need to be brought in and may have to be accommodated by you.


The easiest areas to visit are:- the Royal Natal National Park (Northern Drakensberg), Cathedral Peak, Champagne Castle and the Southern Drakensberg (Underberg and Himeville villages). Other than being very beautiful areas, there is a good choice of accommodation serving these. Suffice it to say, the accommodation has been built here for a reason. All offer excellent day hiking opportunities.


Other areas can be accessed too, but these have more limited accommodation which require self-catering, eg. Injisuthi, Mnweni, Giant’s Castle and Lotheni.


The Southern Drakensberg arguably has the greatest variety of day walks for all levels and is very beautiful. The Central and Northern Drakensberg are noted for their more imposing mountain grandeur, with Cathedral Peak being a standout in terms of the number of hikes that one can access from the hotel door. It’s also worth combining areas, particularly the Southern Drakensberg with any of the Central or Northern Drakensberg locations.


If you intend to hike to the top of the escarpment and back again in a single day, there are three key ascents to consider:

  1. Top of the Amphitheatre, Royal Natal National Park
  2. Cathedral Peak, from Cathedral Peak Hotel
  3. Rhino Peak, Southern Drakensberg
What accommodation is available?

The environs of the Royal Natal National Park (Northern Drakensberg) and the Monk’s Cowl area (Champagne Castle) in particular contain several big hotels, some good, others less so. In both areas these hotels are largely set back well away from the park and do not spoil the immediate park environs in any way. Cathedral Peak is noted for having one large hotel (The Cathedral Peak Hotel), with the exception of Didima Camp, which is run by the parks office and is located some distance back from the park entry point. The Cathedral Peak Hotel is the only hotel situated within the park boundary and it has a superb position.


The Southern Drakensberg is noted for having a good choice of pleasant, small scale, independent accommodation located close to the villages of Underberg and Himeville. The exception is a large golf resort in the Garden Castle area and the newly refurbished Premier Resort Sani Pass – on most walks you won’t go anywhere near these and you’ll not see them.


There are a handful of well-run backpacker-style lodges and these offer en-suite rooms if you wish to be private yet keep costs down. Other than that, most park entry points feature very affordable self-catering accommodation run by the parks’ office, as well as campsites. Walks in Africa have visited a lot of the accommodation on offer and can make recommendations accordingly.

How many days should I go for?

To visit the Drakensberg for day walks we recommend you spend 2 nights at the very least in accommodation close to the park, but 3 nights is a better minimum and worth the travel effort. Its easy to move on to other destinations in KwaZulu-Natal, so relatively short sojourns in the Drakensberg are feasible if time is truly limited.


If you have the time available, a good way to explore the Drakensberg is to spend around a week, splitting the time between two different areas, eg. the Southern Drakensberg, where there are several valleys to choose from to access walks, and the Central or Northern Drakensberg, eg. Cathedral Peak. If the focus of your holiday is walking, then there is much to explore and we’d encourage you to take more time if you can.

What else is there to do in the area?

Within the immediate environs of the Drakensberg there are a wide range of activities that can be accessed, eg. 4×4 tours up Sani Pass, trout fishing in the Southern Drakensberg and horse riding (eg. into Sehlabathebe National Park in Lesotho, from the border post at Bushman’s Nek, using Basotho ponies) to name a few. There are a small number of high quality restaurants that will please foodies and there’s an arts and craft route in the Midlands area if that’s your thing.


Looking a bit further afield, the Drakensberg combines very easily with other destinations in KwaZulu-Natal, which can be linked together to make an excellent and very varied self-drive holiday; notable destinations are the Zulu war battlefields, the Boer war battlefields (particularly Spion Kop, which is only 1 hour from the Northern Drakensberg), a selection of excellent game reserves, both national and private (which command a lower premium than the Kruger Park), and a beautiful, wild coastline running north of St. Lucia. It’s also possible to cross into Southern Mozambique, where there is a smattering of excellent coastal lodges.


The sample itinerary at right will give you some ideas.


kzn itinerary idea

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