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Drakensberg Grand Traverse

Exploring the Drakensberg: A Tale of Epic Hikes

The Drakensberg Mountains, also known as the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg, form a dramatic escarpment along the eastern edge of South Africa. These majestic peaks offer some of the most breathtaking hiking experiences in the world. On this page, we delve into two iconic Drakensberg hikes: the Grand Traverse, and the Mini Traverse, also known as the Northern Traverse. Additionally, we’ll explore the thrilling overnight hike that culminates with a night spent atop the Amphitheatre.

1. Drakensberg Grand Traverse (DGT)


The Grand Traverse is the definitive South African hike, and it ranks among the best globally. This formidable journey spans approximately 205 kilometers (though the actual distance for most hikers is closer to 220-240 kilometers due to contour-following and side trips). The route begins at the Sentinel Car Park and concludes at the Bushman’s Neck Border Post. Along the way, hikers summit peaks such as Mont Aux Sources, Cleft Peak, Champagne Castle, Mafadi, Giant’s Castle, and Thabana Ntlenyana.

Challenges and Highlights

  • Physical Demands: The DGT demands physical strength, endurance, and mental fortitude. With approximately 10,000 meters of cumulative ascent, it takes most hikers 8-12 days (weather permitting) to complete.

  • Trail Conditions: There are no marked trails or facilities. Hikers traverse grassy slopes, riverbeds, and rocky sections.

  • Record Holders: Trail runners like Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel completed the DGT in an astonishing 41 hours and 49 minutes!


2. Drakensberg Mini Traverse, aka the Northern Traverse


The Mini Traverse explores the escarpment top of the northern Drakensberg. It covers approximately 80 kilometers from Mont-aux-Sources to Cathedral Peak. It’s a condensed version of the Grand Traverse, offering stunning views and wild rivers. Regions like Amphitheatre, Mnweni, and Cathedral Peak await intrepid hikers.


  • Sentinel Peak: Begin at the Sentinel Peak car park and ascend via zigzags.

  • Drakensberg Chain Ladders: Conquer these famous ladders to reach the Amphitheatre.

  • Tugela Falls: Witness the world’s second-highest waterfall as it plunges down the Amphitheatre wall.

  • Bilanjii Falls: Camp near the Tugela Falls and witness sunrise behind the Devils Tooth.

  • Beacon Buttress: Enjoy more breathtaking views before descending.

  • Lesotho Border: Cross into Lesotho—the watershed between South Africa and Lesotho.

  • Mountain Passes: Navigate virgin mountain passes and enjoy the unspoiled beauty of the Drakensberg.


3. Amphitheatre Overnight Hike


The Amphitheatre Overnight Hike offers a taste of the Drakensberg’s beauty in just two days. Camp near the Tugela Falls and witness the sunrise over the Amphitheatre.

Unforgettable Moments

  • Tugela Falls: Marvel at the world’s tallest waterfall.

  • Chain Ladders: Climb to the Amphitheatre’s roof.

  • Campsite Views: Wake up to stunning vistas.




The Drakensberg beckons adventurers with its rugged beauty, challenging trails, and awe-inspiring landscapes. Whether you choose the epic Grand Traverse, the condensed Mini Traverse, or the scenic Northern Traverse, these hikes promise memories that will last a lifetime. So lace up your boots, embrace the wilderness, and let the Drakensberg reveal its secrets - one step at a time.

Karma Backpackers works with Zee Ndaba, the Drakensberg's only woman mountain guide. She's well qualified, highly experienced, very entertaining and is the guide of choice of celebrities such as Julia Bradbury and Tom Cruise. For more information on these and other hiking tours that she offers, click the button below.

Photos of the Drakensberg Grand Traverse

Below are photos of a Drakensberg Grand Traverse, completed over the course of 16 days in 2023 and guided by Zee Ndaba. Click the photos for more info:


Tugela Falls / Amphitheatre

Tugela Falls

Golden Gate

Golden Gate Highlands National Park

Lesotho Tour


Amphitheatre day-hikes

thukela gorge
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