Battlefields

The Battlefields are the site of a concentration of historical battles that took place over numerous years and shaped the history of both South African and British history

KwaZulu Natal Tourist AttractionsThe Battlefields

Not only the place of some of the most picturesque landscapes in the country, the sweeping hills and knotty rock formations that pepper the rolling plains and valleys of northern and central KwaZulu Natal are also the site of a concentration of historical battles that took place over numerous years and shaped the history of both South African and British history.

Where? The Battlefields Region, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

Overnight? See Battlefields accommodation, in KwaZulu Natal

Today what appears to be little more than wind-swept plains littered with the remains of stone forts, graveyards and little else to indicate strife, bore witness to innumerable fierce battles.

First between the Voortrekkers on their way to the hinterland in a bid to escape the British rule of the Cape Colony, and the fierce Zulu kings, who believed that this beautiful land that lay between the Drakensberg Mountains and the Indian Ocean was their own ‘heaven on earth’.

This same area of land then witnessed further clashes between the British Empire, battling to gain control over land across the Tugela River, and the Zulu nation in the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, encompassing the famous battles at Isandlawana and Rorkes Drift. Just two years later, the British were at war again in South Africa in what became known as the First Anglo-Boer War, pitting the Boers and British against one another, with numerous battles ensuing across this same area of land.

Today this beautiful and somewhat fragile region forms the heart of a Battlefields Route that one can do as part of a tour or as a self-drive experience - maps and brochures in tow to trace the battles that involved Mahatma Gandhi, Churchill, Shaka and General Louis Botha - all of whom played strategic roles in these intense clashes that have left the landscape imbued with the echoes of battle. (See Battlefields Map).

Popular Towns in the Battlefields Region

Babanango

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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 lost on the slopes...

More information and photographs: Babanango Information

Biggarsberg

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Drive along the N11 and there isn't much to indicate that you are in Biggarsberg, other than undulating hills that easily bring to mind the age-old song 'Green are the hills of Natal' and the odd herd of cows. This is mostly farm land now...

More information and photographs: Biggarsberg Information

Colenso

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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 over 6 000 residents...

More information and photographs: Colenso Information

Dundee

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The pretty little town of Dundee, which has managed to retain much of its aesthetic rustic appeal, lies in the valley of the magnificent Biggarsberg Mountain range some 325 kilometres from Durban and only 30 minutes’ drive from the neighbour...

More information and photographs: Dundee Information

Elandslaagte

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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 is but a...

More information and photographs: Elandslaagte Information

Estcourt

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Lower down in the valley from Van Reenen’s Pass, and in the heart of the Anglo-Boer War territory, Estcourt is a fairly large town that serves as the gateway to the central Drakensberg, together with Winterton just 40 kilometres to the north...

More information and photographs: Estcourt Information

Gingindlovu

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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...

More information and photographs: Gingindlovu Information

Glencoe

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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 houses built by...

More information and photographs: Glencoe Information

Greytown

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Often referred to as the ‘jewel of KwaZulu Natal, Greytown lies in the forest-clad, rolling hills of the Natal Midlands, a picturesque little town originally settled during the 1850s and subsequently awash with buildings of note, scenic drives...

More information and photographs: Greytown Information

Hlobane

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Hlobane was the site of a British disaster in March 1879 when mounted troops led by Lt. Col. Redvers Buller tried to ambush the mountain, then a hiding place of the abaQulusi people, descendants of the Zulu royal homestead, ebaQulusini...

More information and photographs: Hlobane Information

Isandlwana

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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 1879. It is an eerie....

More information and photographs: Isandlwana Information

Ladysmith

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Set on the banks of the Klip River, and named after Sir Harry Smith’s Spanish wife, Ladysmith was established in 1850 and served as a staging-post for fortune hunters on their way to the gold fields in the then Transvaal, and the diamond...

More information and photographs: Ladysmith Information

Lüneburg

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The little village of Lüneburg (place of the moon) is the original settlement of German Lutheran missionaries who, it is safe to assume, named the community in 1854 after their hometown in Germany. Today it is the site of the oldest German...

More information and photographs: Lüneburg Information

Melmoth

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Referred to, in the SA edition of Trivial Pursuit, as having the cleanest air in the country, Melmoth was a ‘gold rush’ town, founded in 1888 and named after Sir Melmoth Osborn, the resident commissioner of Zululand at the time. Melmoth...

More information and photographs: Melmoth Information

Newcastle

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Deeply involved in the Anglo-Boer War, Newcastle today is the largest town in northern KwaZulu Natal and shares its name with a further 27 sister Newcastles worldwide. It is awash with history and some fairly original ways to spend one...

More information and photographs: Newcastle Information

Paulpietersburg

Overnight? Accommodation 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 dumbe fruit...

More information and photographs: Paulpietersburg Information

Rorkes Drift

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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 the...

More information and photographs: Rorkes Drift Information

Spioenkop

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Spioenkop Dam lies within the Spioenkop Dam nature reserve, its waters sourced by enclosing the great Tugela River, which has its source higher up in the Drakensberg Mountains. Both the dam and the reserve lie at the foot of the beautiful...

More information and photographs: Spioenkop Information

Ulundi

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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. Historically, it is...

More information and photographs: Ulundi Information

Utrecht

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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 vast...

More information and photographs: Utrecht Information

Vryheid

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Vryheid lies close to the site of one of the more infamous battles of the Battlefields Route, the battle of Blood River, fought on the river of the same name in 1838 when the Boers confronted the Zulus under Dingaan. The town of Vryheid...

More information and photographs: Vryheid Information

Weenen

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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 villages in South...

More information and photographs: Weenen Information

Did you know?

Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift are two of the most famous battlefields in the country, and also perhaps in British history, perhaps because it was here that, in a furious two-hour battle, Zulu forces armed primarily with traditional spears and shields thrashed the mighty British Colonial Empire forces, one of the few times they were ever routed by an indigenous army. Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded to those who defended Rorke's Drift. (Reference: Battlefields Tourism).

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