The Sani Pass is one of the most exciting and scenic mountain passes in South Africa. For visitors who do not have access to a four wheel drive vehicle, there are several tour guides in Underberg who will take you up to the top.

To access the Sani Pass road turn at the Shell Garage in Underberg, carry on through Himeville and after a further 2.5kms turn left at the 4 way junction. At this point there are signs indicating the road to the Sani Pass Hotel and the Sani Pass.  The road is tarred all the way to the Sani Pass Hotel at the foot of the pass, after which the gravel road snakes steeply and scenically through dramatic switch-backs up to the top of the escarpment where you can enjoy a welcome beer and lunch at the ever popular Sani Mountain Lodge - the highest pub in Africa.

You need a valid passport as the route takes one through international borders into Lesotho. Access to the pass through the lower South African Border is limited strictly to 4X4 vehicles, and during the winter months be prepared for temporary road closures due to snow. The pass falls within the uKahlamba World Heritage Park. Visitors are afforded amazing and dramatic mountain vistas and sightings of indigenous flora and fauna no matter the time of the year or season, as one ascends one of the highest mountain passes in the Southern Hemisphere.

The tarring of the pass is imminent in the coming years, so make it a bucket list item while it remains in its current rugged form.

The Sani Pass - Southern Drakensberg

Recently we did the 4 X 4 drive up the Sani Pass in the Southern Drakensberg. The road is
due to be tarred soon, so we wanted to get up there while it is still a challenge.

The early morning of our trip dawned fine and clear, the patches of residual snow on the
peaks of the ‘berg holding a promise of a fun-filled day in the mountains, As we packed the
car, a chilly mist blowing in from the North reminded us to pack plenty of warm layers -
jackets, beanies, gloves and scarves, and of course not forgetting our passports! Finally,
fortified with hot coffee and cheese scones, we set off.
First stop was at the ruins at the foot of the pass, where our guide Neil Prior regaled us with stories of the original trading post, established in the 1920’s, and now a makeshift ticket office where local travellers to Lesotho buy their tickets for the 4 X 4 taxis that traverse the pass. (Having been up the pass a few times before without a guide, we can recommend having one as it makes the trip so much more interesting.)
Then it was on to the South African border post, some ten kilometres up the pass. The road here is rough and rocky in places, with stop/go’s at many of the stream crossings, where they are already building bridges and culverts in preparation for tarring the road. Getting through the border was easy enough, and the clean restrooms provided much needed relief.
From there, the 4 X 4 experience started in earnest as the road wound its way up toward the escarpment. About halfway up we found a lay-bye where we could stretch our legs: a great photo opportunity with magnificent views of the mountains above and valleys below. Once again, Neil provided background stories about the building of the pass, every now and then pausing to point out a pair of ground woodpeckers perched on a boulder, or splashes of white in the cliffs above indicating roosting sites of the rare Bearded Vulture, or Lammergeier.

Soon we were off again, into the business end of the pass, where the road zig-zags up the final ascent, climbing hundreds of feet in less than a kilometre. A highlight of this section was a stop at the frozen waterfall, where we got our first taste of the icy wind blowing down from the summit. The ultra-steep switchback leading to the top was exhilarating, with the 4 X 4s grinding away in low-range second or third. (Sometimes even in first!).
Then suddenly we were on top and faced with a modern tarred highway snaking off into the distant peaks - a sad reminder that this rugged journey into the mountain kingdom will one day be just another Sunday drive.
We took advantage of the roads to explore a little further into Lesotho taking a trip up to Black Mountain where there was enough residual snow to allow the kids big and small to throw snowballs, make angels and do a bit of tobogganing. The wind howled that day and as we climbed the mountain to see the second highest peak in Africa, we were very grateful for all the warm clothing.
If you go with a guide, a visit to a rural village can be arranged where you will be warmly welcomed and entertained. You may be lucky enough to see a shepherd with his pack of dogs.

We ended our visit with the mandatory visit to the highest pub in Africa. Warm Gluwein, Hot Chocolate and Maluti Beer were a very welcome fortification for the homeward journey. The designated drivers had to forgo the warming properties of alcohol!

All in all a wonderful day leaving us with so many happy memories, and for our Gauteng visitors, another tick for their bucket list.
Recently we did the 4 X 4 drive up the Sani Pass in
the Southern Drakensberg. The road is due to be
tarred soon, so we wanted to get up there while it is
still a challenge.

The early morning of our trip dawned fine and clear,
the patches of residual snow on the peaks of the
‘berg holding a promise of a fun-filled day in the
mountains, As we packed the car, a chilly mist
blowing in from the North reminded us to pack plenty
of warm layers - jackets, beanies, gloves and
scarves, and of course not forgetting our passports!
Finally, fortified with hot coffee and cheese scones,
we set off.
Recently we did the 4 X 4 drive up the Sani
Pass in the Southern Drakensberg. The
road is due to be tarred soon, so we wanted
to get up there while it is still a challenge.

The early morning of our trip dawned fine
and clear, the patches of residual snow on
the peaks of the ‘berg holding a promise of a
fun-filled day in the mountains, As we
packed the car, a chilly mist blowing in from
the North reminded us to pack plenty of
warm layers - jackets, beanies, gloves and
scarves, and of course not forgetting our
passports! Finally, fortified with hot coffee
and cheese scones, we set off.
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