Van Reenen’s Pass, a dangerous road in South Africa

Van Reenen Pass
Van Reenen Pass

The beautiful Van Reenen’s Pass, which makes its way through the Drakensberg Mountains between Ladysmith and Harrismith along the N3 between Durban and Johannesburg, is named after the little settlement of Van Reenen, which seems to stand to watch at the summit. Unfortunately, the pass’s lone distinction as the most perilous Pass in Africa is all it has to show for itself.

Where is Van Reenen’s Pass located?

The pass, which divides KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State, is situated high in the Drakensberg mountains. The whole summit road has been paved. Also, the official name of the road is the N3. It is the primary road between Durban and Johannesburg.

You can locate this road on the map below:

Enlarge the map

Information about Van Reenen’s Pass:

The Van Reenen’s Pass, which connects Harrismith (in the Free State province) and Sand River Valley, is 52 kilometers (32,5 miles) long (in Kwa Zulu-Natal province). The road’s steepest parts start at around 1:20. Trucks constantly utilize the pass due to the strong traffic.

History of Van Reenen Pass:

The farm Sandspruit, which was held by Frans van Reenen and is located at the foot of the pass, bears his name. Indeed, he participated in the planning of a road across the pass in 1856. Trade between Natal and the Orange Free State was to be made possible thanks to the pass. Van Reenen demonstrated to the engineers the path he took to transport his sheep inside. Following this, a railroad was built in 1891.

Van Reenen’s Pass preview:

You can obviously have a preview of that drive today. Here is a YouTube video that shows a part of the road with very snowy weather :

How to get to the Van Reenen Pass today?

The primary route between Durban and Johannesburg along the border between the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State is the N3 freeway, which was built through the pass. The two closest towns are Ladysmith and Harrismith, while the settlement of Van Reenen is located at the summit of the pass.

If you are planning a road trip in South Africa, you can also drive the Garden Route or even Chapman’s Peak.

You can visualize how to get there on this approximative map of the drive:

Is the Van Reenen’s Pass open?

The pass, which connects the cities of Harrismith and Ladysmith, is one of the most dangerous passes in the nation, likely as a result of the heavy traffic on this portion of the highway. Despite this, it’s open all year round regarding the weather.

Approximately 76% of drivers on the pass travel faster than the posted speed limit, which frequently results in accidents and reckless driving as they attempt to reach either Durban or Johannesburg.

The weather is particularly erratic and unstable, and Van Reenen’s Pass is at times exceedingly steep. Light vehicles or caravans can be blown onto their sides by the winds, in particular. While mist and drizzle are common in the area, snow, which is sporadic, immobilizes the pass.

In the northeastern region of South Africa, at an altitude of 1777m (5830ft), lies a high mountain pass called Van Reenen’s Pass. A substantial percentage of the transportation accidents in South Africa occur on this pass. So if you drive there you obviously must the careful.

Picture credit: By Peter Black – originally posted to Flickr as DSCF0746, CC BY-SA 2.0,

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