In the lowlands of Lesotho, Maseru, which began life as a 19th century British administrative post, is a quiet but pleasant city. A few shops and restaurants will keep you occupied, but the main attractions are its slow pace and warm atmosphere. By James Bainbridge
1. Out and about
At the western end of Maseru’s main drag, this distinctive thatched structure resembles the trademark conical hats worn throughout Lesotho. Inside are two floors of high-quality craftwork from across the mountain kingdom. This is the place to pick up a shweshwe shirt, a colourful tapestry from Teyateyaneng (TY), a woodcarving or a drape emblazoned with Lesotho’s beer brand, Maluti. If you are going pony trekking, a horsehair fly whisk is a good investment. Credit cards are accepted for big purchases and it is a relaxed shopping environment with no haggling needed.
Kingsway, +266 2232 2523
2. Out and about
Maseru’s inhabitants spend much of their leisure time at the mall. Shopping centres have, in fact, contributed to the city’s ongoing renaissance. After this groundbreaking development, more complexes followed. Subsequently, professional workers (who had previously commuted to and fro across the border from Ladybrand) started relocating to the upcoming capital. As well as a selection of chain restaurants and a good mix of shops, there are handy services such as a travel agent and a laundry. You can also pick up souvenirs at The Collectables (facing the helpful tourist information desk), which sells craftwork, sandals and bags made by the local Seithati Weavers.
Cnr Pioneer Road and Mpilo Boulevard, +266 2231 1216, www.pioneer.co.ls
3. Out and about
For a break from the cracked pavements of the city, you can spend a day kayaking or canoeing on the reservoir that supplies Maseru with water. You will find it on the north-eastern side of town, off the main road north near the old airport. In order to arrange activities, contact the friendly people at Maseru Backpackers, which conveniently overlooks Maqalika. (Follow the ‘Lesotho Durham Link’ sign to reach them). Other outdoorsy activities include rock climbing, abseiling and archery.
Maseru Backpackers, Airport Road +266 2232 5166, www.lesothodurhamlink.org
4. Out and about
The real appeal of a visit to Lesotho lies in exploring its rich culture and amazing mountainous landscape – easily done as day trips from Maseru.
Thaba Bosiu, 25 km east of Maseru, has a village-style cultural museum with rondavels illustrating Basotho history and traditions. The flat-topped mountain here is considered the birthplace of the nation. Hire a guide and hike to the site where king Moshoeshoe the Great established his fortress in 1824.
+266 5022 1962
Morija, 45 km south of the capital, is the site of the country’s first European mission, established in 1833. Visit the gallery, art centre or various cultural and historical attractions any time, or come in late September or early October for the annual Morija Arts and Cultural Festival. The Morija Museum has an interesting ethnographic collection. Or check out the fossilised dinosaur footprints nearby – the first discovered in Southern Africa.
+266 2236 0308, www.morija.co.ls
5. Eat and drink
Attached to the football-focused NGO Kick4Life and its hotel, No.7 is Maseru’s best restaurant for a hat-trick of reasons. Profits are pumped back into Kick4Life’s charitable work, the team includes local youngsters training for a career in hospitality, and the restaurant is a stylish spot with city views and food fusing European sophistication with Basotho touches. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served Monday to Saturday, with dishes from omelettes and porridge to fillet steak and bouillabaisse on the menu. On the way in, you might pass Kick4Life protégés playing football. Lesotho Football for Hope Centre, Nightingale Road, +266 2832 0707, www.kick4life.org
6. Eat and drink
The Regal Restaurant
Occupying a thatched building next to the similarly fashioned craft centre, this Indian restaurant is a favourite among politicians and businesspeople. Lesotho’s only Indian eatery, it serves classics such as korma, madras and rogan josh curries – as well as steaks and stir fries, to keep everyone happy. With the unobtrusive Hindi music and slick service, it’s easy to forget you are not in a big, cosmopolitan city.
Basotho Hat complex, Kingsway, +266 2231 3930
7. Eat and drink
Lesotho Sun Hotel & Casino
Maseru’s expat community and local players climb the hill for sundowners at the city’s landmark hotel, which has perched above the capital since 1979. There are two bars to choose between, and quaffing a poolside cocktail is a popular way to kick off the weekend. Other entertainment offered by this Sun International hotel includes a casino, two restaurants and shops.
Hilton Road, +266 2224 3000, www.suninternational.com
AAQA Quality Assured accommodation in and around Maseru
Phomolo Guest House
(AA Quality Assured Highly Recommended status)
Phomolo is conveniently situated only 9 km from Maseru’s CBD and 10–15 minutes’ drive away from the airport. A selection of malls, restaurants and sporting facilities are also close by.
The accommodation is suitable for both business and leisure travellers, with different types of rooms to meet guests’ varying needs. Choose to stay on self-catering or fully-catered basis.
The guest house can also be used as a venue for weddings, conferences or meetings.
Matala Phase 2, Main South 1 Road (A2)
S29º22’30” E27º32’52”, +266 2231 0755, 5805 0012, www.phomologuesthouse.com
(AA Quality Assured Recommended status)
Located just over an hour’s drive to the south-east of Maseru, Mohale Lodge provides accommodation in double or twin lodge rooms, standard rooms and self-catering cottages. The spacious lodgings give guests spectacular views of the surrounding Lesotho Highlands.
Travellers can visit nearby Mohale Dam on the Senqunyane River, which forms part of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project.
Maletsunyane Falls, one of Africa’s highest single-drop waterfalls, is only a few hours’ drive from the lodge. If you are feeling adventurous, you can tackle the world’s highest commercially run single-drop abseil, which measures a whopping 204m.
Likalaneng, Ha Mohale
S29°28’42.5” E 28°03’42.8”, +266 2293 6134, 086 100 0892, www.mohalelodge.co.za
Visit www.aatravel.co.za to find more AA Quality Assured accommodation
Photography Gallo/Gettyimages, istockphoto, courtesy image
(This article was first published in the autumn 2015 issue of AA traveller magazine)