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Drakensberg backpackers
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Home is where the heart is

A warm welcome awaits hikers and backpackers

Discover the heart of the Drakensberg mountains with Karma Backpackers, your premier destination for unforgettable hiking and backpacking adventures. Our cozy hostel sits midway between Johannesburg and Durban, at the doorstep of the majestic Drakensberg (“Dragons’ Mountain”) Range. Whether you’re a hiker or a backpacker, we’ve got you covered. Our reputation for comfortable accommodation in a friendly, homely atmosphere and excellent value for money precedes us.

Why choose Karma Backpackers? We’re strategically placed along the main backpackers’ route, making us the perfect hub for exploring the Drakensberg - especially Tugela Falls - venturing into Lesotho, and visiting the Golden Gate Highlands National Park.

As a small, owner-managed establishment, we cater to a maximum of 17 guests. Our accommodations are a notch above the usual backpacker fare:

  • Three Double Bedrooms: Spacious and inviting.

  • Family Room: Sleeps four comfortably.

  • Separate Dorm: Accommodates six.

Our house boasts generously sized bedrooms (3 x 4 meters), a cozy lounge/dining area, and a well-equipped self-catering kitchen. After a day of hiking, unwind in our bathtub or enjoy the convenience of showers and toilet facilities in the outside dorm. Picture sprung timber floors, a wood-burning stove in the lounge, and old-fashioned hot water bottles in the beds—perfect for chilly winter nights. On warm summer days, our guests can savour a barbecue on the patio or have a friendly chat in one of our garden hideaways.

By far the closest hostel to the Tugela Falls hike

If you're planning a South African adventure, look no further! We're the closest backpackers hostel to the start of the thrilling hike to the top of Tugela Falls, Africa's (and unofficially, the world's) tallest waterfall with a staggering 948-meter drop. This unforgettable experience is a must-see, and we offer a relaxed and affordable basecamp.

Beyond the falls, explore the diverse scenery of Golden Gate Highlands National Park with hikes ranging from easy to difficult. For those up to the challenge, there is the 12-16  day Drakensberg Grand Traverse, rated as one of the world's best hikes, and the shorter Northern Traverse. They're guided by Zee, a renowned South African mountain guide. Discover the rich history of the area with countless Khoisan rock paintings, or go on a quick tour of Lesotho. For a charming town experience, visit Clarens.

Vera Ann and Lucio, your hosts since 2004, are passionate about creating a welcoming atmosphere. Their furry companions, Willow, Ruby, and Pixel, add to the family feel. Vera Ann is a renowned foodie, and her award-winning jams, along with coffee, tea, milk and sugar are free for our guests, as well as as many in-season vegetables as you want to pick from our garden. Yes, you read right, there's free food at Karma!

Our communal kitchen is very well equipped for you to self-cater. Kestell has supermarkets for further grocery needs.

Scientists say humanity originated in Africa, while backpackers and hikers from around the world say that coming to Karma feels like coming home. Coincidence? We'll let you decide. We look forward to welcoming you!

Accommodation rates

♥ Double Rooms - ZAR 550 per room
♥ Dorms - ZAR 250 per person
♥ Camping - ZAR 150 per person

♥ ZAR 200 per person
Group size: min 5; max 17

Hiking the Drakensberg on a budget

Karma Backpackers doesn't make any money out of tours, we just hand out hiking maps and good advice. All of the day-hikes in the area can be done independently and at a much lower cost than is advertised elsewhere, which, if you're a backpacker or budget-conscious hiker, is important to know.

The Amphitheatre / Tugela Falls, Golden Gate, Witsieshoek and Tugela Gorge hiking trails are clearly marked and are often done without a guide. If, however, the thought of climbing a 40-metre chain ladder without a safety rope is not for you, or if you would like to walk with someone who knows the weather and can point out the geology, flora and fauna that you will encounter along the way, a qualified guide can be arranged. Unless you are an experienced mountaineer, the longer, multi-day Drakensberg hikes definitely require a guide. Our preferred guide is Zee Ndaba, the only woman mountain guide in the Drakensberg and the choice of celebrities such as Tom Cruise and Julia Bradbury. She has a flat rate of R1500 per day for groups. Zee also offers tours of Lesotho.

All the prices given here are current at time of writing, please check with us if they've changed.

Amphitheatre / Tugela Falls / Sentinel Peak

Tugela Falls hike

A thrilling hike - 12km there and back - to the top of Africa's (and, unofficially, the world's) highest waterfall.

  • uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park entrance fee: ZAR80 (payable at park entrance)

  • Hiking fee: ZAR120 (payable at Sentinel Car Park, where the hiking trail begins)

  • Shuttle: the last 7km of the access road to the Sentinel Car Park is in bad condition and cannot be negotiated by cars. A 4x4 shuttle runs from Witsieshoek and costs ZAR250 there and back.

Golden Gate Highlands National Park

Golden Gate hikes

Gentler hiking trails, ranging from 45 minutes to 6 hours, in one of South Africa's most beautiful areas.

Daily Conservation Fees:

  • South African Citizens and Residents: ZAR67 (adults) ZAR33 (children under 12)

  • SADC Nationals: ZAR133 (adults); ZAR67 (children under 12)

  • International (non-South African) Citizens: ZAR266; R133 (children under 12)

Witsieshoek and Tugela Gorge

Witsieshoek hike

Day-hikes into the arms of The Amphitheatre. 

