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The Drakensberg Amphitheatre Hike is a Mystical Blizzard!

Nestled within the rugged terrain of the Drakensberg Mountains in South Africa lies a natural wonder that beckons adventurers from around the globe—the Drakensberg Amphitheatre. Rising majestically like a colossal sentinel, this iconic semi-circular cliff face forms the backdrop for an unforgettable hiking experience. The Drakensberg Amphitheatre hike is also known as the Sentinel Peak or Tugela Falls hike and is a trendy bucket list item for most serious hikers.

As the sun casts its first light upon the peaks, the trail unveils a breathtaking panorama of untouched wilderness, vibrant flora, and the promise of adventure lurking around every bend. So, if you need some tranquillity and adventure, this hike (the most beautiful hike in South Africa) is for you!

Slackpacking the Amphitheatre Heritage Hike

The Drakensberg Amphitheatre Hike is a Mystical Blizzard!
Image: GetGoodTravel4You, 2024

If you want to extend your hiking trip, you can do so over three days. The Amphitheatre Slackpacking Trail offers a unique opportunity for those of average fitness to conquer the summit and savour unforgettable vistas. Traditionally reserved for the fittest and most experienced hikers who camp overnight, this trail provides a comfortable alternative.

Over three days and three nights, you stay in conveniently located lodges guided by experienced trail guides. With a total ascent of nearly 1200m covering 25-30 kilometres, even moderately fit individuals can stand atop the summit, relishing a sense of achievement. Sweating through the journey becomes worthwhile with each breathtaking view encountered along the trail.

This adventure starts at Sung Mountain Camp near Cavern Berg, where you can, after unpacking, take a stroll to the river for a swim. On the first day, you hike to Witsies Mountain Lodge and bypass Broome Hill Basotho Gate and the Sandstone Cliffs. Day three commences from Sentinel Car Park, where you will descend the chain ladders to Tugela Falls and return.

The final day’s hike starts from Witsies and goes to Royal Natal or Cavern Berg for those fit enough. On this route, you’ll pass many small pools and waterfalls, wander through the cool mist belt forest, and more! Slackpacking does not require sleeping in a tent or eating packaged foods heated on the world’s most miniature gas stove. Everything is just more straightforward.

Book with Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge here on Booking.com

The 8-Hour Drakensberg Amphitheatre Hike

The Drakensberg Amphitheatre Hike is a Mystical Blizzard!
Image: The Sandy Feet, 2024

Although tackling this hike in one day is much more challenging than spreading it out, it’s doable. It’s a 12-kilometre round trip with an elevation of 550 metres if you take the chain ladder route or 650 metres via the Kloof Gully Route. Beginning at an altitude of 2500m, this hike ascends 550m to reach the summit of the Drakensberg Amphitheatre, towering at 3000m. From this vantage point, the awe-inspiring Tugela Falls cascade over the colossal cliff face, plummeting 1000m to the valley floor below. Two routes lead to the falls: 1) ascending via two chain ladders and 2) navigating a scramble up Kloof Gully.

When to do the Drakensberg Amphitheatre Hike

The Drakensberg Amphitheatre Hike is a Mystical Blizzard!
Image: Walk in Africa, 2024

The optimal conditions for the Drakensberg Amphitheatre hike are typically found between March and May when the rains have ceased, temperatures are mild, and the hills retain their lush greenery from the winter showers. Alternatively, September to November also offers favourable hiking conditions, but bear in mind that after the dry season, Tugela Falls may run dry, and the hills may appear parched and brown instead of their usual vibrant green.

Book with Berghouse and Cottages here on Booking.com

Where to stay after Hiking the Drakensberg Amphitheatre Hike

The Drakensberg Amphitheatre Hike is a Mystical Blizzard!
Image: Home Food and Travel, 2024

The nearest accommodation option is the Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge, which boasts stunning vistas overlooking the Royal Natal National Park. The lodge serves as an ideal hub for exploring the Amphitheatre. It offers 2-bed bungalows and chalets, as well as an on-site restaurant equipped with Wi-Fi. Additionally, it provides services such as guides, packed lunches, and transfers, all of which can be arranged for your convenience.

The second place to stay is called Berghouse and Cottages. These fully furnished cottages are conveniently situated just a 1-hour and 45-minute drive from the Sentinel Car Park. Their proximity to Bergville and the main road makes them an excellent choice for extended stays. Moreover, they serve as a strategic base for exploring nearby attractions: the bottom of the Amphitheatre is only 30 minutes away, the Golden Gate Highlands Park can be reached in 1 hour and 15 minutes, and the historic battlefields are just over an hour’s drive away.

The third accommodation option is on Ethels Drive, called Amphitheatre Backpackers Lodge. This lodge offers panoramic Northern Drakensberg views and is a quirky hostel featuring a rock pool, hot tub, and restaurant with free Wi-Fi. Individually decorated rooms include fans, tea/coffee facilities, and linen. Some have communal bathrooms, while others are in converted grain silos using solar water heating.

Meals, including vegetarian options, are sourced from Amphitheatre Backpackers Lodge’s organic garden. Live music, BBQ facilities, and a bar enhance the lively atmosphere of this place. Amenities include a pool table, sauna, and communal TV lounge. You can also enjoy activities like table tennis, Drakensberg Amphitheatre hiking, and cycling. Overall, it’s a vibrant base for exploring Drakensberg.

Book with Amphitheatre Backpackers Lodge here on Booking.com

How to Get to the Drakensberg Amphitheatre Hike

The Drakensberg Amphitheatre Hike is a Mystical Blizzard!
Image: The Sandy Feet, 2024

The ascent to the summit of Tugela Falls commences from the Sentinel Car Park, 2,500 metres above sea level. Accessible either by foot or car, this starting point marks the beginning of the adventure to the falls’ breathtaking heights.

If you enjoy this article, be sure to read about Babylonstoren Hotel: South Africa’s Luxury Wine Estate!

Drakensberg Amphitheatre Hike in All Its Splendour

Tugela Falls, the second-tallest waterfall in the world (and the highest in Africa), drops 948 metres over the Amphitheatre’s basalt rock into Royal Natal National Park below. At 3283 metres, the Mont-Aux-Sources is the highest peak on the escarpment. My question to you is, what are you waiting for? You need to feel the winds through your hair and see the hills sprawling as far as the eye can stretch. You must break free from your limitations and climb to the mountaintops where change awaits your arrival. It’s time to break free and see this world in splendour. It’s time for a new adventure!

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Hi there! I’m Megan, an absolute lover of words, literature, books, stories, anything that has to do with writing, reading, imagining. Because of my passion, I decided to make writing my life, and with that, I decided to study BA Languages at the University of Pretoria and am happy to report that I made my dream come true by graduating and becoming a travel writer. During my final year I wrote for my campus newspaper, the PDBY, where I learned to trust my writing voice. Now, as I sit here writing my petit little bio, I feel more in love with writing than I’ve ever been. Turns out, like much of my personality, my writing can equally showcase both the calm and put-together, as well as the crazy.