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Lesotho travel guide

About Lesotho

Tucked away in the heart of South Africa sits the Kingdom of Lesotho, known to locals as the Kingdom of the Sky and to travellers as the Switzerland of Africa.

As the nicknames suggest, Lesotho is mostly made up of the rolling highlands and dramatic, rugged peaks of the Maloti Mountains, the tallest of which stands at a shade under 3,500m (11,482ft) above sea level. Lesotho is the only independent state in the world that is entirely above 1,000m (304m) altitude.

The high altitude and mountainous geography lend a spectacularly scenic backdrop to the numerous outdoor activities on offer, including pony trekking, rock climbing, fishing, abseiling, hiking, bird watching, mountain biking and even skiing on the snow-covered slopes below the Mahlasela Pass.

The existence of valuable mineral and water resources led developers to build roads through some areas of Lesotho, but much of the kingdom and its villages remain remote and can only be reached on foot, by horseback or by light aircraft.

But Lesotho’s remoteness is a large part of its appeal, and this also helps preserve the rich traditional culture of the Basotho people, which you can experience at a number of cultural villages dotted across the kingdom. Lesotho also boasts some prominent examples of ancient rock paintings made by the nomadic San people that once inhabited this area.

Since Lesotho gained its independence from the British, poverty and unemployment have seen this protectorate lose a large percentage of its population to South Africa’s mines, while those that stayed behind have had to live with one of the world’s highest rates of HIV, which in turn has had detrimental effects on the country’s economy.

But while Lesotho might not be able to boast the wealth and infrastructure of its much larger neighbour, when it comes to raw adventure and natural beauty it can certainly hold its own.

Key facts

Area:

30,355 sq km.

Population:

2,160,309 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

64.2 per sq km.

Capital:

Maseru.

Government:

Constitutional monarchy.

Head of state:

King Letsie III since 1996.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro since 2020.

Travel Advice

COVID-19 Exceptional Travel Advisory Notice

As countries respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including travel and border restrictions, the FCO advises against all but essential international travel. Any country or area may restrict travel without notice.