Ts’ehlanyane National Park is the largest national park in Lesotho. In fact, it is one of the two national parks that we find in the country, along with the more inaccessible Sehlabathebe, which is located south of the Sani Pass. The Ts’ehlanyane is part of the Maluti-Drakensberg Transboundary Conservation Area, and is located right in front of the country’s Highlands, namely the Mulati Mountains.
This park protects more than 5,500 hectares of forests and mountains located in a very spectacular environment. To get there, you will follow the outline of the Hlotse river, crossing a valley with very, very beautiful local villages; until you reach the entrance of the national park, located just under an hour from the city of Butha-Buthe.
Ts’ehlanyane National Park has an altitude ranging from 1,940 to 3,112 meters and was formed to protect all the wildlife around the junction of the Ts’ehlanyane and Holomo rivers and the Lesotho Water Project Highlands (if you want to know more about the importance of water in Lesotho, we recommend you read the following article about Katse Dam). This park includes one of the few remaining native forests in Lesotho, with understory plants that are unique to this habitat. Also, due to its altitudinal variety, we find steep mountains and many hiking options where, many of them, you need to be in good physical condition.
In addition, up to 24 species of small and medium-sized mammals can be found in Ts’ehlanyane including the African wildcat, black-backed jackal, porcupine, caracal, baboon; among others. It is not a park that stands out for its presence of animals, but for its scenic beauty and for the different excursions you can do to enjoy the views of the Highlands and the mountains of Lesotho. For this reason, we consider it one of the essential (and rarely visited) places during your trip to this small country on the African continent.
How to get there?
There is only one entrance gate to access Ts’ehlanyane National Park. This is located just before the Maliba Lodge, a luxury accommodation located inside the park and from where different activities are organized.
Therefore, to get to Ts’ehlanyane NP we will have to take a 32 kilometer road that is in very good condition and that follows, at the end, the Hlotse river. This road is taken from the A1, 6 kilometers south of the town of Butha-Buthe and 22 kilometers north of Leribe (also known as Hlotse).
This 32 kilometer road passes through different local towns such as Matsohani or Khabos, which are centers located next to the asphalt where you can see the daily life of the Basotho people. Therefore, you will have to watch out for the shepherds, animals and people you will cross during your journey to get to Ts’ehlanyane NP, a park that can be accessed very easily with any type of vehicle.
Permits and prices
To enter Ts’ehlanyane NP you have to pay an entrance fee of 50 Lotis per person (which is equivalent to 50 South African Rands as the value of Lesotho’s currency is equal to the value of the Rand). At the exchange during the time we went there (April 2022), it was 3 euros per person. Separately, a vehicle fee of 20 Lotis per person will have to be paid. Therefore, if you are two people and a car, you will have to pay a total of 120 Lotis which is equivalent to about 7.20 euros in total, a very economical park in order to enjoy a very beautiful day of hiking.
Consider that we are in one of the countries with the highest altitude in the world. Therefore, it is very likely that during the winter you can find snow at the entrance to the park and that excursions will be restricted. Therefore, for us the best time to go is from November to April, where we can enjoy the green environment and the views of Lesotho from Ts’ehlanyane NP.
What to do in Ts’ehlanyane NP?
We spent a whole day in Ts’ehlanyane NP without spending the night there, as we went to sleep in Leribe. In the national park, the main activity we recommend is hiking, as there are several routes to enjoy the beauty of this park. In that link you can find a map of the different options. Among the activities to do at Ts’ehlanyane, we highlight:
– Do the circular trekking that goes up to the top of the mountains
This is the route we took. In fact, we did not complete it as it is quite a long route, and we reached the top of the mountain from where you can see different waterfalls, and returned on the same side. If you complete it, this route has a distance of 13 kilometers.
We left the car in the car park, right after paying the entrance fee, and from there we walked to the other side of the Maliba Lodge, following a cart path that passes by the grounds of the accommodation After crossing a small river, taking off our shoes, we began to gain altitude passing through narrow paths.
As we gained height, the views behind us were more and more spectacular. The Lowlands were at our feet, while we continued to climb towards the Highlands, traveling through one of the most spectacular national parks in Lesotho.
The way up was demanding, and we took short breaks to enjoy the entire horizon in front of us. On the way, we crossed paths with 3 shepherds tending some sheep and coming down from the Highlands. They were jumping up and down at an incredible speed, while trying to control the small flock of sheep that accompanied them.
It was already around noon, and we saw that it was very difficult to make the full circle, so when we were already close to the top, Laia stopped to rest and Esteve climbed without bags to the top to enjoy the views From the top, the views were incredible. You could see the whole prospect of the Lowlands, the falls and, close by, the Highlands. We were on the border between these two parts of Lesotho, in a very beautiful unspoiled environment.
After a short time, Esteve went down to find Laia again who was lying on a rock resting and contemplating the landscape. There, we had lunch and went back down the same route until we reached the car park. This hiking route is one of the most popular, and you can find its description here.
– Do other hiking routes through the park
Apart from the circular route that we explained in the first section, in Ts’ehlanyane NP you can do other excursions such as:
– The Cave Trail: From a distance of about 8 kilometers round trip, this route climbs about 500 meters in height until you reach some caves. The departure point is right next to the park parking lot, and it is recommended that park workers be notified that this route will be taken because it is more remote than the rest.
– The Waterfall Trail: This route of almost 9 kilometers leaves Maliba Lodge and reaches a valley that leads to the falls. It is a demanding route, and you can combine it with the circular route that we did, but we recommend that you start early as it is a long route, and more so if you stop to take different snapshots (which, surely, will be the case because the landscape is brutal).
– Upper Trail: This route is much less demanding than the others. With a distance of 3 kilometers, this route leaves Maliba Lodge and reaches the Black Pool, located 1 hour and 20 minutes from the start.
– Lower Trail: Another quiet route is this excursion that will last approximately 3 hours (round trip). It is a route that follows the Hlotse river and is very uneven, which makes it an ideal activity if you want to do it with children.
You will find more information about these excursions in the following link.
– Run the Lesotho Ultra Trail
For those who are lovers of mountain races, different races are held in the Ts’helanyane NP area in the month of November. You can run a mountain marathon, a 50km Ultra and a 21km half marathon, traveling the different paths that are part of the park and enjoying the spectacular views that this environment provides. For more information, you can click here.
Where to sleep in Ts’ehlanyane NP?
If you want to sleep inside the park, we will only have an option suitable for those travelers who go with a medium-high budget. For this reason, below we will also explain other options that are located in Leribe and near Butha-Buthe:
– Maliba Mountain Lodge: For those who like luxury, this five-star accommodation is located at the start of Ts’ehlanyane NP. It has different types of rooms and all possible services. There is no option for camping. Despite being the only accommodation in the park, we decided not to go there because it was too expensive for our budget and we drove another hour to Leribe. For more information, you can click here.
– Bird Haven Guesthouse Leribe: This is one of the accommodations with the best quality-price ratio in the area. Leribe, also known as Hlotse, is a town located on the A1 main road, one hour from the entrance to the park. It has different types of rooms with different names of birds with breakfast included and parking. In Leribe (or Hlotse) there are different restaurants to go for a meal or beer. If you want more information about this accommodation you can click here.
– Mamohase Homestay: This accommodation, brought by Moruti, is located near the Liphofung Caves. It is located past the city of Butha-Buthe, an hour and a half from the entrance to the park. From there, you can access the A1 road to reach the Highlands. You can only pay in cash. We camped with our car for 70 malutis per person/night (€4.20). It also has cabins and rooms. For more information you can call +26659047042.