Passing through the Soutpansberg, Wyllie's Poort (part of the N1 between Louis Trichardt - Makhado and Musina) boasts a rich archeaological, geological and cultural heritage, and is also a bird-watching hotspot! It lays claim to being the second northern-most tarred pass in South Africa and offers attractive scenery with lots of twists and turns over a distance of 3,57 km with a small altitude drop of just 57 vertical metres.
Connecting Port Nolloth with Steinkopf on the N7 near Springbok, this low-altitude tarred poort on the R382 passes through the endless, arid plains and rocky outcrops of the Windpoort farm after which it was named. It is one of three passes and poorts along the R382 with the other two being the Anenous Pass to the east and Gemsbokpoort to the west.
As far as dramatic corners and steep gradients go, this pass has little to offer other than the desolate, dry plains of the Northern Cape's semi-desert known simply as Namaqualand - in itself offering it's own kind of beauty, that not everyone appreciates.
This long, tarred pass connects the two old mining towns of Lydenberg - better known today as the premiere fly-fishing centre of South Africa, and Burgersfort on the R37. Lydenburg is another town which has had a recent name change and is today officially called Mashishing. No doubt because of the difficulty of pronouncing the new name, the vast majority of South Africans still call it Lydenburg.
Packed into its 19,6 km length are 51 bends, corners and curves - some of which are extremely sharp and include two hairpins and another two dangerous 90 degree bends. This is a high altitude pass with a summit height of 1621m ASL and offers excellent views, but is sorely lacking in places to stop safely. Despite the statistics, the gradients on this pass never exceed 1:16. There are a number of cautionaries for this pass, which include heavy mountain mists, lots of slow moving heavy vehicles, and some very sharp bends. Despite the dangers, the road is generally in a good condition and can be driven in any vehicle, but watch out for the occassional pothole.
Named after the little town of Van Reenen, which seems to stand guard at the top of this majestic pass which winds its way through the Drakensberg mountains between Ladysmith and Harrismith along the N3 between Durban and Johannesburg. Unfortunately, the only record that the pass can lay claim to is that of the most dangerous pass in South Africa. Despite this, the long pass provides beautiful scenery as it descends towards Ladysmith in the KZN Midlands from the Free State.
This steep, high altitude gravel pass is situated between the N9 route and the village of Nieu-Bethesda, where artist Helen Martins turned her Karoo home into a fantastical landscape, with concrete and ground-glass sculptures of owls, camels and angels. The town was established in 1875 and is dominated by the peak known as Kompasberg (Compass Mountain) which is the 6th highest mountain in the Eastern Cape and forms part of the Sneeuberg range. The town is very secluded and as such has become something of a retreat for artists and writers.
Viljoen's Pass was named after Dr Antonie Viljoen who founded the area's famous apple industry in 1902. It is a well designed modern pass with a good accident track record, not withstanding the extreme hairpin bend on the northern side of the pass. The pass was originally built to a different line in 1860.
Also known as 'Breedt's Nek', this gravel pass can be found just off the R763, near the Magaliesberg Nature Reserve. It provides a link across the Magaliesberg from the settlement of Maanhaarrand to Buffelspoort and the town of Mooinooi to the north-east. The road bears an official number (D568), and the condition ranges from poor to terrible.
Expect gradients of 1:10 and deeply rutted and rocky sections. However, providing you are in a 4x4 vehicle or at least a commercial vehicle with good ground clearance, it is most certainly doable, but it is a long, slow drive. Don't drive this road if you're in a hurry.
A gravel pass in KZN between Harrismith and Bergville - in the vicinity of the Sterkfontein Dam. The pass starts at 1349m ASL and summits at 1751m. It is 5,6 km long producing an ascent gradient of 1/14 making it very steep. Be prepared to crawl along this road at less than 10 kph and allow plenty of time. Probably between 60 and 90 minutes to cover the 5 km. It is only suitable for 4x4 vehicles with good ground clearance and low range! Remember to drop your tyre pressures to around 1,0 to 1,2 bar to prevent punctures and improve traction. This road is a rough one!
It is almost impossible to determine the origin of the name of this pass, as Botha is a very popular surname in South Africa; it is in fact the second most common European surname after Jacobs. It has been established, however, that the pass name dates back to at least the 1880s, as there are some references to the pass in the chronicles of the 1st Anglo-Boer War, and this is also approximately when the nearby town of Barberton was founded.
This beautiful pass, which is not particularly well-known, is located on the tarred R38 route between Barberton and Badplaas, and offers up magnificent panoramic vistas over the De Kaap Valley from its many viewpoints. It gains a strapping 547 metres in altitude, and is nearly 12 kilometres long. The road is in an excellent condition, but it can be hazardous when covered by thick mist or rain which is common at certain times of the year.
The spectacular Abel Erasmus Pass, named after a very prominent citizen of the area, was officially opened on the 8th of May 1959, and navigates the Manoutsa section of the Limpopo Drakensberg. It is regarded as an engineering triumph, with a sequence of bends and twists that can only give rise to admiration for the gold rush pioneers of the late 19th century that carved this route through the mountains with their wagons. The pass has 62 bends, corners and curves of which 12 exceed an arc of 90 degrees.
The pass also includes a 133 metre-long tunnel, named after J.G. (Hans) Strydom, who served as the prime minister of South Africa from 1954 to 1958. This huge pass is over 24 km long and has an altitude variance of 737 metres; the road surface is in a good condition, but the pass is sometimes plagued by heavy traffic. It can be very difficult to pass slow-moving trucks – please exercise a degree of tolerance and patience, and give yourself plenty of time to traverse this route.
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.