De Drakensberg

10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in KwaZulu-Natal

Dramatically beautiful and surprisingly diverse, KwaZulu-Natal, in the northeast of the country, packs in many of South Africa’s most popular attractions, despite its small size. Here visitors can enjoy the World Heritage-listed Drakensberg Mountains with their jagged peaks and spectacular scenery, Durban’s golden beaches and surf breaks, a thriving Zulu culture and exciting wildlife adventures. KwaZulu-Natal is home to Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, the oldest game park in Africa, and also boasts private game reserves where lucky visitors can spot the Big Five (leopard, lion, elephant, buffalo and rhinoceros). Along the coast, nature lovers can explore the breathtaking scenery of iSimangaliso Wetland Park, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, and dive into the coral reefs of Sodwana Bay.

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1 The Drakensberg

The Drakensberg

The Drakensberg, from an Afrikaans word meaning ‘dragon mountains’, is a place of breathtaking beauty and one of the most popular destinations in the country. High-ridged peaks rise above dense forests and deep valleys, and waterfalls carry clear mountain streams. This spectacular region includes uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park , a UNESCO World Heritage Site with soaring basalt peaks that are some of the highest in the province and petroglyphs of the San (Bushmen), as well as Royal Natal National Park with the Amphitheatre , a five-kilometre cliff face with one of the world’s tallest waterfalls tumbling down from above.

The 3,282 meter high Mont-aux-Sourcesgoes beyond, and is the source for, some of the nation’s mighty rivers. Nearby, visitors can see herds of eland, bearded vultures, and beautiful Bushman petroglyphs at Giant’s Castle Game Reserve . Another highlight of the region is Cathedral Peak with some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in the region. This area is also home to the venerable Cathedral Peak Hotel , which has been pampering guests since 1939. Outdoor enthusiasts flock to these velvety green mountains to trout fish, hike and bike the wilderness trails, rock climb, rappel and ride the mountain rivers. To best appreciate the dramatic landscapes, visitors can soar over the area in a hot air balloon.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Drakensberg

2 Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park
Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park

Established in 1895, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (formerly Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve) is the oldest game park in Africa and one of the few parks in KwaZulu-Natal where visitors can see the Big Five: lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhinoceros . Including the wildlife corridor connecting the two parts of the park, it covers more than 96,000 acres and is famous for its rhino conservation efforts – both black and white rhinos can be found here.

Located deep in Zululand, the park was once King Shaka’s royal hunting ground. Today, the park offers a rewarding safari experience with an impressive variety of flora and fauna and usually less crowds than Kruger National Park. The Hluhluwe section in the north of the park is mountainous, while the iMfolozi section reveals extensive savannah with taller trees along the riverbanks.

In addition to the Big Five, wild dogs, cheetahs, zebras, wildebeests, hippos, hyenas and more than 300 species of birds are among the animals that make their home here. The best game viewing is in the cooler and dry months from May to October, but summer brings lush growth and newborns. Guests can choose to stay in the park in modest chalets, safari tents and various lodges. More accommodations are available just outside the park.

The best game viewing is in the cooler and dry months from May to October, but summer brings lush growth and newborns. Guests can choose to stay in the park in modest chalets, safari tents and various lodges. More accommodations are available just outside the park. The best game viewing is in the cooler and dry months from May to October, but summer brings lush growth and newborns. Guests can choose to stay in the park in modest chalets, safari tents and various lodges. More accommodations are available just outside the park.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Hluhluwe

3 Simangaliso Wetland Park

Simangaliso Wetland Park
Simangaliso Wetland Park

About 250 kilometers from Durban, iSimangaliso Wetland Park (formerly the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park) protects the largest estuarine system in Africa. iSimangaliso means “wonder and wonder” in Zulu, and the name fits this beautiful biodiverse park. The eight interconnected ecosystems include coral reefs, crocodile-filled rivers, lakes, wetlands, savannas, and coastal dunes. Thanks to this diversity of habitats, the animal kingdom is abundant and varied.

In one day, visitors can snorkel, dive or kayak along coral reefs where leatherback and hawksbill turtles swim; spot an incredible array of birds; and see leopard, buffalo, zebra and rhinoceros on a game drive. The park is also home to the highest concentration of crocodiles and hippos in Africa. Also in the park,offers empty seascapes of sun-bleached shores and shimmering lagoons. The area is also known for its traditional fishing techniques – fish here are trapped in woven baskets.

4 Sodwana Bay National Park

Sodwana Bay National Park
Sodwana Bay National Park

On the Elephant Coast, Sodwana Bay National Park is one of the best diving destinations in South Africa . Part of iSimangaliso Wetland Park, the reserve sits on the shores of the Indian Ocean with South Africa’s southernmost coral reefs flashing just offshore with schools of colorful fish. Divers can see caves, pinnacles and both hard and soft corals, as well as an incredible array of marine life, including lionfish, crayfish, moray eels, rays and many species of sharks.

Whale sharks also swim in these waters. Loggerhead and leatherback turtles nest on the beaches here, and wildlife enthusiasts can join turtle watching to see them in season. Aside from SCUBA diving and snorkeling, other popular activities here include sport fishing for marlin and sailfish, horseback riding on the beach, and hiking along the coastal nature trails.

