Destination in brief
Lesotho in brief
Lesotho is a barely known, tiny country in southern Africa. This mountain kingdom is a landlocked enclave entirely encircled by the eastern part of the South African Republic.
Lesotho was a British colony (called Basutoland) and gained independence in 1966.
Size: 30,355 km² (11,720 mi²) – The entire territory lies over 1,000 meters (3280 ft) high, so the climate is outright pleasant, not tropical - Lesotho is the highest country in the world and is often nicknamed the “Kingdom in the Sky”!
May-September is winter in Lesotho. Minus 7°C (-19°F), in higher areas even minus 18°C (-0.4°F) temperatures are not unusual (in Africa!)
Johannesburg, in South Africa, is a 55-minute flight away from Maseru.
Capital city: Maseru
Population: 2.2 million (2020) – Lesotho is a mono-ethnic state - its people are called the Basotho. - 75% live in rural areas
The traditional clothing of the Basotho people is a blanket. This is a beautiful patterned woolen garment that all locals wear proudly.
Many locals have at least one family member working in South Africa, mostly on farms or in the mines. These family members send remittances (money) back home to support the family in Lesotho.
Lesotho has the highest adult literacy rate of any country in Africa, with a literacy rate of 85% for women and 67% for men. It must be noted that Lesotho is very likely the only African country where female literacy rate supersedes male literacy rate, and by quite a wide margin too.
Languages: English is the language of the official administration and business life, while the other official language, Sesotho (or Sotho) is the language used in everyday life. Zulu and Xhosa are widely spoken as well.
The name of the country comes from the Sesotho language and means: the place of the people who speak Sesotho.
With the aid of missionaries, Sesotho was translated into written form long before the colonial era.
Religions: Mostly Christian (48% Protestant, 40% Catholic)
Political & economic situation (April 2020): Lesotho is a constitutional monarchy – the king has a mostly ceremonial role. The Prime Minister has real executive power.
The small country is in no way free from political turbulences, but these somehow remain mostly within the framework of democracy.
Poverty and unemployment rates are high, violent crime is widespread, and there are many reports of rape and abuse against women.
The economy in Lesotho is dominantly driven by manufacturing, agriculture, and tourism.
A diamond mine in Lesotho, called the Letšeng mine is famous for its large, top-quality diamonds. These diamonds are allegedly the most valuable diamonds in the world.
Currency: Lesotho loti (LSL)
Average net monthly salary: 270 USD (2020)
More than 50% of the population is very poor, with many still living in thatched-roof huts made from bricks and mud. These huts are called rondavels. People in urban areas, however, live in reasonably modern houses and multi-story buildings.
Most common surname: Mohapi
Lesotho is a left-driving country.
Safety (May 2020):
Lesotho is a relatively safe tourist destination by African standards.
Lesotho has the second-highest HIV/AIDS rate in the world (number one is nearby Swaziland) – 25% of the population over 15 years of age is infected with HIV.
When to visit? April September-October
Top tourist attractions:
Ukhahlamba/Drakensberg NP (shared with South Arica), Sehlabethebe NP, Malealea, Maletsunyane Waterfall (the highest in Southern Africa), Sani Pass, Afriski (for skiing in Africa!), Katse Dam
Lesotho is a veritable heaven for bird-watchers and ornithologists.