The Drakensberg extends from just north of Hoedspruit in the Northern Province 1,000km (620 miles) south to the mountain kingdom of Lesotho, where a series of spectacular peaks some 240km (149 miles) long creates the western border of KwaZulu-Natal. It is this border most people refer to when they speak of the Drakensberg. Known as uKhahlamba (Barrier of Spears) to the Zulus, they were renamed "Dragon Mountains" by the Trekkers seeking to cross them. Both are apt descriptions of South Africa's premier mountain wilderness -- the second-largest range in Africa, venerated for centuries by the ancient San people, who have made it the world's largest open-air gallery, with more than 35,000 images painted at 600 sites.

The main range falls within uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, a 243,000-hectare (600,210-acre) semicircle that forms the western boundary of the province. Of this, the northern and central sections are the most spectacular, with majestic peaks surrounding grassed valleys fed by crystal-clear streams and pools -- a hiker's paradise. The lower slopes of the Drakensberg are also breathtaking yet allow for a gentler, easier hike. The entire region is home to some 290 species of birds and 48 species of mammals. You don't have to be a particularly fit walker to appreciate the San rock paintings, to spot rare raptors, or to simply enjoy the chance to breathe the air in the aptly named Champagne Valley or Cathedral Peak. To enjoy the benefits of this World Heritage Site, all you need is a couple of days, a car, and the following information.