The Ukahlamba District is named after the Xhosa name for the mighty Drakensberg Range. The Ukhahlamba District Municipality lies in the north of the Eastern Cape and forms a border to the Free State. The district is dominated by the Drakensberg Mountains. To the East of the district it is bordered by Lesotho, and by the Limpopo Province in the North West. The main features of the district are the Orange River, The Gariep Dam and the Southern Drakensberg mountains. Ukhahlamba shares its borders with the Chris Hani, Oliver Tambo and Alfred Nzo districts. The main town in the district is Aliwal North, and other major towns are Burgersdorp, Barkley East, Maclear and Mount Fletcher.
The district has an area of 26, 518 square kilometers. Its population is estimated to be 327, 868, which is the lowest population rate of all the districts, and it also has a low population density of 14 people per square kilometer. Most of the population is situated in Sterkspruit and Mount Fletcher. The majority of inhabitants living in Ukhahlamba are African, with a very low percentage of whites and coloureds living in the district. Xhosa is the main language with Sesotho used in areas close to Lesotho.
The Ukhahlamba District is made up of the following municipalities; Eludini Local Municipality, Gariep Local Municipality, Maletswai Local Municipality and the Sengu Local Municipality.
The district has a small economy, but the ex-Transkei areas provide major subsistence economic activity. Agriculture predominates in Ukhahlamba and provides 29% of the districts formal employment. The most significant farming occupation is livestock, and small-stock farming in the karoo areas produce wool, mohair and mutton. Cattle farming is also present in the ex-Transkei areas as well as goat and sheep farming. Along the Orange River is the main place for maize growing, and wheat growing goes on in the foothills of the Drakensberg. Ukhahlamba also has large forestry plantations in the areas around Maclear, Ugie and Mount Fletcher. Manufacturing also contributes to 5% of employment in the Ukhahlamba District. Food processing is the most important industry in manufacturing and is centered in Aliwal North, as well as limited furniture production which takes place. Tourism in the district centres on three areas, namely the Southern Drakensberg which provides ample tourism adventures and eco-tourism; the ‘friendly N6’ where people can enjoy ‘stop over’ tourism; and Aliwal North hosts a spa.