Official site:

5 Editor’s Pick Kwa Cheetah Breeding Project

Kwa Cheetah Breeding Project Michael Jansen / photo modified
Kwa Cheetah Breeding Project Michael Jansen / photo modified

At the Kwa Cheetah Breeding Project, within the gates of Nambiti Private Game Reserveanimal lovers can enjoy exciting hands-on interactions with these graceful creatures while also helping a worthy cause. The experience begins with an educational presentation about the fate of the cheetah.

Visitors can then pet the animals, take photos, and watch a demonstration of their incredible speed. Depending on the residents at the time, visitors may also see other cats such as servals, caracals, and African wildcats. The successful captive breeding program aims to increase the cheetahs’ gene pool and prepare the animals for a life in the wild. The project only runs one tour per day to protect the animals from undue stress, so booking in advance is highly recommended.

Address: Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal

Official Site:

6 Nambiti Private Game Reserve

Nambiti Private Game Reserve Gerry Zambonini / photo modified
Nambiti Private Game Reserve Gerry Zambonini / photo modified

About three hours drive from Durban, near the spectacular Drakensberg Mountains, Nambiti Private Game Reserve offers exciting guided safari adventures in search of the Big Five: leopard, lion, elephant, buffalo and rhinoceros. The landscape ranges from vast savannah and grasslands, with unobstructed game viewing, to lush riverbanks and wildlife abounds. In addition to the Big Five, the reserve shelters over 40 different game species such as cheetahs, zebras, kudus and hippos, as well as a diverse range of bird species.

Day visitors are welcome, and those wishing to stay overnight can choose from six self-catering or full-board five-star lodges, some with swimming pools, as well as an elevated luxury tented camp. This popular private game reserve is also close to the KwaZulu battlefields, allowing visitors to combine a guided historical tour with their wilderness experience.

Official Site:

7 Sani Pass

Sani Pass
Sani Pass

Sani Pass is one of South Africa’s most spectacular mountain roads. Passageway from Kwazulu-Natal to the Kingdom of Lesotho, the pass is an eight-kilometer unpaved road that can ascend to heights of up to 2,876 meters. The road passes through the Mzimkulwana Nature Reserve with a landscape that stretches from towering rocky outcrops and mountains with green hollows to dizzyingly steep ravines.

Only four-wheel drive vehicles are allowed on the road between the two border posts; on foot it takes between two and three hours. To the north of the pass is 3,482 m high Mount Thabana Ntlenyana, the highest mountain in southern Africa. The pass takes its name from the San (Bushmen), who fled here to escape their white and black persecutors. Check the weather conditions before you go as snow and ice can make the pass even more challenging.

8 Golden Mile from Durban

Durban's Golden Mile Darren Glanville / photo modified
Durban’s Golden Mile Darren Glanville / photo modified

Durban, South Africa’s third largest city, is a multicultural melting pot. A great way to get a feel for this salt-hued port city is to take a stroll along Durban’s Golden Mile, a busy beachfront promenade that connects some of the city’s top attractions. This sun-drenched strip is home to entertainment venues, high-rise hotels, shops and restaurants.

The golden beaches lure surfers, swimmers and sunbathers. Segway tours provide a quick way to zip between the attractions here, including Moses Mabhida Stadium ; uShaka Marine World ; and MiniTown, a small replica of Durban complete with a small airport, rail network and harbor scene. Lifeguards patrol the beach all year round.

9 De KwaZulu-Natal Battlefields-route

De KwaZulu-Natal Battlefields-route
De KwaZulu-Natal Battlefields-route

During the 19th century, central Zululand, now part of KwaZulu-Natal, was the site of many historic battles between the Zulus, Boers and British. Today, tourists can explore this rich history on the Battlefields Route. Knowledgeable guides take visitors to battlefields, museums, memorials and forts, sharing fascinating details and descriptions of these historic events.

Two of the most famous battlefields are within a short distance of each other: At Isandlwana , visitors will learn about the clash between 22,000 Zulu warriors who commanded 1,350 British troops in one of the first battles of the Anglo-Zulu War. About 10 miles from here, Rorke’s Driftis the site where British troops defended a mission post against the onslaught of over 3000 Zulu warriors. Vryheid is the largest town on the Northern Natal battlefield route, taking the scene of clashes between British forces and Zulus and between British forces and the Boers.

Blood River Heritage Site is another popular Zulu-Voortrekker battle site near the city of Dundee . Following the annexation of Zululand and its establishment in Natal Province, the British authorities built a number of forts in the region, including Fort Nongqaiin Eshowe. Ideally, tourists should try to focus on a particular era or region of the battlefields route, as the sites are numerous. Many guides offer pick-up points in cities such as Durban or Johannesburg.

10 Tatham Art Gallery, Pietermaritzburg

In the friendly capital of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, the Tatham Art Gallery is a must for art lovers. Located opposite City Hall in a building once occupied by the Supreme Court, the gallery displays an impressive collection of both European and South African art with a focus on KwaZulu-Natal art. The gallery has a remarkable collection of works by 19th and 20th century European artists, including photographs by Sisley and Sickert and drawings by Picasso, Braque, Chagall and Moore.

Temporary exhibitions add to the eclectic works here and support many local artists. Other popular tourist attractions in the capital include the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary , Butterflies for Africa , theVoortrekker Museum , and the KwaZulu-Natal National Botanical Garden with many rare and endangered plant species.

Adres: Box 321, Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal

Official site:

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