Despite its small size, KwaZulu-Natal in the northeast of the country is beautiful and diverse but packed with some of South Africa’s most popular attractions. The place has earned itself a reputation for having some of the best places to visit in the country. Which places should you visit?
Here, visitors can marvel at the World Heritage-listed Drakensberg Mountains, with their jagged peaks and magnificent landscapes, Durban’s golden sands and surf spots, thriving Zulu culture and exhilarating landscapes, and wildlife adventure activities.
Best Places to Visit in KwaZulu-Natal
Have a look at our list of the Best Places to Visit in KwaZulu-Natal and make your trip enjoyable.
Top 10 Best Places to Visit in KwaZulu-Natal
Top 10 Most Beautiful and Best Places to Visit in KwaZulu-Natal:
1. The Drakensberg
Meaning “Dragon Mountain” in Afrikaans, Drakensberg is a scenic place and one of the most popular destinations in the country. Jagged peaks rise above dense forests and deep valleys, and waterfalls feed clear mountain rivers. This magnificent site includes the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with the highest basalt peaks in the country and St (Bushman) petroglyphs, as well as the 5-km-long amphitheater Natal National Park and the Royal Palace. The rock face where one of the world’s highest waterfalls spills.
The 3,282 meter high Mont-aux-Sources is the source of some of the country’s mighty rivers. Nearby visitors can spot herds of eland, bearded vultures, and exquisite bushman petroglyphs at Giant’s Castle Game Reserve.
Another highlight of the area is Cathedral Peak, which boasts some of the most beautiful mountain views in the area. The area is also home to the former Cathedral Peak Hotel, which has pampered its guests since 1939. Outdoor enthusiasts come to these velvety green mountains to fly and trout fishing, hiking and biking on wild trails, rock climbing, downhill and rafting on mountain rivers. For the best view of the magnificent scenery, visitors can soar above the area in a hot air balloon.
2. Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park
Established in 1895, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (formerly Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve) is Africa’s oldest wildlife park and one of the few parks in KwaZulu-Natal where visitors can see the Big Five: Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo and Rhinoceros. Covering more than 96,000 hectares, including the wildlife corridor connecting the two parts of the park, the area is known for its rhino conservation efforts, home to black and white rhinos. Located deep in Zululand, the park was once the royal hunting ground of King Shaka.
Today the park offers an impressive diversity of flora and fauna and offers a rewarding safari experience, often with fewer crowds than Kruger National Park. The Hluhluwe section in the northern part of the park is mountainous, while the iMfolozi section showcases savannas planted with tall trees along the riverbank.
In addition to the Big Five, there are more than 300 species of birds such as wild dogs, cheetahs, zebras, blue antelopes, hippos, and hyenas. May through October, the coolest and driest months are the best times to spot wildlife, but summer brings lush growth and new life. Within the park, guests can choose to stay in modest log cabins, safari tents, and a variety of cabins. There are more accommodation options outside the park.
3. iSimangaliso Wetland Park
About 250 kilometers from Durban, the World Heritage-listed iSimangaliso Wetland Park (formerly Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park) protects the largest estuary system in Africa. iSimangaliso means “miracles and wonders” in Zulu and the name fits this beautiful biodiversity park. The eight interconnected ecosystems here include coral reefs, crocodile-infested rivers, lakes, swamps, savannas, and coastal dunes.
Due to the diversity of habitats, wildlife is plentiful and diverse. During a day, visitors can snorkel, dive, or canoe on the reefs where leatherback and sea turtles swim; they can see an incredible number of birds and see leopards, buffaloes, Zebra and Rhino on a prey drive. The park is also home to the largest concentration of African crocodiles and hippos.
Also within the park, secluded Kosi Bay offers empty ocean views, sun-drenched shores and sparkling lagoons. The area is also known for its traditional fishing technique – fish trapped in woven baskets.
4. Sodwana Bay National Park
Sodwana Bay National Park on Elephant Coast is one of the best diving spots in South Africa. Part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, the reserve is located off the coast of the Indian Ocean, South Africa’s southernmost coral reef shimmering with schools of colorful fish in the open sea. Divers can see caves, peaks, hard and soft corals, as well as incredible aquatic life, including lionfish, crayfish, moray eels, stingrays and a variety of sharks.
Whale sharks also swim in these waters. Caretta and leatherback turtles nest on the beach here, and nature lovers can join turtle tours to see them in season. In addition to scuba diving and snorkeling, other popular activities here include sport fishing for marlin and sailfish, horseback riding on the beach, and hiking on the coastal nature trails.
5. Kwa Cheetah Breeding Project
At the Kwa Cheetah Breeding Project, located at the gates of the Nambiti Private Game Reserve, animal lovers can enjoy invigorating hands-on interactions with these graceful creatures while helping a worthy cause. The experience begins with an educational presentation about the cheetah’s condition. Visitors can then photograph the animals, take pictures with them, and watch a demonstration of their incredible speed.
