Thabana Ntlenyana, which literally means "Beautiful little mountain", is the highest point in The Kingdom of Lesotho, a landlocked country and enclave, entirely surrounded by the Republic of South Africa. It is also the highest mountain in southern Africa (south of Kilimanjaro). Thabana Ntlenyana is situated on the ridge of the Drakensberg mountains near Sani Pass, a spectacular mountain road that is a well-known entry point into Lesotho from South Africa’s Natal Drakensberg Park.
Lesotho is the only independent state in the world that lies entirely above 1,400 metres (4,593 ft), which you'll find out pretty fast if you try to enter the country. It is also the highest country in the world by lowest point on land, and over 80% of the country lies above 1800m (5,906 ft). I recall doing over 15 3000m (9,842ft) mountains in a single day in Lesotho on one occasion and there were plenty more to climb.
Because of its altitude, Lesotho can't really be compared with South Africa. It does however receive most rain in summer(thunderstorms are quite common in the Drakensberg mountains during this period). The temperature in summer can run up to 30 °C (86 °F) and gets down to -18 °C (-0.4 °F) in winter. Snow is common in between May and September and the higher peaks can experience snowfalls year-round.
From South Africa’s Natal Drakensberg Park (KwaZulu-Natal) you can drive up Sani Pass in a 4x4. In itself, this is quite the adventure as the route is flanked by steep drops and has 22 hair-pin bends. There are plenty of wrecks in the valley testifying to mistakes having been made. Note that only 4x4 vehicles are allowed on the pass! Their are also 4x4 minibusses going up there, but I'd avoid them. Alternatively, you could walk or cycle up the road. I'm not too sure if it's a good idea to do this, due to the narrow and quite busy road up.
From Maseru (the nearest major airport), take the route around the border, the A3 to Butha-Buthe and then the A1 to Mokhotlong, you will find it is all paved road, with one exceedingly steep pass shortly after passing Butha Buthe. The road from Mokhotlong to Sani Pass is gravel and you should take either a 4x4 or a very sturdy pick-up. Difficult to estimate the time it will take you, but not more than a couple of hours from Maseru to Butha-Buthe (and to Clarens) and probably a bit less from Butha-Buthe to Mokhotlong. But from Mokhothlong to Sani Top might take another 2 hours, but would depend on the road surface at the time.
When To Climb
May, June, July and August are the best months, but it can be climbed all year round.
Sani Top Chalet to the summit of Thabana-Ntlenyana is a 13km long hike which should take about 8 - 9 hours. Guides are recommended, but with a good map (note: only height lines will be available on these maps as there is nothing else!) you can easily do it yourself.
Sani Top Chalet, the highest pub in Africa and a backpackers location, offers rondavels to backpacking facilities and camping. Electricity is sometimes available, but don't count on it! Water might be frozen in winter or unavailable due to draught in summer. Guides and horse treks to the mountains are also available from the pub.
Sani Top Chalet: 29°35'08 S, 29°17'14 E.
Camping is allowed and one of the better places to do this might be along the river you meet en route. Note that when I was there, this river was dry, so take enough water.