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African Travel Tips when visiting Lesotho

Lesotho is otherwise known as the Kingdom in the Sky, because of its high altitude and mountain peaks, Lesotho offers the traveller a different face of Africa, which is closer to alpine in climate, scenery and vegetation. Invigorating mountain air, spectacular panoramas and a rare birdlife combine to attract outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world.

Popular ways of exploring the countryside is through hiking, and trekking by 4×4’s or on the back of ponies. Renowned for their crafts and hospitality, the Basotho people offer a warm welcome when they say Khotso (peace), at the same time inviting you to experience their tiny, traditional villages and the unspoilt serenity that is Lesotho…

CAPITAL:

Maseru

CLIMATE:

Temperate subtropical. Frost occurs frequently in winter. Most rain occurs Oct-Apr and is usually concentrated in fierce thunderstorms.

CURRENCY:

1 Lesotho Loti = 100 lisente. South African Rands are accepted. Visa, Access/MasterCard and Diners Club credit cards have limited acceptance and the use of traveller’s cheques is limited outside Maseru.

ELECTRICITY:

220 volts, 50Hz. Plugs are 2- and 3-pin round.

HEALTH:

A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travellers coming from infected areas. Visitors are also advised to take pre-arrival precautions against typhoid, hepatis A and polio. Other health concerns include minimal medical facilities; unavailability of many medicines; food- and water-borne illnesses, particularly amoebiasis, typhoid fever and cholera; influenza (risk is May-Oct); AIDS; and tetanus.

LANGUAGE::

Sesotho and English

PUBLIC HOLIDAYS:

New Years’ Day (1 Jan); Moshoeshoe (11 Mar); Heroes Day (4 Apr); Good Friday (9 Apr); Easter Monday (12 Apr); Labour Day (1 May); King’s Anniversary (17 Jul); Independance Day (4 Oct); Christmas Day (25 Dec)

SHOPPING:

Basotho hat; grass woven items (mats, brooms, baskets); pottery; wool and mohair rugs; tapestries; textiles; rock painting reproductions; traditional seed, clay, bead and porcupine quill jewellery; silver, gold and ebony items; copperwork; African chess sets. The Basotho Hat Store is a good place to find local crafts.

SOCIAL CONVENTIONS:

Main religions are Christianity and traditional African religions – these and the older generation should be respected. Normal courtesies and friendliness will be appreciated. Dress is casual, but modest. For business, dress in a lightweight suit and tie and observe usual formalities, but expect a casual atmosphere and pace.

TIME DIFFERENCE:

GMT +2

TIPPING::

Tipping is recommended at restaurants and hotels.

TOP TEN ATTRACTIONS DESCRIPTION:

Maseru and surrounds:

Basotho Hat, the principal handicrafts centre; the Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Victories; the Papal Pavillion; Thorkild Hand Weaving and Moteng Weavers; Lancer’s Gap, for views of the city and Caledon Valley; the Peach Blossom Route, in August explore the nearby orchards by car or on pony; Roma; Morija with its National Museum; and Matsieng featuring the Royal Summer Palace (closed to visitors).

Thaba-Bosiu:

Within easy reach of Maseru, a flat-topped hill features the substantial remains of the dwellings and villages of King Moshoeshoe I as well as the royal cemetery of Lesotho.

Teya-Teyaneng:

A short drive from Maseru, you can find a wide variety of souvenirs in this town whose weavers and craftsmen sell their wares in the many craft centres available; close to the town are some San (Bushmen) rock art.

Malealea and surrounds:

The Gate of Paradise is a spectacular pass on the road to Malealea with panoramic views of the plains dotted with attractive traditional villages, in spring alpine flowers alongside the road are in flower; an outstanding pony-trekking centre is available in Malealea and trekking or hiking routes include a number of waterfalls e.g. the Maletsunyane Falls and indigenous alpines such as the famous Spiral Aloe; nearby Mohale’s Hoek is scenic and at nearby Motlejoeng visitors can explore some of the most interesting cannibal caves, which are found throughout Lesotho.

Dinosaur Trackways:

About 5 miles north of Hlotse, Subeng Stream Dinosaur Trackway is one of the best examples of dinosaur trackways in Lesotho; the footprints of several different dinosaurs some dating back to 180-200 million years ago, are preserved in sandstone; the Moyeni and Masitise Dinosaur Trackways feature the footprints of many different dinosaurs as well as other primitive reptiles.

Ha Baroana Rock:

Paintings 39km east of Maseru; overhanging rock accessible after crossing a stream featuring a magnificent gallery of Bushmen paintings.

Molimo Nthuse and surrounds:

One of the most attractive tourist routes in Lesotho, the road to Molimo Nthuse includes a series of mountain passes, each offering superb vistas of mountain peaks, steep gorges, tumbling streams and broad valleys; at Molimo Nthuse you will find one of the principal pony-trekking centres of Lesotho – on offer are treks for a couple of hours or days visiting waterfalls, local villages and other scenic attractions; travellers can visit the Maletsunyane Falls on a pony-trekking trail, it’s impressive as the highest single-drop falls in southern Africa.

Katse Dam:

The centrepiece of the Highlands Water Project, the huge Katse Dam is spectacular when water levels are at their highest; the surrounding scenery is picturesque and activities cater for bird watchers and water sport enthusiasts.

Roof of Africa:

Scenic Route Via Sani Pass, the gateway to the circuit; the greater part of the route lies in the Mokhotlong District, where the top of the Drakensberg Ridge is found; includes Thabana-Ntlenyana, which at 3482m is the highest peak in southern Africa; Sani Pass, Thaba-Tseka, Katse and Hlotse form an alternative section of the route where 4x4s are most suited.

Sehlaba-Thebe National Park:

The park comprises 6500 hectares at an average elevation of 2400m and offers a wealth of birdlife and diverse Cape alpine flora; a small, minnow-like fish (Oreodaimon quathlambae) which was thought to be extinct has been rediscovered in the Tsoelikana River.