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Mokhotlong centre and airport
Location of Mokhotlong in Lesotho

Mokhotlong is a city and seat of Mokhotlong District in the mountainous northeastern part of Lesotho. It is the first major city with an airport along the road from South Africa across the Sani Pass, near the Maloti (Drakensberg in South Africa) Mountains. The name of the city is a word in Sesotho, the language of the people of Lesotho, meaning "Place of the Bald Ibis." Thabana Ntlenyana, the highest point in southern Africa is found in Mokhotlong.


Mokhotlong’s role as a police post first brought people to this part of Lesotho in 1905. It developed into a trading center for the people of the Highlands region. However, it was preserved from major development by its separation from the rest of the country. Not until 1947 was radio contact established with Maseru, the capital city.

In the next few years an air strip was built and a road cleared through town to link Mokhotlong to the rest of Lesotho. Even so, Mokhotlong continued to be outfitted with provisions and supplies by pony trek from Natal, South Africa, via Sani Pass.[1]

Geography and climate[edit]

An hour and a half drive north of Sani Pass, Mokhotlong is located 270 km from Maseru and 200 km from Butha-Buthe. The source of the Senqu River, Lesotho’s largest river, is near Mokhotlong, impacting the landscape throughout the town and surrounding district.[2]

Mokhotlong experiences a subtropical highland climate (Köppen climate classification Cwb) with warm summers and cool, dry winters.

Climate data for Mokhotlong
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 24
Average low °C (°F) 12
Average precipitation mm (inches) 111

Events and activities[edit]

The mountain range is host to activities including hiking trails, horse trails, rock climbing, white water rafting, fly and trout fishing, golfing, bird and game watching, safaris, and much more.[4]

In addition to regular activities, Mokhotlong hosts the annual High Altitude Summer Marathon at the end of the year. The route runs through the Maloti Mountains and is characterized by great views of both mountains and villages. At 3000 meters above sea level, if the scenery does not take the runner’s breath away, the steep ascents and descents will. There are also half marathon and 10k events, in addition to the full marathon.

Mokhotlong is also on the route of the annual Roof of Africa Rally, an off-road motorcycle rally. Finally, Mokhotlong is home to the highest-elevated diamond mine in the world, Letseng diamond mine, which can be toured, and is often frequented by local students as part of their course of study. Its diamonds have the highest per carat price of any kimberlite mine, and with the capacity to process more than 5 million tonnes a year and recover about 100,000 carats, it is the seventh largest in the world. Three of their diamonds are among the world’s top twenty rough diamonds.


Mokhotlong's economy is primarily driven by livestock rearing and subsistence agriculture, though neither of these fully supports most families. Arable land in this mountainous region is a scarce resource. Agricultural production only sustains families from 3 to 9 months of the year. Families cover the gap largely through livestock and remittances from employed family members. However, livestock distribution is skewed with 60% of the livestock owned by 10% of the population; approximately 35% of the community have no livestock. General income is small, given both poor educational opportunities and the high unemployment rate in Lesotho and in South Africa. Consequently, a large segment of the population is seriously poor.[5] This is exacerbated by HIV/AIDS, which ravages the region. Despite its poverty, few aid organizations work in Mokhotlong. Touching Tiny Lives provides nutritional and medical support to vulnerable children. GROW works with villages to increase agricultural production, support OVC households to improve livelihoods, capacity building, climate change adaptation strategies, etc.

In Mokhotlong City, the Mokhotlong district capital, formal employment is boosted by the presence of government offices.


  1. ^ McCrea, Mthembu-Salter, Pinchuck, Reid (1999). South Africa, Lesotho, & Swaziland: The Rough Guide. London: Penguin Books Ltd. pp. 644–646. ISBN 1-85828-460-0.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Murray, Williams, Everist (1998). South Africa, Lesotho, & Swaziland. Hawthorn, Australia: Lonely Planet. pp. 609–610. ISBN 0-86442-508-2.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ "Climate Mokhotlong - Lesotho". Retrieved May 6, 2013.
  4. ^ "South Africa: Discover Our Drakensberg". Retrieved 7/6/2011. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  5. ^ GROW Annual Reports: 1997-98, 1999-2000, 2000-2001

Coordinates: 29°17′19″S 29°03′56″E / 29.288495°S 29.065568°E / -29.288495; 29.065568