The Drakensberg ("Dragon Mountains" in Afrikaans) mountains are the highest in South Africa, ranging up to 3,482 m (11,422 ft) in height. To the Zulus they are uKhahlamba, the "barrier of spears".
They are located in the eastern part of South Africa, running for some 1000 km (600 mi) generally southwest to northeast, with a northwesterly bend forming the northeastern border of Lesotho with South Africa. They are drained on the west by the Orange and Vaal rivers, and on the east and south by a number of smaller rivers, the Tugela being the largest. The range thus separates KwaZulu-Natal Province from Orange Free State, looming over the nearby coast of Natal.
The highest peak is Thabana-Ntlenyana at 3,482 m (11,422 ft). Other notable peaks include eNjesuthi at 3,446 m, Makoaneng at 3,416 m, Champagne Castle at 3,375 m, Giant's Castle at 3,313 m, and Ben Macdhui at 3,002 m. All of these are in the area bordering on Lesotho; north of Lesotho the range gradually becomes lower and less rugged.
Geologically, the Drakensberg is a remnant of the original African plateau. The mountains are capped by a layer of basalt up to 1,500 m thick, with sandstone lower down, resulting in a combination of steep-sided blocks and pinnacles. Caves are frequent in the sandstone, and many have rock paintings by the San peoples.
Snow falls regularly in the winter, while rains and mists can occur year-round.
Many of the Drakensberg peaks offer challenging mountaineering. While the major summits have all been attained in recent years, a number of minor pinnacles have yet to be ascended.
Tourism in the Drakensberg has been developing, with a variety of hotels and resorts appearing on the slopes. Most of the South African side of high part of the range has been designated as game reserve or wilderness area.