Your wish list for your next vacation: an off-the-beaten-path location, gorgeous scenery, plenty of outdoor activities to keep you occupied, and a comfortable place to relax when you don’t want to be occupied. Patagonia, Switzerland, and New Zealand immediately come to mind. But those areas are already well-explored. You’re looking for something different. Something like Lesotho.
Lesotho isn’t on any travel wish lists. At least not many. This tiny African country, entirely surrounded by South Africa, is the home of the Sotho people, who first settled the area in the 5th century. The land is filled with mountains, rivers, and friendly people. It’s easily accessible and completely underrated. Plus, it has a national park with everything you’re looking for in a destination.
Ts’ehlanyane National Park is a quick, 45-minute drive from the South African border. Lesotho’s largest national park is part of the Maloti Mountains. It sits at the foot of the Holomo Pass and along the Hlotse River. Fynbos shrubs, spiral aloe plants, and basalt rock formations dot the landscape. Bearded vultures and lanner falcons keep watch overhead. Lots of animals—including African wildcats, black-backed jackals, and baboons—call the park home. While a little lodge, the Maliba Mountain Lodge, is perfectly positioned on a high ridge.
When you arrive at the Maliba Mountain Lodge, your jaw drops. The view from the main lodge’s deck is that spectacular. High peaks, green hillsides, and a steep drop to the river are in front of you. An Alpine swift glides effortlessly over the valley. Tables and couches are spread out for optimal viewing on the deck. And behind you, the thatched-roof lodge has open fireplaces and local artwork.
If the view from the main lodge already reminds you of New Zealand, then your chalet looks like it belongs on a Middle-earth movie set. The little hut is made of stone and thatch. It’s rounded roof blends into the hillside. A fireplace, antique furniture, and pops of red decorate the interior. The floors, the wall panels, and the towel racks are heated; they’ll keep you warm when the temperature dips at night. But once again, the view is the most-stunning feature.
After settling in at the lodge, you’ll spend the next few days exploring the park. Hike the Waterfall Trail to find an overgrown waterfall and a few bushbucks or the Cave Trail to see Litsumi Cave and possibly porcupines. Ride a Basotho pony, who is very familiar with the rugged mountain trails. Claim a swimming hole as your own to cool off in during the midday heat. See people dressed in traditional wool Basotho blankets, the sagoma (witch doctor), and the shebeen (local pub) on a visit to a nearby village. And sip a glass of South African Shiraz back at the main lodge. You’re completely occupied by the view.