The Sani Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 2.876m (9,400ft) above the sea level connecting Kwazulu Natal to Lesotho through the Drakensberg Mountains. The Sani Pass is a notoriously dangerous road, which requires the use of a 4×4 vehicle. It’s a serie of winding twists, hairpins, plunging drops and mind-blowing scenery and is one of the most hairpinned roads in the world. Sani Pass remains a challenging drive in 4×4 vehicles with all the drama, scenery, bad weather and treacherous conditions expected of a pass with this altitude.

Sani Pass - Southern Drakensberg
The Sani Pass from lesotho

This pass, also known as the Roof of Africa, lies between the border controls of both countries and is approximately 9km in length and requires above average driving experience. While South African immigration at the bottom of pass prohibits vehicles deemed unsuitable for the journey, the Lesotho border agents at the top generally allow vehicles of all types to attempt the descent.

Is Sani Pass tarred?

The road over the pass is already in the process of being upgraded. The road has been tarred from Underburg/ Himeville all the way to the foot of the pass, the pass itself. Once in Lesotho the road is already tarred all the way to Mokhotlong

How long does the Sani experience take?

The road is certainly breathtaking and it has a fearsome reputation. It takes between three and four hours to complete. The average gradients are 1:20, but there are 1:3 sections near the top, with mud, ice and snow possible at almost any time of the year. Ascending cars and pack mules have right of way. Allow enough daylight hours to appreciate the view and get some good photos.  Avoid driving in this area if unpaved mountain roads aren’t your strong point. Stay away if you’re scared of heights. The route traverses through several shallow water crossings (and waterfalls after the summer rains), hairpin bends, and switchbacks with angles between 130˚-180˚. There is only one view site on the pass with enough parking for 6 vehicles.

Is Sani Pass Safe?

It is a notoriously dangerous road, which requires the use of a 4×4 vehicle. In summer waterfalls cascade and tumble into the river below. The green slopes that sweep upward to the base of towering basalt cliffs are dotted with the colour of our great variety of flowers and the roadside is lined with flowers. A vast floral variety, in number of species and their traditional uses, that will earn this region the coveted world heritage site status. And have lunch at the top of the Sani pass at the highest pub in Southern Africa. Sani Pass is the mother of all South African mountain passes. It is the gateway to the ‘Roof of Africa’ scenic route that links the spectacular scenery of the Drakensberg with the mountains of northern Lesotho. The Sani Pass is the only border post between Kwazulu-Natal and Lesotho.

Is Sani Pass dangerous?

This road tests your skill, and courage. It’s definitely not for anyone suffering from vertigo or a fear of landslides. If it’s been raining heavily or snowing, check with the locals before setting out. You wouldn’t want to get snowed in. Be prepared for rough conditions in parts, and reducing speed to just 20km/h in some places, bouncing over rocks and dongas. There are more switchbacks near the top and the road becomes slippery when it rains. Take care with the temperature contrast, it can be extreme. The road is full of holes, loose rocks and gravel and hairpin bends that make your stomach churn. Especially when you look over the side and see the depths to which you could fall if you made a slight miscalculation. Along the road, you’ll see debris from cars that weren’t so lucky. A pathway from SA’s Kwazulu-Natal region to neighbouring country Lesotho, the 9km Sani Pass sends drivers on a hair-raising journey of steep and slippery slopes over the Northern Lesotho Mountains.

What is the highest pub in Africa?

To drive this trail, you must have supreme confidence in your vehicle and your driving skills. The Lesotho authorities are far less concerned about safety and allow normal vehicles through, but for the descent only. However, if it’s raining, a normal vehicle will be sorely lacking in traction and you could well end up going over the side. The Sani is strictly a 4×4 only route. Although the South African authorities at the bottom of the road insist that you climb in a competent 4×4, the Lesotho border control at the top are happy for you to make the descent in anything. Due to the many accidents which have occurred along the pass the South African border control will not allow vehicles along the pass which are deemed unsuitable for the trip, although there are no such restrictions when leaving Lesotho to travel into South Africa.  Your mental and physical efforts will be rewarded when you reach the top of the Sani Pass and the highest pub in Africa (at 2.874m).

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