If ever there was a landscape that lived up to its airbrushed and hyped reputation, it’s the ragged, green stretches of the Drakensberg range's peaks. Meaning ‘dragon mountain’ in Afrikaans, most of the mountain calls KwaZulu-Natal home while forming the natural border between South Africa and the Lesotho kingdom. The mountain’s vast, sweeping basalt summits and sandstone cliffs are part of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Summer brings forth dramatic thunderstorms that rage around 3,400m peaks. When the thunder fades, crisp mountain air settles among gorges and valleys. The streams and rivers are ideal for kayaking, tubing, swimming, and river rafting. Rugged cliffs, natural buttresses, and river valleys tempt hikers, horse riders, hang gliders and mountain climbers. Waterfalls cascade over smooth, boulder staircases into clear rock pools. The Cape vulture and bearded vulture circle the cliff tops near Sani Pass, while Sloggett’s ice rat scurries past grazing eland.
Hundreds of caves are hidden in and around the Drakensberg, many whose walls have served as a canvas for the San people in times gone by. Over 35,000 paintings sprawled across 600 rock sites depict humans and animals. When winter descends, the mountain’s peaks are dusted with snow, and its slopes become a winter playground for snowboarders and ski fanatics.
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South Africa’s third-smallest province, KwaZulu-Natal is also one of its most exciting – it has a wealth of scenic and cultural attractions that include the country’s most developed beaches south and north of Durban, as well as isolated, almost untouched beaches; world-famous game reserves; two UNESCO World Heritage Sites; and some of South Africa’s most famous historic battlefields.
The richly diverse province stretches along the warm Indian Ocean from Port Edward in the south to Swaziland and Mozambique in the north. The coast has a sub-tropical climate all year round.
In the west of the province, you’ll find South Africa’s most magnificent mountains, the Drakensberg, in the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, a World Heritage Site. Inland, the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands offer a lush, green countryside brimming with historical little towns, attractive country hotels and irresistible craft routes.
KwaZulu-Natal is also where battles that captured the world’s attention took place in the 1800s and early 1900s when Boers and Brits battled Zulus, and Boers battled Brits.
The climate of KwaZulu-Natal, home to the Drakensberg Mountain Range, is described as all-year-round tourist-friendly. Summers are hot and humid, averaging 28 degrees and experience the majority of the annual rainfall.
The area has a lovely subtropical climate and is bordered by the warm Indian Ocean. The temperature in the winter averages at around 23 degrees and is warm and dry, with only the occasional snow in the highest parts.
Temperatures can change drastically in the mountains, so it is always recommended to pack smart and dress in layers. When going out for a hike, it is possible to leave when it’s sunny and hot, turn a bend in the mountains and have clouds covering with a light, cool mist.
With sub-tropical forests and mangrove swamps to snowy mountains with much more in between, KwaZulu-Natal is South Africa’s most diverse province. The long stretches of unspoilt beaches are incredible, whereas the urban areas are also very established with everything from hotels, restaurants, casinos and all kinds of other entertainment.
KwaZulu-Natal is also renowned for its great surf spots, with some of the world’s top surfers hailing from here. If you’d rather go underwater than surf the waves, diving is an incredible activity to take part in with a kaleidoscope of fish and other interesting creatures to observe up-close.
In the countryside, life moves at a leisurely pace. The well-known Midlands Meander, in particular, offers several tourism routes, accommodation, leisure, activities and restaurant stops.
Other highlights include the uKhahlamba Drakensberg, a World Heritage Site, and the Isimangaliso Wetland Park. Activities here range from hiking, horse riding, and paragliding to fly fishing, bird watching, and game drives. It’s also one of the only places in the world where you can see turtle hatchlings.