  • Royal Natal National Park entrance fee: ZAR70

  • Hiking fee: ZAR50 (South Africans)ZAR90 (non-South Africans)

Lesotho Tour

Lesotho Tour

An interesting day in the mountain kingdom of Lesotho.
Contact Zee for pricing.

Backpackers Reviews

100% Recommended!


A very beautiful homestay-style backpackers, very clean facilities, very friendly and kind owners...

- Philipp M



The house was just beautiful...the room was big and I would recommend this place if you want to have good value for money.

- Elina D

Lovely backpackers!


...we loved our stay with Vera-Ann. From the moment we arrived it was our home too...

- Karel V

"We had a really lovely time here. We stayed two nights, the bed was big and comfy, the showers hot and the shared kitchen very well-equipped. The whole place was clean, colourful and homely. Vera is a great host who goes to a lot of effort to make sure her guests have all they need, including plenty of info on the amazing local hikes (so that you can do them independently), she also called around and organised any necessary transport for us."

- Amy McC

A unique and wonderful place

"Of many hostels we have already seen, not only in South Africa, but all over the world, we have never been to one that was so special, with so much love and with such a nice host! Placed close to some really wonderful hikes close to the northern Drakensberg, this hostel turned out to be the very best place we could have stayed at. Vera was a lovely person, who was always there to help us to find the best hikes, the best local places and to take care of us, when necessary. We can only recommend that unique place, where it is just too easy to feel at home!"

- Franziska H

You need to stay there!!!

"What a great place!!! We loved our stay, we wanted to stay one night, we ended up with three. We would have stayed longer but had to go back to JNB. Vera and Lucio are super nice. Interesting people and fun. The beds are comfortable and everything is very clean. You can use the kitchen etc. Also, Vera showed us the garden, and we were welcome to take some SUPER good vegetables. Cat and dogs are lovely. We felt like home. We will come back!! It is very easy to join the national park and the Sentinel Trail from their house. I would definitely recommend to stay there if you are up for these trails."

- Celine

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Zee Ndaba, HikingGuide
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Hike the Drakensberg Mountains with Zee!

Zee Ndaba is one of only two woman mountain guides in South Africa, and is widely recognised as one of the Drakensberg's top hiking guides. If you're doing hikes such as the Drakensberg Grand Traverse or the Mini (Northern) Traverse, we recommend getting in touch with her.

Zee (short for Zimele, meaning "Independent" in the Zulu language) spent years working in the travel industry in the UK, but returned home with the aim of uplifting the rural communities from which she comes. Not only is she highly qualified, she is also an accomplished storyteller and will entertain you with tales of her Zulu roots, her life in the UK, the flora, fauna, geology and history of the Drakensberg, and her experiences guiding celebrities such as Tom Cruise.

"She is a true adventurer, a warrior woman, and a joy to talk and walk with."
- Julia Bradbury, BBC Presenter

Karma Home Products

Karma isn't only about backpacking and hiking. Vera Ann is famous for her award-winning jams, as well as a fair trade initiative producing clothing made from traditional African Shweshwe cloth.

Traditional African clothing

Sissi Shweshwe traditional African clothing

Karma homemade jam

Karma's award-winning jams & preserves

Vera Ann, owner of Karma Backpackers, and Zee Ndaba, hiking guide

From our guestbook

♥ So much warmth & generous hospitality here. We came from a long hike and many very busy backpackers to find a calm port. Bath was amazing. Jams are the best. Very sweet to offer to make pizza for our hungry bellies - hit the spot! We hope to be back someday soon. All the best to the two of you! - Rhyanna & Eric

♥ Thanks for everything, we had an incredible time here. It feels like a home rather than a hostel. Thanks for your guidance on treks, sights and especially the Ethiopian restaurant. It was a pleasure meeting you. - Tilda & Timea

♥ This place is amazing, it was the warmest, most comfortable backpackers I've ever stayed at. It was the most relaxing time I've ever had. It felt like family here. Better Christmas than at home. Cheers! - Andy

♥ Thanks for the wonderful accommodation. It's a beautiful little house with good karma and lots of charm. Thank you for the tasty muffins. We will be back! - Fabian

♥ Thank you very much for the lovely stay, your delicious breakfast and interesting stories about South Africa and this region. We enjoyed the trip to Lesotho very much. Zee is a wonderful person. Keep up the good work. Karma is definitely one of the most relaxed and well-equipped backpackers we have seen so far. - Laura & Karel

♥ Thank you so much Vera Ann for the amazing stay. The backpackers is so homely, and we felt so welcome. Also thank you for the advice on hiking and eating out, both were most helpful. - Adrienne & Mitch

♥ We had a lovely stay with you! Thank you for being such a lovely and entertaining host. We love the house and garden, and your jam truly is amazing. We'll certainly plan a visit next time we're in South Africa! It felt like home away from home- Zoe & Dylan

♥ Coming here was like coming home. Close to the beautiful mountains which we really enjoyed. A lovely garden and a relaxing atmosphere. Thank you for having us. - Vilde & Josephine

♥ Thank you for the lovely stay! Your house and Drakensberg were beautiful and well worth the visit- Evonne & Rupert

Blow your mind but not your budget!

Karma Backpackers is the closest hostel to the start of the breathtaking Tugela Falls hike (by over 100km!) and we give the best, most budget-friendly advice.

This video shows the 12-16 day Drakensberg Grand Traverse, including the chain ladders on the way to Tugela Falls.

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