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The Mother of All Mountain Passes

Situated between KwaZulu Natal and Lesotho the Sani Pass is the mother of all South African Mountain Passes. The road connects the KZN town of Underberg with Mokhotlong in Lesotho.

Distance 26,9 km
Gradient average 1:20
Gradient maximum 1:3
Summit 2876 m
Surface Gravel

Many local and international visitors travel here to tackle the notorious Sani Pass which provides some of the country’s most breath-taking views imaginable. It was built in 1950 and remains a rather challenging drive even in a 4x4 vehicle. The South African authorities may refuse you permission to drive the Pass if they deem your vehicle unfit to tackle the conditions, this is for your own safety, and many visitors prefer to take guided tour to the top on the mountain. These tours can be booked with a tour group in Underberg.

The Sani Pass Trail is 26 kilometres long, one way, and can take between two and four hours to complete, depending on whether travellers are doing a one way or return trip. Please note both Boarder Control points close at 18h00 so make sure you allow yourself enough time as you do not want to be caught between the two borders.

The Sani Pass takes drivers over an exciting combination of rocks, boulders, gravel, mud and even areas that have succumbed to rock falls. In the winter, ice and snow are common in parts of the trail, challenging drivers to handle the slippery conditions. The first half is just a casual drive, compared to what is waiting higher up the pass. Very steep gradients of up to 1:3 with loose rocks, mud, ice, and snow can all be encountered on this section.

As you ascend, the final six switchbacks near the summit will prove just why only 4WD vehicles are allowed to drive this pass. This section is preferably driven in low range 2nd and 3rd gears. At the summit highest pub in Southern Africa, which makes for an excellent stop-over for refreshments. The guided tours can also arrange for a cultural visit and tour at the summit.

The Sani Pass provides all the drama, scenery, bad weather and treacherous conditions expected of a Pass with a summit altitude of 2876m ASL. That equates to 9400 feet and at 10,000 feet aircraft need pressurised cabins! Make sure you come prepared!

Thing to do and see

  • View Points
  • Waterfalls
  • Mountain Views
  • Hiking
  • Cycling
  • Sani Mountain Hotel & Pub


Optional free self-drive 4x4 route or guided tours are available. Guided tour operators can be found in Underberg and booking is essential

Only during daylight hours

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