Destinations & Attractions in Battlefields, in Durban

Battlefields Destinations & Attractions

The Battlefields Region in KwaZulu-Natal is so named after the many bloody wars that occurred here between the indigenous Zulu tribes and the European colonialists that threatened to rob them of their precious land. Today, all that is left behind is 82 battlefields, a number of museums and old structures and fortifications that tell a tragic story.

The Zulu kings were known for their vicious fighting techniques and determined commitment to saving the land that they considered to be “heaven on earth” (stretching between the Drakensberg Mountain Range and the ocean). This meant some particularly bloody battles, which took the lives of many of both the Zulu warriors and the European (mainly English) soldiers. King Shaka Zulu was a particularly prominent king, and remains well-known for his savage fighting tactics and his effectiveness.

Rorke's Drift, Blood River, Spioenkop and Isandlwana are just some of the battlefields that have earned international acclaim for their part to play in the history and heritage of modern-day South Africa. The towns of the area are likewise significant in the overall history of the region, each with a unique appeal that tells its own side of the complex story. These towns include Dundee, Babanango, Eshowe, Glencoe, Ladysmith, and Newcastle.

Formal tours of the battlefields are conducted by knowledgeable, experienced guides, who describe the battles in detail as you walk on the very same land that was once the site of the ruthless bloodbaths. You will visit small graveyards and vast plains on which the battles took place, while hearing both sides of the sad story.

But history is not all that the Battlefields have to offer. This is an area of great beauty and abundance too. The Thukela River is the largest river in KwaZulu-Natal and promises excellent white-water rafting opportunities. The associated Thukela Game Reserve is a stunning retreat for city folk, and is home to elephants, hyenas, warthogs and plenty of antelope species. The Harold Johnson Nature Reserve is also situated on the banks of this river, and is a popular birding reserve and a frequented spot amongst avid hikers.

For the culture vultures amongst South African tourists, the Empangeni Art and Cultural History Museum showcases the work of modern KZN artists, as well as a collection of items that represent the region in terms of its ethnicity and geography. The exhibitions change regularly to ensure dynamic displays that represent the ever-evolving nature of our country. The museum is open from Monday to Friday, 09h00 – 16h00, and on Saturday, 09h00 – 12h00.

Babanango

In the northern reaches of Zululand is the little town of Babanango en route to Dundee on the R68. An unusual name, Babanango translates as ‘Father there she is’ - ‘Ubaba, nangu’ - and evidently refers to a small child who was ...

Biggarsberg

Situated on the N11 between Ladysmith and Newcastle, Biggarsberg, rather than being a town per se, is the name of a range of mountains that run from north-west to south-east between Glencoe and Ladysmith. Drive along the N11 ...

Colenso

The smaller neighbour of Ladysmith, the quiet town of Colenso lies in the foothills of the Drakensberg, on the banks of the Thukela River. It is one of few towns in the area to maintain its country atmosphere and has a little ...

Dundee

Originally a magnificent farm, Dundee us now a little town that once experienced a massive economic boom, drawing settlers to its borders. In addition to its natural splendour, it also boasts lovely architecture ...

Elandslaagte

Elandslaagte might be a place on the map, but it's virtually a nothing doing village in the midst of some of the most beautiful countryside in KwaZulu Natal. Drive along the R602 between Pyne's Farm and the N11, and Elandslaagte ...

Estcourt

Estcourt (previously known as Bushman’s River) is located in the heart of the territory in which the Anglo-Boer confrontations took place. This historical import is complemented by a natural abundance, as testified to by the many ...

Gingindlovu

Originally named Gingindlovu, meaning swallower of the Elephant in Zulu, by Cetshwayo when he won the struggle with his brother Mbulazi over the Zulu throne, Gingindlovu is also on the Battlefields Route in northern Zululand. ...

Glencoe

Named after a valley in Argyleshire by Scottish settlers during the late 1800s, the town has a proud railway history the first train arriving on 4 September 1889. Attractions include Carl Landman's House, a fine example of ...

Greytown

The lush landscape of the Natal Midlands is home to the pretty little town of Greytown. Established in the mid-19th century, this area enjoys a rich history (being the birthplace of South Africa’s first Prime Minster), in ...

Hlobane

Roughly 26km east of Vryheid, lies the rural village of Hlobane – little more than a train station and a local school. The village may seem obscure. But mention the Battle of Hlobane and any Anglo-Boer battlefields afficionado ...

Isandlwana

The isolated hill of Isandlwana stands just south east of Rorke's Drift, 170 kilometres north of Durban. At its base lie a number of white boulders that mark the graves from the Battle of Isandlwana, fought on 22 January ...

Ladysmith

Ladysmith was an extremely important part of the Anglo-Boer War and a base for those seeking their fortune during the gold and diamond rushes of yesteryear. Today, its natural splendour is enhanced by strong ties to its culture ...

Lüneburg

Lüneburg is the little town in which the original Lutheran missionaries from Germany first settled. Today, it is a small, quiet farming community that offers great fishing opportunities. This is the ideal retreat for those from ...

Melmoth

Melmoth, known as the gateway to the Zulu Highlands, is a picturesque, little town just 200 km north east of Durban and 90 km from the coastal town of Mtunzini. Referred to, in the SA edition of Trivial Pursuit, as having the ...

Nambiti Private Game Reserve

The Nambiti Private Game Reserve is the only one of its kind in the KwaZulu-Natal Province that can boast the Big 5 (lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffalos). Of course, this reserve is home to many other species of ...

Newcastle

Newcastle is the province’s largest town, and played an integral role in the Anglo-Boer War. There are fabulous battle sites situated just outside the town’s centre, which are fascinating and haunting to explore ...

Paulpietersburg

Paulpietersburg is a small, pretty town nestling in the foothills of the Dumbe Mountain - a big, flat-topped, triangular mountain in the middle of flatlands territory, popular with paragliders and hikers and named after the wild ...

Rorkes Drift

Rorke’s Drift, 46 kilometres southeast of Dundee, describes a natural crossing presented by a rocky outcrop that allows one to cross the Buffalo River on foot. To give one an idea of its significance, just 4 kilometres down from ...

Spioenkop

The breath-taking Spioenkop Dam is at the foot of the mountain range of the same name. The Battle of Spioenkop was fought here, and became one of the most important confrontations between the British and the Boers, claiming the ...

Ulundi

The town of Ulundi, in the heart of Zululand, is set among majestic hills and the rugged valleys of the White Umfolozi River. The former capital of the Zulu Kingdom, Ulundi straddles Route 66, between Nongoma and Melmoth. ...

Utrecht

Nestled within the untainted beauty of the Balele Mountain Range, the historical town of Utrecht may be small, but it boasts plenty of character and charm. This part of the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal is known for its ...

Vryheid

Fundamentally a coal mining and beef farming town, Vryheid - from the Afrikaans word for ‘freedom’ - lies roughly 70 kilometres north east of Dundee in Zululand. Vryheid also lies close to the site of one of the more infamous ...

Weenen

It is an interesting name for a town, Weenen. The town, set on the banks of the Bushmans River, means 'place of weeping', originating as far back as 1838 when it was laid out in a Voortrekker grid pattern similar to many old ...

Winterton

The little village of Winterton is set in awe-inspiring surrounds and is known as the base from which to explore the magnificent Drakensberg Mountain Range. As a result, it is very popular amongst those that love hiking and ...
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