Travel Guides ? Lesotho

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Lesotho

Enclosed by South Africa on all sides, but separated from it by the huge Drakensberg and Maluti mountain ranges, the mountainous kingdom of Lesotho is small and rounded in shape, situated on a plateau of over 3,281ft (1,000m) with peaks reaching to heights of more than 10,000ft (3,000m). Sani Pass is a breathtaking entry-point into Lesotho from South Africa's Drakensberg National Park and is the gateway to the 'Roof of Africa' scenic route, linking the magnificent scenery of the two mountain ranges.

Popularly described as the 'Kingdom in the Sky', the lofty highlands are characterised by majestic mountain scenery, crisp mountain air and the simple serenity of the traditional lifestyles of its people. Pony trekking is one of the finest ways to experience the Lesotho highlands, with time spent in remote Basotho villages scattered among the grassy hills, where waterfalls saturate the surrounding rocks with rainbow-coloured mist and crystal clear streams criss-cross the landscape. The region is also perfect for those who prefer to test the sure-footedness of their own two feet, with miles of solitary scenery to appreciate, an abundance of trout in the rivers and dams and the assurance of a warm and friendly welcome in the rugged mountain hamlets. The central highlands is home to the highest waterfall in southern Africa, the Maletsunyane Falls near Semonkong (meaning 'Place of Smoke'), which thunders from a height of 624ft (192m) and is at its most spectacular during the summer rainy season.

From the heights of the Maluti Mountains, the land descends to the western lowlands where all the major towns are to be found and where two thirds of the population live. Maseru, the capital, is a fascinating city of contrasting modern and traditional lifestyles. Blanket-clad horsemen sidestep the traffic jams on their way to market, and woven handicrafts are displayed on the busy pavements outside new glass buildings filled with self-important office workers.

Time spent in Lesotho will allow visitors to observe an African country filled with an extraordinary appeal, a kingdom of rugged beauty and unchanging culture that remains natural and largely unaffected by tourism.

Climate

Weather conditions in Lesotho vary greatly depending on the altitude. Summer (October to April) is the hot, rainy season, with the hottest days in January and February, and the most rain falling between March and May and October and November. Days are sunny with electric afternoon thunderstorms, and temperatures range from around 86oF (30C) in the lowlands with cooler temperatures as the altitude increases, averaging about 64F (18C) in the mountains. Snow falls mainly in winter from May to September, but can occur in the mountains at any time of year. Winter can be bitterly cold, particularly in the highlands, but days are usually clear and sunny. Temperatures can fall to 20F (-7C) in the lowlands and 0F (-18C) in the highlands. At any time of year the weather can change very rapidly in the highlands, from warm sunshine to mist, rain and freezing temperatures.

Money

The official currency is the Loti (LSL) or plural Maloti, which is divided into 100 lisente. It has the same value as the South African Rand, and rands are accepted as legal currency. Banks and exchange bureaus are found in Maseru and in most main towns. Most major hotels, shops, restaurants and travel agencies accept credit cards; though it is best to check with credit and debit card companies as to their acceptance before leaving home. Travellers cheques can be cashed at banks in Maseru. Local ATMs in Lesotho have the facility to accept international ATM cards but are unreliable.

Passport Visa

All foreign passengers to Lesotho must hold return/onward tickets, the necessary travel documentation for their next destination, and sufficient funds to cover their expenses while in the country. Visa-exempt visitors who wish to stay in Lesotho for longer than their allotted 14 days, should apply for extensions at the Lesotho Immigration Authorities WITHIN the initial 14-day period. Note that a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter Lesotho, if arriving within six days of leaving or transiting through an infected area. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Entry Requirements

  • US citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Lesotho. No visa is required, for stays of up to 14 days (see note, below).
  • British citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Lesotho. No visa is required for British passport holders, irrespective of the endorsement regarding their national status contained therein, for stays of up to 14 days (see note, below).
  • Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Lesotho. No visa is required, for stays of up to 14 days (see note, below).
  • Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Lesotho. No visa is required, for stays of up to 14 days (see note, below).
  • South African citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Lesotho. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.
  • Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Lesotho. No visa is required, for stays of up to 90 days.
  • New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Lesotho. No visa is required, for stays of up to 14 days (see note, below).

Health

Lesotho's high altitude and crisp mountain air does not present many health problems for travellers, although its high elevation leaves the possibility of altitude sickness for recently arrived visitors. A yellow fever certificate is required from travellers coming from an infected area. HIV/AIDS is prevalent. Water should not be drunk unless it is boiled or filtered. There is a lack of good medical facilities, and medical attention is often sought in neighbouring South Africa. Visitors should carry a personal supply of medicine as supplies are limited. Lesotho's Flying Doctor service provides emergency medical services to remote parts of the country. Medical insurance is essential and should include emergency air evacuation coverage, especially if planning to spend time in remote mountainous regions.

Embassy Consulates

  • Kingdom of Lesotho Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 797 5533.
  • Kingdom of Lesotho High Commission, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7235 5686.
  • Kingdom of Lesotho Consulate, Vancouver, Canada: +1 604 681 9887.
  • Kingdom of Lesotho Embassy, Tokyo, Japan (also responsible for Australia): +81 (0)3 3584 7455.
  • Kingdom of Lesotho High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 460 7648.
  • Kingdom of Lesotho Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 676 2233.
  • Kingdom of Lesotho Embassy, Beijing, China (also responsible for New Zealand): +86 (0)10 6532 6843.

Foreign Embassies

  • United States Embassy, Maseru: +266 2231 2666.
  • British Honourary Consul, Maseru: +266 223 13929.
  • Canadian Consulate to Lesotho, Maseru: +266 223 15365.
  • Australian High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa (also responsible for Lesotho): +27 12 423 6000.
  • South African Consulate, Maseru: +266 223 15758.
  • Irish Embassy, Maseru: +266 2231 4068.
  • New Zealand High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa (also responsible for Lesotho): + 27 (0)12 435 9000.