20 interesting facts about Lesotho

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We share the most interesting facts about Lesotho collected on our brief but breathtaking visit to the ‘Kingdom of the Sky’

We had only 36 hours in the tiny Kingdom of Lesotho, but it turned out to be a gem of a trip, throwing up plenty of surprises along the way. We reached Lesotho via the twisty Sani Pass with a local expert.

Lesotho is tiny and one of the least-known countries in the world, yet it is a land full of fascinating facts. A mere 36 hours was nowhere near enough and we’ve pledged to return one day.

For now, we share the most interesting facts about Lesotho we learnt during our trip.

Interesting facts about Lesotho

1. Lesotho was formerly known as Basutoland. The country’s full name today is ‘The Kingdom of Lesotho’ and it gained independence from the UK in 1966 after 100 years of colonial rule.
(Source: BBC)

2. The Sani Pass in Lesotho has been named one of the world’s most dangerous mountain passes. The hairpinned pass connects Underberg in South Africa with Mokhotlong in Lesotho.
(Source: Smithsonian)

The twisting Sani Pass in Lesotho
VAIZ HA; CC BY 2.0 The hairpinned Sani Pass descending towards South Africa

3. Lesotho is a landlocked country: a country surrounded by land with no access to the sea. There are currently 45 such countries and five partially recognised states. The vast majority of these countries suffer economically due to the drawbacks caused by a lack of access to the sea.
(Source: The Economist)

4. Being surrounded entirely by South Africa makes Lesotho not only landlocked but also one of just three enclave countries. The other two are San Marino and Vatican City (both surrounded entirely by Italy).
(Source: Britannica)

An interesting map showing how Lesotho is an enclave of South Africa
Mandavi; CC BY 3.0 Lesotho is that it is one of just three enclave countries in the world

5. Lesotho roughly translates as ‘Land of the Sesotho Speakers’.
(Source: CIA World Factbook)

6. An individual in Lesotho is known as a Mosotho, the people (as a collective) are called Basotho and the official language is Sesotho.
(Source: Oxford University Press)

7. Lesotho’s flag is a blue, white and green striped tricolour design. Blue stands for the sky or rain, white for peace, and green for prosperity. At its centre, is a black silhouette depicting a traditional Basotho straw hat known as a mokorotlo.
(Source: DK Publishing (2008) Complete Flags of the World. DK: London)

Lesotho's flag flying against a blue wispy sky
Design_Bank/Shutterstock Lesotho’s flag has a tricolour design

8. Lesotho is the ‘world’s highest country’… sort of. It has the ‘highest lowest point’ of any other country: 1,400m (4,593ft).
(Source: The Commonwealth)

9. Lesotho is also the only independent state which exists entirely above 1,000m (3,281ft), hence its nickname, ‘Kingdom of the Sky’. Additionally, Lesotho is one of only two countries that lie on average above 2,000m (6,561ft), the other being Kyrgyzstan.
(Source: The Telegraph)

Peter stood next to a sign saying highest point 3240m
Atlas & Boots Peter at the highest point in Lesotho

10. Lesotho is one of a handful of places in Africa where it’s possible to ski. Afriski is located in the Maluti Mountains with a maximum altitude of 3,222m (10,571ft).
(Source: The Atlantic)

11. Lesotho is home to one of the scariest runways in the world. The Matekane Air Strip is a high-elevation airstrip with a runway that extends to the edge of a 600m (1,968ft) cliff.
(Source: CNN)

A drone shot of the runway on the edge of a cliff
Tom Claytor; CC BY 2.0 The Matekane Air Strip at the edge of a 600m (1,968ft) cliff

12. Lesotho has a dinosaur named after it. The Lesothosaurus evolved in the early Jurassic period, just over 200 million years ago. Early fossils were uncovered in Lesotho.
(Source: National Geographic)

13. In 2017, one of the largest dinosaur footprints ever found was discovered in Lesotho. Measuring 57cm, the footprint comes from a dinosaur named Kayentapus ambrokholohali. A relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex, it is estimated to be 2.7m tall and 9m long, making it one of the largest dinosaurs to ever roam Africa.
(Source: Africa Geographic)

The dinosaur footprints found in Lesotho with a person next to it to demonstrate its size
University of Cape Town The dinosaur footprints found in Lesotho

14. In 2018, one of the largest diamonds ever discovered was found in Lesotho. Weighing 910 carats – more than a baseball – it is the fifth-largest rough diamond ever found, and the largest in Lesotho’s history.
(Source: New York Times)

15. A quarter of the population of Lesotho are HIV-positive. The country has the second-highest HIV prevalence rate in the world, after Swaziland.
(Source: The Guardian)

16. The highest pub in Africa is in Lesotho. The Sani Mountain Lodge sits at 2,874m (9,429ft) above sea level just after the border between South Africa and Lesotho.
(Source: BBC)

The Sani Mountain Lodge
Atlas & Boots Africa’s highest pub is in Lesotho

17. Lesotho has one of the highest adult literacy rates in Africa with 70.1% for men and 88.3% for women.
(Source: CIA World Factbook)

18. There are still cave dwellers in Lesotho. The Ha Kome Cave Houses form a group of cave dwellings made out of mud in the district of Berea. The caves are still inhabited by the descendants of the original Basia clan residing in the region.
(Source: Lonely Planet)

19. Lesotho only has one UNESCO World Heritage Site and it shares that with South Africa. The Maloti-Drakensberg Park is a transnational heritage site made up of the Sehlathebe National Park in Lesotho and the uKhahlamba Drakensberg National Park in South Africa.
(Source: UNESCO)

20. Lesotho has a waterfall nearly four times the height of Niagara Falls in America. Maletsunyane Falls has a drop of 192m (630ft) compared to Niagara’s 51m (167ft).
(Source: Encyclopædia Britannica)

Lonely Planet South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland includes a comprehensive guide to Lesotho covering a range of activities and destinations along with many more interesting facts about Lesotho.

Lead image: Atlas & Boots

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