Sani Mountain Lodge - The Highest Pub in Africa
You’ve made it to the top of the Sani Pass without falling over the edge and tumbling down the mountain. You never really thought you would fall off the edge, but still… a beer would be nice.
Thankfully, there’s a pub for that!
First though, we have to get into Lesotho.
When you get near the top of the pass you’re inside the thickest part of the clouds, and visibility around the last few torturously steep hairpin bends is almost zero.
Then you break through, and you’re above the clouds, and the sun is shining.
It’s a strange feeling, like you’re in a Lost World above the clouds, invisible to the Earth-dwellers. Like Jack and the Beanstalk, you’ve reached an unknown realm of the giants.
But it’s not the kingdom of giants. It’s the Kingdom of Lesotho.
Border formalities are just a cursory check and a quick stamp of the passport. Maybe they do things quickly because it’s so windy! Exposed on the edge of the cliff, the wind howls through.
A quick stop for souvenirs. There’s not much else here. The border gate, the gift shop, the few buildings that make up the lodge, and a scattering of vehicles. Day-trippers being driven up by guides, and overland adventurers having an amazing time doing it themselves.
If you come to Sani Pass, self-drive is the only way to do it.
Apart from that, there’s just an empty, rocky, barren landscape, stretching out to some distant hills.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that at the highest pub in Africa it really is windy. So much so that there is a special parking procedure at Sani Mountain Lodge.
Here’s the accommodation for the night. There are various options at Sani Mountain Lodge, but if you try camping then you’d better be visiting in good weather and have very strong tent pegs, and a good hammer, to stop your tent being blown away down the mountain in the night.
The traditional style Rondavel huts are very cosy. They are basic, but there is a shower and a toilet and a comfy bed. There’s also a wood burning stove and a pile of wood. A little bucket of coal, too.
It looks very quaint and at first you might think it is just for show, but later on you will come to realise what a wonderful thing it is to have.
One more item, looking very out of place. A small crystal decanter of sherry. Something else that you will also learn to appreciate later on.
The highest pub in Africa is a very special place.
On the outside it’s this strange mountain top outpost, remote and rugged. On the inside it’s a cosy little pub and you could be at the top of hill in Yorkshire. Comfy old chairs, crackling fires, a lazy old dog lying at your feet, and the wind howling outside and whistling past the shaky old windows.
Once you’ve had a beer to celebrate conquering the Sani Pass, you can head out onto the plateau for a bit of hiking, and to watch the few tour vehicles departing to make their way down the pass before nightfall.
The tour vehicles leave, darkness arrives suddenly, and it’s time to join in the fun in the highest pub in Africa.
Dinner at Sani Mountain Lodge is a friendly, group affair. There is bench seating around the tables like a Wagamama, and you just join in with some strangers to share a drink and talk about the journey.
Dinner is a set menu because there are no supermarkets or wholesalers up here. Food and drink is all brought up the pass or across the plateau from a great distance. You will get what you’re given and everyone gets the same. And you won’t be disappointed.
Tonight there is roast lamb and roast veg. It’s as good as you’d get if you really were at a pub in Yorkshire, minus the Yorkshire pudding.
Seriously, I’m at the top of a mountain pass in the Kingdom of Lesotho, there’s an old Labrador lying in front of a real fire, and I’m eating roast lamb, roast potatoes, carrots, and peas, and there’s even mint sauce!
Add a glass of South African red wine and the 50mph wind is howling outside. It enhances the feeling of adventure, and the community aspect of the dining arrangement makes you feel like a small group of Arctic explorers.
After several beers and several rambling group chats about travel and overlanding, it’s time for bed.
Back in your little Rondavel hut, someone has been in and lit the fire. The woodburner is in full force, trying hard to throw its heat to the far edges of the hut but not quite reaching. There’s a chill, an edge, not enough to be uncomfortable, but enough to remind you that you’re alive. Goosebumps as the wind whistles through the thatched roof.
You realise now why there is an incongruous little bottle of sherry in your room. It’s the perfect nightcap. Just enough to take the edge off that chill, and to settle you in for the night.
A night listening to the howling wind, occasionally leaving the warmth of the bed to throw another lump of coal and a chunk of wood into the burner. Knowing you should go to sleep, but simply enjoying it too much to want to miss any of it.
Africa is full of highlights, but Sani Mountain Lodge, whether you stay the night or just stop for a pint at the highest pub in Africa, will be one of the most memorable.
In the morning, the wind has blown away the clouds, the sun is rising, and you get an early glimpse of what’s to come. The thrilling ride back down the Sani Pass.
How to book Sani Mountain Lodge
The best way to book Sani Mountain Lodge and spend night at the highest pub in Africa is through hotels.com, where you can earn or redeem free night credit (one free night for every 10 that you stay).
There are double rooms and family rooms with 2 double beds and 2 bunk beds.
If you want the backpacker dorms or the camping, then you need to book direct with Sani Mountain Lodge.
For other accommodation in the area on the approach to Sani Pass, click the button below.
Sani Pass car hire
The drive up the pass is thrilling and exciting, but it’s not actually all that difficult in dry conditions. You will feel like you’ve done something amazing and you will have powerful memories, but it’s entirely within reach of an average driver with no prior off-road experience.
You need four-wheel drive, and it has to be a proper off-road capable 4×4, not just an ordinary road car with four-wheel drive.
If you don’t have four-wheel drive and good ground clearance, then you’ll be stopped at the border post and sent back.
A proper off roader like a Landcruiser will be no problem, but even a four-wheel drive SUV like a Rav4 or a Sportage or a Tucson should be fine. Just not an ordinary car.
The best thing to do is to tell the hire company where you intend to go, and make sure they approve and give you the necessary paperwork.
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