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Scenic Mountain Passes of South Africa



Take a seat and buckle up as you join us for an epic road trip through South Africa’s scenic Mountain Passes. We are ‘virtually’ so excited to show you what this beautiful country has to offer. Ready?

Pembury Tours - Passes - South Africa

South Africa has nine provinces; each region offers a different way of life. From the Khoi San paintings and dusty warm landscapes of the Northern Cape to the rugged coastline and cosmopolitan way of life in the Western Cape to the high-rise buildings and monuments in Gauteng. Each province is well worth a visit, not only for the different lifestyles, cuisines and attractions. There are an estimated 890 Mountain Passes throughout South Africa. If those are not enough, our neighbouring country, Lesotho, has 15 more!

Each one of these Scenic Mountain Passes offers a unique look into an extraordinary world.

Exploring the zigzagged roads brings an awed sense like no other. Perhaps it is the ever-changing scenery or the cleansing of the mountain air, or perhaps, it is simply the unknown: never knowing what the next corner brings.

We have our ‘padkos’ (snacks to bring along during the drive), our mirror is adjusted, our playlist is ready. Let us uncover the beauty of South Africa.

Part One of our Scenic Mountain Pass Road trip includes ten passes – one for each province and one in our neighbouring country, Lesotho.


Pembury Tours - Route Map - South Africa

1. Outeniqua Pass 

-Western Cape

The Outeniqua Pass is a modern pass connecting the Garden Route’s Capital, George, and South Africa’s Ostrich Capital, Oudtshoorn. Created in 1942-1951, the Outeniqua Pass has been widened and modernized several times. The Outeniqua Pass is the main route for travellers between George and Oudtshoorn.

The pass contains 40 bends, corners and curves, many of which exceed a 90-degree radius. Fynbos-covered mountains greet you as you circle each corner. Like many of our passes, great view sites are scattered along the 13.3 km (± 8 miles) stretch.

Pembury Tours - Outeniqua Pass - South Africa

2. Addo Heights

-Eastern Cape

Referring to Addo Heights as a mountain pass is slightly optimistic. With a low altitude level and minimal corners, the Addo Heights Pass is a scenic road that stretches along the Sundays River. Aloes and citrus trees line the tarred road that connects many travellers to the renowned Addo National Elephant Park.

The remote and scenic pass is 18.7 km (± 11 miles) in length and features ten corners, bends and curves, none of them exceeding a 30-degree radius.

Pembury Tours - Addo Heights Pass - South Africa

We have set our vehicle into four-wheel drive for the next pass..

3. Sani Pass


The legendary Sani Pass is located on the border of South Africa and Lesotho. The extraordinary pass is the only road that leads travellers to the summit of the mighty Drakensberg. The pass is known as the ‘Mother of Passes’ in South Africa as the Sani Pass out distances, out climbs and outperforms all competing passes.

When planning a road trip to the Sani Pass, your vehicle should have high ground clearance, a 4×4 setting and a knowledgeable driver is required before making your way through the narrow zigging roads, rocky edges and during the winter months; snow-capped peaks.

We have climbed the steep pass. What better way to celebrate this occasion, than with a refreshing beverage… at the Highest Pub in Africa?

Pembury Tours - Sani Pass - South Africa

4. Elands Pass (N4)


Elands Pass captures the natural beauty of South Africa, roaring waterfalls, historic towns, a classic railway line looping under the pass and lush Lowveld terrain. Connecting Machadodorp and Nelspruit, the Elands Pass can be a busy road as many commercial and leisure vehicles find themselves on the beautifully engineered road.

The scenic pass is 9.4 km (± 5 miles) in length. Although this pass is not winding, we recommend a slow drive as one has to appreciate the true beauty of this romantic road.

Pembury Tours - Elands Pass - South Africa

5. Papstraat Pass


Located in the Waterberg District, Papstraat Pass is shorter than most,  at only 2.9km (± 2 miles) in length. Directly translated, ‘Porridge Street’ is followed by another scenic pass, Tarentaalstraat (Guinea fowl street).

Papstraat Pass requires an experienced 4×4 driver, along with a high clearance vehicle, before tackling the first stretch of the road marked D579 – Papstaart and Tarentaalstraat.

Pembury Tours - Papstraat - South Africa

6. Horns Nek, Pretoria


Situated in the bustling province of Gauteng, Horns Nek is slightly different to the previous scenic passes covered in this blog. The route is scenic and listed as a pass.  However, unlike the ones covered above, Horns Nek is situated within one of South Africa’s Capital Cities, Pretoria.

Although close to an urban area, Horns Nek is a beautiful route covering a portion of the picturesque Magaliesberg mountain range. The pass is short in length – 3.8 km (± 2 miles) – but is certainly worth visiting. Not only is Horns Nek near the Voortrekker Monument, but driving along this route to a city covered with lilac streets from the flourishing Jacaranda trees is a perfect picture opportunity.

Pembury Tours - Horns Nek - South Africa

7. Bloenek Pass (Pilanesberg Nature Reserve)

-North West

Binoculars ready?

Bloenek Pass is a small, lush pass located within the crater of an extinct volcano, Pilanesberg. The Nature Reserve is home to the Big 5 as well as other mammal and bird species. This unique pass is not very long or steep, but the location makes this well worth visiting.

Bloenek Pass is a distinctive marker determining the North and South of the Nature Reserve. Should you drive the tarred road, drive with caution. You are in a Nature Reserve rich with wildlife. You never know what you might find.

Pembury Tours - Bloenek - South Africa

8. Donkey Pass

-Free State

We are back into four-wheel drive with this pass. Donkey Pass – which should not be confused with Donkies Pass in KwaZulu Natal – is a scenic route East of Harrismith. Located along the sandstone mountain called Platberg, Donkey Pass climbs up the lush gorge and extends breathtaking views from the summit.

Steeply making its way onto the list of South Africa’s highest passes, Donkeys Pass features at Number 6 and second place for the steepest mountain pass in South Africa.

Pembury Tours - Donkey Pass - South Africa

9. Biesiepoort

-Northern Cape

The Northern Cape is a barren land and one of South Africa’s largest yet least populated provinces. Within the Northern Cape lies a historic pass, much like the rest of the region. The name, Biesiepoort, is said to have derived from the reeds used to weave household items, such as baskets or mats. The road is well-tarred and located along the N10, connecting Upington and Namibia.

As you drive along Biesiepoort, keep an eye out for smaller creatures as they tend to bask on the warm tar road.

10. Laitsoka Pass


Much like the rest of the passes in Lesotho and the bordering one, Laitsoka Pass is a steep route that requires a four-wheel drive and an experienced driver. Situated on the A25, Laitsoka is one of many scenic passes along this route. With a length of 14.7km (± 10 miles) and up to 75 corners and bends, the pass offers spectacular scenery as you climb mountains and cross over one of the tallest bridges in Lesotho.

The Big Bridge is located along this pass and stretches over the Katse Dam. Since the introduction of the Highlands Water Project, Laitsoka has become busier but remains a unique pass when in South Africa’s neighbouring country, Lesotho.

Pembury Tours - Katse Dam - Lesotho

We have come to the end of our first road trip through the scenic passes. Our team at Pembury Tours enjoyed this ‘virtually’ spectacular journey. We hope you did too.

Keep an eye on our social media pages for part two of our road trip, where we will uncover nine more passes in South Africa and one pass in our neighbouring country.

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