Depending on the inhabitants of the time, visitors may also see other felines such as servals, caracals, and African wild cats. Successful captive breeding programs here aim to increase the cheetah’s gene pool and prepare the animals for life in the wild. To protect the animals from undue stress, this program only has one trip per day, so advance reservations are highly recommended.
Address: Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal
Official website: http://www.cheetahinteraction.com/
6. Nambiti Private Wildlife Sanctuary
Near the magnificent Drakensberg Mountains, about a 3-hour drive from Durban, Nambiti Private Game Reserve offers an exciting guided safari adventure in search of the Big Five: Leopard, Lion, Elephant, Buffalo and Rhino. The scenery here ranges from vast savannas and grasslands to extensive wild game, lush riverine thickets and abundant wildlife. In addition to the Big Five, the sanctuary protects a variety of birds as well as more than 40 different game species such as cheetahs, zebras, kudu and hippos.
Day trips are welcome, and guests wishing to stay overnight can choose from six self-catering or full-board five-star hotels, some with swimming pools, as well as an upgraded luxury tent camp. This popular private wildlife sanctuary is also located near the KwaZulu Battlefield so visitors can combine a guided historical tour with wildlife experiences.
Official website: http://www.nambiti.com
7. Sani Pass
Sani Pass is one of the most spectacular mountain passes in South Africa. Connecting KwaZulu-Natal and the Kingdom of Lesotho, the mountain pass is an 8 km unpaved road that rises to an elevation of 2,876 m above sea level. The trail runs through the Mzimkulwana Nature Reserve, and the landscape ranges from towering rocky outcrops and green-clad mountains to stunning steep canyons.
Only four-wheel drive vehicles are allowed on the road between the two border points; The walk takes two to three hours. To the north of the gorge is Mount Thabana Ntlenyana, at an altitude of 3482 meters, the highest peak in South Africa. The pass takes its name from San (Bushman), who fled here to escape oppressors, both white and black.
8. Durban’s Golden Mile
Durban, the third largest city in South Africa, is a melting pot of different cultures. A great way to get a feel for this salty port city is to stroll Durban’s Golden Mile, a busy promenade that connects some of the city’s top attractions. Entertainment venues, high-rise hotels, shops and restaurants line this sunny lane whose golden sands attract surfers, swimmers and sunbathers.
Segway tours provide a quick way to travel between attractions such as Moses Mabhida Stadium, uShaka Sea World, and Mini City, a small replica of Durban complete with a miniature airport, rail network, and harbor Sights. Lifeguards patrol the beach year-round.
9. KwaZulu-Natal Battlefield Route
In the 19th century, Central Zululand, now part of the state of KwaZulu-Natal, was the site of many historical battles between the Zulu, the Boers, and the British. Today, travelers can explore this rich history on Battlefield Road. Knowledgeable guides take visitors on tours of battlefields, museums, monuments and forts and share wonderful details and explanations of these historical events.
The two most famous battlefields are not far from each other: in Isandlwana, visitors will learn about the conflict between 22,000 Zulu warriors who defeated 1,350 British soldiers in the first battle of the Anglo-Zulu War. About 16 kilometers away, Rorke’s Drift is where British troops defended a duty station from more than 3,000 Zulu warriors.
Vryheid, the largest town on the North Natal battlefield route, was the scene of clashes between the British and the Zulus, and the British and the Boers. The Blood River region is another popular Zulu-pioneer battleground close to the town of Dundee. After the annexation of Zululand and its incorporation into the province of Natal, British authorities built a number of forts in the area, including Nongqai Fort in Eshowe.
Ideally, due to the plethora of locations, travelers should try to focus on a specific period or region of the Battlefield Route. Many guides offer pickup points in cities like Durban or Johannesburg.
Tatham Museum in Pietermaritzburg
In Pietermaritzburg, the friendly capital of KwaZulu-Natal, Tatham Art Gallery is a must-see for art lovers. Housed in a building once occupied by the Supreme Court opposite City Hall, the gallery displays an impressive collection of European and South African art focusing on KwaZulu-Natal art. The gallery houses outstanding works by 19th- and 20th-century European artists, including paintings by Sisley and Sickert, as well as paintings by Picasso, Braque, Chagall and Moore. Temporary exhibitions add to the eclectic work here and support many local artists.
Other popular attractions in the capital include the African Birds of Prey Sanctuary, the African Butterfly, the Pioneers Museum, and the KwaZulu-Natal National Botanical Gardens, home to many rare and endangered plant species.
Address: P.O. Box 321 Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal
Official website: http://www.tatham.org.za
Hope you like our choice of the best places to visit in KwaZulu-Natal. If you think there are some more best and beautiful places to visit in KwaZulu-Natal, which we should cover. Write us below in the comment box.