Are you planning to visit Lesotho and would like to learn more about the country before travelling there? Or would you just love to know some interesting and fun facts about Lesotho most people don’t know? You’ve come to the right place.
Lesotho is a landlocked country, nestled between the Drakensberg and Maloti mountain ranges and entirely surrounded by South Africa. The country is of similar size to Belgium or Israel and has a population of 2 million inhabitants.
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Post updated April 2021
Lesotho is mostly visited as part of a South African trip by tourists and hardly ever more than two days are spent in the country. Yet there is quite a lot to discover and to experience in the Kingdom of Lesotho. During the last years I have visited mainly the western part of Lesotho. So it was time to explore the rest of the country and for more than two days this time.
So it was on this trip that I discovered there are quite some interesting and fun facts about Lesotho which most people do not know.
Here is our list of 21 interesting Lesotho facts
- Lesotho is ruled by a constitutional monarchy and is one of the 3 remaining kingdoms in Africa (the others are Morocco and Swaziland). King Letsie III is the reigning king of Lesotho since 1990.
- The country gained independence from British rule on Octorber 4th in 1966 after which the name was changed from Basutoland to the Kingdom of Lesotho.
- Lesotho is one of 3 enclaves in the world, meaning a country that is entirely surrounded by the territory of one other state. Lesotho is entirely surrounded by the country of South Africa. The other two enclaves are Vatican City and San Marino, both completely surrounded by Italy.
- Not many countries can say that their traditional dress is a blanket. The Basotho blanket is a very common sight in the kingdom of Lesotho, often with colourful patterns. The blanket is not only used to protect the Basotho against the cold, but is also worn as a status symbol and cultural identification. Almost entirely made of wool, they protect very well against the harsh cold winter. Another typical feature is the woollen balaclava (which only leaves their eyes free) and the gumboots.
- The lowest point above sea level in Lesotho is 1500 metres, making it the country with the highest low point in the world.
- The currency is called the “Basotho Loti” (Maloti in plural) and is pegged to the South African Rand at a ratio of 1:1. The Rand is accepted freely everywhere in Lesotho, however the Loti is not accepted in South Africa.
- Lesotho has 2 official languages. Sesotho is the national language and is spoken by most of the Basotho. English is the second official language.
- Lesotho did not gain the name “the mountain kingdom” for nothing. Nearly two thirds of the country consists of mountains (2200 – 3000 metres). And when driving through the country, you’ll see mountains, lot’s of mountains, in every shape and in every form. There is no way to avoid them, but just to enjoy them when passing through. Furthermore, the lowlands (1500 – 1800 m) make up 15% of the country, the foothills (1800 – 2200 m ) another 15% and the real mountains (2200 – 3000 m) take up some two thirds of Lesotho.
- The Katse Dam is the highest dam in Africa (the surface reaches 2050 metres above sea level when at 100% full) and at 185 metres it has the second tallest dam wall in Africa. The dam is a result of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, a bi-lateral project between the governments of South Africa and Lesotho. The water is transferred to South Africa by gravity alone and is mainly used in the province of Gauteng.
- You would not immediately associate Africa with snow, but Lesotho is home to the highest ski resort in Africa. Afriski is situated at 3050 metres above sea level.
- Lesotho is home to the highest altitude pub in Africa at 2874 metres above sea level. It’s located right at the border with South Africa, and the end of the iconic Sani Pass (or the beginning if you come from Lesotho). A cold beer is very welcome after driving this scenic pass starting in South Africa and to top it all off, you’ll have an amazing view from the top (while sipping that cold beer).
- The Sani pass is the only border at the eastern side of Lesotho, connecting Underberg in South Africa with Mokhotlong in Lesotho. Built in the 1950’s, it starts at an altitude of 1544 metres and ends at altitude of 2876 metres in Lesotho and is more or less 9 kilometres in length. The Sani pass is a spectacular drive and one of the more scenic hairpinned border crossings in the world.
- Lesotho is home to two national parks; Sehlabathebe and Ts’ehlanyane National Park. Sehlabathebe National Park was added to the Unesco World Heritage list in 2013 as part of an extension of the Drakensberg/Ukahlamba World Heritage site.
- With a drop of 192 metres, the Maletsunyane falls is the highest single drop waterfall in Southern Africa. According to the Guinness book of records, the longest commercially operated single-drop abseil is one of 204m (670ft) down the Maletsunyane waterfall in Semonkong lodge.
- The Matekane airstrip is considered one of scariest and probably most dangerous runways in the world. The length of the runway is just 400 metres / 1300 ft long which then ends at the top of a cliff with 600 metre / 2000ft drop.
- Lesotho is home to one of the largest dinosaur footprints. The owner of the footprint is the Kayentapus ambrokholohali, a 200 million year old giant carnivore that used to roam on the continent. It is estimated that this species was standing 2.7 metres high and was 9 metres long. The footprint was discovered in 2016 in the Roma Valley near the National University of Lesotho.
- One dinosaur species was named after the country of Lesotho, the Lesothosaurus, meaning the lizard from Lesotho. It was in Lesotho that early fossils have been discovered.
- The national flower of Lesotho is the Aloe Polyphylla, also known as the Spiral Aloe. This rare and stemless plant is endemic to Lesotho and grows on the slopes of the Maluti mountains. This very special plant is also threatened with extinction. What makes it so unique is that the sharp edged thick leaves spiral clockwise or anti-clockwise around the centre giving the plant a beautiful symmetrical appearance.
- Most of the secondary roads in the country are gravel roads, some of which are in good condition and the rest challenging 4×4 roads. At the moment, many of the main roads are being tarred, but there are still interesting gravel roads to discover, narrow gravel roads with huge potholes and with sheer drops along the mountains forcing you to drive at an average speed of about 10 km/hour. The advantage with slow speed is that you can enjoy the countryside that much more together with a look at the daily life of the local people. When driving there we noticed that at times a horse would be faster than us in a Landrover. Us driving on the switchback winding road along the mountain and the horse with a normal pace walking across the mountain and we would arrive at the top at the same time.
- When you visit Lesotho and come across any craft market, the first thing you will notice is a conical shaped hat, the Basotho Hat (or mokorotlo). It’s a fine piece of craftmanship, made out of grass. This hat is a recognised symbol of Lesotho and has the shape of many of the mountains seen in the country.
- And last but not least, we noticed that the Basotho are very friendly people. When driving by, they will greet you, wave at you and will welcome you to their country. They have a very nice and open nature and will come and start a conversation with you if you stop. Just please do not give the kids sweets and other useless items.
Did you know any of these facts? Are there more interesting facts you know about Lesotho?
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