The tiny landlocked, enclave country of Lesotho packs a punch with its remarkable history, location and big finds. This Kingdom in the Sky exists entirely above 1,000 metres and is home to some impressive dinosaur fossils and diamonds. Oh, and if you like your alcohol at altitude, it has the highest pub in Africa. Curious to learn more? Here are some of the most interesting facts about Lesotho.
7 Interesting Facts about Lesotho
1. Lesotho is an enclave nation
The Kingdom of Lesotho is a landlocked country – a country surrounded by land with no access to the sea – enclaved by South Africa. There are 45 landlocked countries in the world, however, there are only three enclaved countries in the world. The other two enclaved countries are San Marino and Vatican City, both of which are in Italy. South Africa surrounds Lesotho on all sides. Thus, Lesotho is the world’s southernmost landlocked nation.
2. The Kingdom of Lesotho was a British colony
Basutoland was the former name of Lesotho. Today, the country’s official full name is ‘The Kingdom of Lesotho’. The African nation gained independence from the UK in 1966 after 100 years of colonial rule. The name Lesotho roughly translates as ‘Land of the Sesotho Speakers’. The official language of Lesotho is Sesotho. An individual in Lesotho is a Mosotho but the people as a collective are Basotho.
3. Lesotho has the highest lowest point of any country in the world
Lesotho’s nickname is ‘Kingdom of the Sky’ due to the fact that it is the only independent state which exists entirely above 1,000 metres (3,281 feet). More than 80 per cent of the country is located above 1,800 metres. In fact, Lesotho is one of just two countries that lie on average above 2,000 metres (6,561 feet), the other being Kyrgyzstan. Furthermore, Lesotho has the ‘highest lowest point’ of any other country on Earth. The lowest point here is at 4,593 feet or 1,400 metres. Because of its high altitude, Lesotho experiences a cooler climate than most other places located on the same latitude.
4. You can go skiing in Lesotho
Lesotho is just one of a handful of places in Africa where you can go skiing and snowboarding. Afriski in the Maluti mountains is a popular mountain resort located at over 3,222 metres (10,570 feet). The ski slopes open in winter from June to August but the mountain resort is open all year round.
5. Lesotho is full of dinosaur fossils
The Lesothosaurus dinosaur gets its name after the country Lesotho. The Lesothosaurus dinosaur evolved just over 200 million years ago in the early Jurassic period and fossils of this dinosaur were uncovered in Lesotho. Then, in 2017, researchers uncovered one of the largest dinosaur footprints ever found in Lesotho. Measuring 22 inches (57 cm) long and 20 inches (50 cm) wide, the footprint comes from a dinosaur named Kayentapus ambrokholohali, which is a relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex. Experts estimate that the Kayentapus ambrokholohali was 2.7 metres tall and 9 metres long, therefore making it one of the largest dinosaurs to ever roam Africa.
6. Lesotho miners discovered one of the world’s largest rough diamonds
From big dinosaurs to big diamonds. In 2018, Lesotho miners found one of the largest diamonds ever discovered. Gem Diamonds announced its largest diamond yet discovered at its Letšeng Diamond Mine. At an elevation of 3,100 metres (10,000 feet), the Letšeng Diamond Mine is the world’s highest diamond mine. Miners unearthed a Type IIa D colour stone measuring 910 carats. Today, it is the tenth-largest rough diamond ever discovered in the world.
7. Lesotho is home to the highest pub in Africa
With an elevation of 9,429 feet (2,874 meters) the Sani Mountain Lodge, on top of Sani Mountain Pass, is the highest pub in Africa. It is located just after the border between South Africa and Lesotho.