Lesotho A Southern African alpine discovery trail

lesotho house
A settlement in Lesotho, a poor, mostly rural country encircled by South Africa.

Fully encircled by South Africa, Lesotho is a unique country set high in the mountains, its natural beauty beginning to become more discovered as greater numbers of tourists cross over the border

Wholly contained within South Africa and sustaining a long history of political autonomy, Lesotho is one of the region’s most scenic little countries.

Surrounded by mountains and home to a growing tourism industry, it is one of just three countries in the world to be completely surrounded by another country, the others being the Vatican City and the Republic of San Marino, both encircled by Italy.

Being in such proximity to a well-developed nation such as South Africa makes accessing Lesotho relatively straightforward from the likes of Durban and Johannesburg, although the terrain and culture to be found here is contrasting.

An alpine nation, one of the best ways of experiencing its customs and traditions is to hike and trek through the mountain villages, pony trekking being renowned as a particularly memorable activity.

And more and more people are beginning to enjoy the natural sights on offer in Lesotho, the country attracting over a million international visitors in 2018, a marked increase on the 400,000 welcomed just seven years previously. Its capital city, Maseru, is also thought to be one of the most attractive cities in the whole of Southern Africa.

The Business End

Lesotho’s economy is heavily reliant on South African input, the two countries operating in a customs union and sharing important infrastructure such as communications networks and the Highlands Water Project.

The latter is a large-scale water transfer scheme that exports water to South Africa and produces hydroelectric power for Lesotho, a vital power resource for the nation and a project which took off in the 1980s and saw the first phase completed in 1997 with the building of the Katse Da and the Muela Hydroelectric Power Station (inaugurated in 1999).

Manufacturing is a new addition to Lesotho’s economic output, albeit dominated by small-scale enterprises producing goods such as furniture, ceramics and jewellery.

Tourism is considered to be a strong growth opportunity, this optimism reflected in recent statistics which point towards an expanding sector.

For example, in 2018 tourist arrivals hit 1.2 million, a figure which represents a 3.1 percent increase on 2017 according to the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation. In monetary terms, this equated to M488 million in revenue (excluding domestic expenditure), economic activity which has resulted in the creation of around 2,700 jobs.

The country has done much to develop its tourism base, building roads and pony trails while also investing in hotels and ski resort facilities.

Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation

The Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) is a parastatal organisation established in 2002, its mandate to promote tourism in the country.

It is a semi-autonomous organisation with its board of directors mostly comprising private sector representatives. LTDC is mandated to provide leadership in the development of a strong and vibrant tourism industry which contributes to sustainable economic growth, job creation, poverty alleviation, and protection of the natural and cultural environment.