Lesotho Basic Facts:Lesotho is a mountainous kingdom in southern Africa, home to the hospitable Basotho people. Lesotho has the highest low point of any country in the world. It's raw beauty attracts hikers, horseback (Basotho pony) riders and even skiers, because yes -- it snows in Lesotho! Lesotho is a relatively poor country, but rich in cultural tradition and natural beauty.
Location: Lesotho is located in southern Africa and is surrounded by the Republic of South Africa -- see map.
Area: Lesotho covers an area of 30,355 sq km, about the size of Belgium
Capital City: Maseru is the capital of Lesotho, (considered the least populated capital city in Africa).
Population: Around 2 million people live in Lesotho
Language: Official languages are Sesotho and English, and there are also Xhosa and Zulu speakers.
Religion: The vast majority of Sotho are Christian (80%), and the remaining population subscribes to indigenous beliefs (20%)
Climate: Summer are hot with plenty of rain, but winters ( May - July) can get very chilly with snow covering the mountains.
When to Go: The best time to travel to Lesotho is when it is dry but not too cold from August - October, a great time to enjoy the spring flowers.
Lesotho's Main Activities and Attractions
- Pony-Trekking - The sure-footed Basotho pony is the perfect vehicle to get around the beautiful Lesotho highlands, since roads between villages are scarce. You can opt for a few hours of trail riding or multi- day treks. Given their gentle nature, Basotho ponies are perfect for a novice rider.
- The Maletsunyane Falls (or Semonkong Falls) -- the highest single drop waterfall in Africa ends in a gorgeous swimming hole. In the winter the spray freezes creating an ice dome - spectacular to say the least.
- Ts’ehlanyane National Park - hiking trails, rock pools, alpine forests and clear rivers make this national park a wonderful destination for nature lovers. Treat yourself to a few nights at the Maliba Mountain Lodge.
- Sehlabethebe National Park - The oldest national park in Lesotho, Sehlabathebe is characterized by its remote, rugged beauty. You'll need a 4x4 to get here, but if peace and solitude is what you enjoy, don't hesitate to visit. Hiking and pony-trekking is the best way to experience the park.
Travel to LesothoMost people travel to Lesotho as part of a southern African itinerary, and they get to Lesotho via South Africa by either by car or plane.
Lesotho's International Airport: Flights come into Lesotho's Moshoeshoe International airport in Maseru from Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg. if you are flying in from the US, Europe or Asia, you'll change planes in Johannesburg. Flights from Johannesburg to Maseru take around an hour.
Getting to Lesotho by Land: Luxury interstate buses between Maseru, the capital and many of South Africa's cities leave daily. You can easily drive into Lesotho from South Africa, but beware that a 4x4 is useful if you want to visit many some of the country's more remote attractions like the Sani Pass. And let the car rental company know you are planning to go to Lesotho.
Lesotho's Embassies/Visas: Most nationalities can get into Lesotho without a visa, as long as your stay is less than 14 days - check with local embassy for up to date information.
Lesotho's Economy and PoliticsEconomy: Small, landlocked, and mountainous, Lesotho relies on remittances from Basotho employed in South Africa, customs duties from the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU), and export revenue for the majority of government revenue. However, the government has recently strengthened its tax system to reduce dependency on customs duties. Completion of a major hydropower facility in January 1998 permitted the sale of water to South Africa and generated royalties for Lesotho. Lesotho produces about 90% of its own electrical power needs. As the number of mineworkers has declined steadily over the past several years, a small manufacturing base has developed based on farm products that support the milling, canning, leather, and jute industries, as well as an apparel-assembly sector. Despite Lesotho's market-based economy being heavily tied to its neighbor South Africa, the US is an important trade partner because of the export sector's heavy dependence on apparel exports. Exports have grown significantly because of the trade benefits contained in the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act. Most of the labor force is engaged in subsistence agriculture, especially livestock herding, although drought has decreased agricultural activity. The extreme inequality in the distribution of income remains a major drawback. Lesotho has signed an Interim Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility with the IMF. In July 2007, Lesotho signed a Millennium Challenge Account Compact with the US worth $362.5 million. Economic growth dropped in 2009, due mainly to the effects of the global economic crisis as demand for the country's exports declined and SACU revenue fell precipitously when South Africa - the primary contributor to the SACU revenue pool - went into recession, but growth returned to 3.5% in 2010.
Brief History and Politics: Basutoland was renamed the Kingdom of Lesotho upon independence from the UK in 1966. The Basuto National Party ruled for the first two decades. King Moshoeshoe was exiled in 1990, but returned to Lesotho in 1992 and was reinstated in 1995 and subsequently succeeded by his son, King LETSIE III, in 1996. Constitutional government was restored in 1993 after seven years of military rule. In 1998, violent protests and a military mutiny following a contentious election prompted a brief but bloody intervention by South African and Botswana military forces under the aegis of the Southern African Development Community. Subsequent constitutional reforms restored relative political stability. Peaceful parliamentary elections were held in 2002, but the National Assembly elections of February 2007 were hotly contested and aggrieved parties continue to dispute how the electoral law was applied to award proportional seats in the Assembly.