The A25 route is home to a number of spectacular passes. Although the Laitsoka Pass is not the highest, if offers magnificent scenery and includes the crossing of the high level bridge over the upper reaches of the Katse Dam. The pass is long at 14.7 km and contains 75 bends, corners and curves, of which 16 exceed 90 degrees, but there are no hairpins.
The average gradient of 1:25 is moderated by a central summit point of 2649m ASL but the gradients do reach 1:5 on several sections of the pass, so it's steep by any standards. The pass is tarred and forms one of the main routes through the central part of Lesotho and has become busier since the completion of the Katse Dam and the ongoing Lesotho Highlands Water Project.
There are at least two good lodges in the Lejone area for travellers to overnight at.
If you blink, you will pass through this little poort without noticing it. It's an official poort duly noted on the government 1:50,000 maps. The vital statistics are frivolous with the poort only being 1.1 km in length with an altitude variance of only 8m. The scenery is however, quite pleasant as the road follows the poort between two large hills - both comprising sandstone formations typical of the area.
The region offers wonderful tourism opportunities for the adventure traveller with the town of De Rust being the springboard and focal point of the area. The town is something of an artist's and writer's haven as many of the old buildings have been beautifully restored, as city folk have moved here to live a quieter lifestyle. The region also makes excellent port wine and it is of course also the southern gateway to the world renowned Meiringspoort.
This is a mega pass by any standards. It's very long at 32 km and displays an altitude variance of 1066m. With a summit height of 3244m ASL, headaches and nose bleeds might be experienced by travelers from the coast who have not had time to acclimatise. It is the second highest pass in Lesotho and is also commonly referred to as the Black Mountain Pass.
Packed into that length is a total of 139 bends, corners and curves of which 8 have angles in excess of 90 degrees and of those, 6 are hairpin bends, all of which occur on the south-eastern side of the pass. The pass is subject to lots of snow in winter and ice on the roadway will make things highly dangerous, even for 4WD vehicles.
The pass is virtually and extension of the Sani Pass, separated only by a short 6 km plateau. It connects South Africa (KZN specifically) with the main southern town of Mokhotlong. It was recently tarred which makes this a relatively comfortable drive compared to the rough two spoor track prior to 2004.
Cautionaries: Snow, Ice, Livestock, Herdsmen, Altitude sickness.
This 3 km long pass packs plenty of action and grand scenery into it's short distance, gaining 208 vertical metres in the process. It's a slow, bumpy drive and you will be negotiating no less than 28 bends, corners and curves of which 7 exceed 90 degrees. The road surface is narrow and rough with a strong possibility of picking up a puncture on the hundreds of thousands of sharp rocks.
The road traverses the Koedoesberge (a strong indicator that kudu were plentiful here in the 19th century) and has its western end virtually on the border of the Western and Northern Cape.
When watching the video look for the truck and tractor wreck down the side of the ravine at 2min 05 secs.
This is an extremely high altitude pass. It's lowest point is higher than the highest pass in South Africa. You will start at 3012m ASL and climb streadily to summit at 3246m ASL. Despite the extreme altitudes, the pass itself only contains 16 bends corners and curves and only two have an arc greater than 90 degrees.
Assuming fine weather, the pass should present no problems other than a lack of power in your vehicle due to the oxygen starved air and the very real possibility of experiencing headaches and nose bleeds. Many visitors to Lesotho experience altitude sickness and especially those that have travelled up from the coast. If you normally suffer from AS, please vsit your pharmacist for advice before setting off on your journey.
In the colder months, this pass will have snow and ice on it. If you're not in a 4WD vehicle it's best to choose an alternative route or wait a day or two for conditions to improve. Snow is less of a problem than ice. Ice creates extremely dangerous conditions on tar (much worse than gravel) which can quickly cause a total loss of control.
The pass connects Mokhotlong in the east with the northern villages, as well as the Afriski Resort via the main route - the A1.
This lovely gravel pass with its alluring name connects Thabaneng in the west with Malealea in the east and offers beautiful rural scenery in the western corner of the Mountain Kingdom. At 3.7 km it's a fairly short pass by Lesotho standards and only displays an altitude variance of 120m, and all the corners are gentle as are the gradients, which reach 1:5 near the summit and immediately after it.
As the summit is crested a beautiful view is presented and where the pass got its name from. The pass is popular more by its name than any sort of driving challenge, so if you want to drive this pass, don't expect the usual Lesotho type statistics - just enjoy the easy drive and beautiful scenery.
The main destination on the eastern end of the pass is the lovely Malealea Lodge, where accommodation is available in individual thatched rondavels set in immaculate gardens.
This is a major pass covering 19 km and includes a huge number of bends, corners and curves - 122 of them in total. The altitude variance is a whopping 728 metres which produces and average gradient of 1:26 with the steepest parts reaching 1:7. The pass is tarred which reduces traction issues in wet weather, but when ice forms on the road things can quickly become dangerous. The pass has a classic profile with a central summit point, but the steeper section is on the western side.
With a summit altitude of 2553m ASL this pass is regularly under snow for many months of the year. It connects Maseru with Thaba-Tseka on the A3 route together with a string of other passes.
The Marakabeis Lodge lies at the western end of the pass at a river crossing. This little river flows northwards to form one of the many streams that feed into the Mohale Dam.
This beautiful pass is located on a minor gravel road, the R386, between Niekerkshoop and Prieska in the Northern Cape. It has two distinct sections; the northern half is a steep and twisty true pass, and the southern half is much more poort-like. The road is in a good condition and is well maintained, but some severe corrugations are evident, mainly on the steeper parts and on the sharper corners. Although it is situated in the transitional zone between the Kalahari and the Karoo, there is more greenery around than one would expect; this is because the mighty Orange River flows through this area just a few kilometres away from the pass.
This big pass is located on the A3 main route between Maseru in the west and the much smaller village of Fosi in the east. It displays an altitude variance of 487m over a distance of 11.9 km producing an average gradient of 1:27, but there are several very steep sections at 1:5.
The pass is also commonly known as Bushman's Pass or Bushmen's Pass. Most maps use the spelling Bushman's, but the official sign at the summit is spelled as Bushmen's Pass.
The pass has 65 bends, corners and curves compressed within its length and with a summit height of 2277m ASL it receives regular snowfalls. During very cold conditions ice might be present on the roadway, which is extremely dangerous - even for 4WD vehicles. Being one of the main routes in Lesotho the road carries a steady flow of traffic. Be wary of large trucks and buses that need the whole roadway to negotiate the sharper bends.
Although its is only 1.8 km long, the beautiful little poort packs 10 corners into its short length as it sinuously tracks the course of the Little Caledon River through a deep canyon. The poort terminates at the Caledonspoort Border Control Post, which manages access in to and out of Lesotho. This route can get very busy, particularly on Friday and Sunday afternoons, so avoid it during these times if you can.
The road surface is good for the most part, but there are a couple of sections where the tar has broken up. It is a real pity that the poort is so close to the border post, as the sheer stunning beauty of the surrounding area is not really noticed by most people as they rush through it in preparation for the border crossing.
Mountain Passes South Africa is a website dedicated to the research, documentation, photographing and filming of the mountain passes of South Africa.
Passes are classified according to provinces and feature a text description, Fact File including GPS data, a fully interactive dual-view map and a narrated YouTube video.
We are as passionate about maps as we are about mountain passes. A good map is a thing of beauty that can transport you into the mists of time or get your sense of adventure churning. It is a place to make discoveries about deserts and seas, mountains and lakes; of roads leading into places you have not been before; a place to pore over holiday destinations or weekend camping trips. A map is your window to the world.