The South African landscape is truly breathtaking. There are numerous scenic features to see and explore, ranging from long coastal stretches and sparkling rivers to vast open plains and lush forests. The country’s majestic mountain ranges, which stretch for hundreds of miles in the north and south and offer a plethora of outdoor activities, are at the top of the list.
Here are some of the best mountain ranges in South Africa.
1. Table Mountain
Table Mountain is the most recognizable mountain range in Cape Town, providing a stunning backdrop to the city and its many beaches. A five-minute cable car ride to the top provides breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and the city. The Table Mountain range is a protected area within the Table Mountain National Park, and it is home to over 2,000 indigenous fynbos species, a magical Afromontane forest, and a variety of bird and animal species. The park is also ideal for a variety of outdoor activities such as peaceful nature walks, hiking, abseiling, and paragliding.
The Drakensberg is South Africa’s highest mountain range and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, standing at 3,482 meters. The spectacular mountain range runs for more than 600 miles (1,000 km) from the Eastern Cape in the south to Mpumalanga in the north. It is characterized by rivers and streams, towering cliffs, pointy mountain peaks, and a diversity of indigenous plant and animal species. The Drakensberg also has the most concentrated concentration of San rock paintings in southern Africa, which are exceptional in quality and diversity of subject. Staying at one of the many hotels and resorts on the lower slopes allows you to experience the sheer beauty of the Drakensberg.
The Magaliesberg mountains are among the world’s oldest, approximately 100 times older than Everest. They run for 120 kilometers from east Pretoria to west Rustenburg, separating the highveld grasslands from the bushveld savannah. The mountain is characterized by sheer quartzite cliffs, deep gullies formed by water runoff, some of which are over 100 meters deep, magnificent kloofs, and perennial waterfalls that flow into sparkling pools. The mountains are popular with hikers, rock climbers, and picnickers who come to the protected area to escape the stresses of city life.
4. Champagne Castle
It is located in the KwaZulu-Natal region and is 11,079 feet above sea level. It is mostly made of basalt rock. Reverend Stocker was the first person to climb the mountain in the early twentieth century. It has a number of subsidiary peaks, the four highest of which are Cathkin Peak (the highest), Sterkhorn, Monk’s Cowl, and Dragons Back. The champagne castle got its name after two mountaineers, David Gray and Major Grantham, climbed the peaks up to the highest point, Cathkin Peak, and decided to celebrate by popping champagne corks. Unfortunately, the guide dropped the bottle on a rock, giving rise to the name Champagne Castle.
5. Popple Peak
It is located in KwaZulu-Natal, between South Africa and Lesotho, and has an elevation of 10,928 feet. This peak is known locally as a Khulu, which is a peak above 10,000 feet that is not within a kilometer of another Khulu. Barry Anderson, a mountaineer, named the peak after John Poppleton. They had climbed to the peak together in 1946, but when they arrived, a heavy thunderstorm had rolled in. Poppleton left the summit because he was concerned for their safety. Anderson later sent a survey of the summit with the elevation and proposed naming it “Popple Peak.” The wind averages sixteen miles per hour, and the daytime temperature is seventeen degrees Celsius, with nighttime temperatures dropping as low as three degrees.
The Amatola Mountains are a group of densely forested mountains in the Eastern Cape. The Xhosa people named the range ‘amatole,’ which means ‘calves,’ because it resembles a herd of young dairy cattle munching in the meadows. The Amatola Mountains, located 1,800 meters above sea level, are well-known for their breathtaking beauty, as evidenced by lush backwoods, profound gorges, spectacular cascades, and all-encompassing views. Nearby towns include King William’s Town, East London, Stutterheim, and Hogsback, which inspired J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth. The Amatola Mountains are home to the Sandile Heritage Route, a travel industry activity that follows the lives of Xhosa rulers in the area, and the Amathole Trail, a six-day climbing trail regarded as the best in the country.
The Cederberg Mountains and Wilderness Area are three hours from Cape Town, near Clanwilliam. They’re famous for their spectacular sandstone formations and ancient San rock art. The magnificent Wilderness area covers 71,000 hectares of rugged, mountainous terrain and is a popular hiking and rock climbing destination in the Western Cape. The Cederberg, another World Heritage Site, is covered in mountain fynbos, including the laurel protea, red disa, and the famous rooibos plant, from which rooibos tea is produced. The area is also abundant in wildlife. Ecotourism is popular in the Cederberg, attracting visitors from all over the world to the region’s numerous camping grounds and chalets. Hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, and fishing are also popular in the area, and there are several 4×4 routes for thrill seekers.
8. Thaba Putsoa
Thaba Putsoa is a mountain in Lesotho’s Maseru District. It is located approximately 70 kilometers southeast of Maseru on the way to the Mohale Dam. The mountain reaches a height of 3,096 meters. Thaba Putsoa has some of the coolest weather in Lesotho. A route known as the Corner-Leslies Loop is quickly becoming a popular way to get to Mafadi. It entails climbing to Centenary Hut in Injisuthi Nature Reserve on day one, climbing Corner Pass and Mafadi on day two, sliding Leslie’s Pass to Marble Baths on day three, and returning to the Njesuthi campground on day four.
Mafadi ascents from the South African side are frequently produced using the Njesuthi campground. The Drakensberg’s Njesuthi ledge is one of the more remote climbing destinations, typically taking two days to reach. The course includes an eight-kilometer ascent to Marble Baths. This is followed by going upstream and alternating between short paths and stone bouncing. This all culminates at the base of the cliff, prompting the Molar, with a campground. Leslie’s Pass is the resultant route up the mountainside to the highest point.
The Mont-Aux-Sources is a basalt level at a normal elevation of around 3,050 meters (10 000 ft). Among the level’s numerous slopes is a sheer mass of 330 vertical meters known as the Amphitheater and the Sentinel. The most impressive point is a pinnacle 3 kilometers from the Drakensberg ledge that reaches a height of 3,282 meters (10,768). It is mostly in Lesotho, with some parts in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal and Free State territories. The top is accessible via chain ladders from the Sentinel Car Park in Witsieshoek.