The Battlefields Region, KwaZulu Natal

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.

Did you know? Once you've booked your hotel or Battlefields accommodation, explore the town and destination pages below for info on attractions, activities and things to do when you visit the Battlefields region of 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.

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).

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).

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South Africa Accommodation / KwaZulu Natal Accommodation / Battlefields Accommodation

Destinations in the Battlefields Region

Biggarsberg

Overnight? Biggarsberg accommodation
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 and there isn't much to ind...

Colenso

Overnight? Colenso accommodation
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. Used...

Dundee

Overnight? Dundee accommodation
Visitors that are staying overnight are spoilt for choice with accommodation in Dundee, which is a pretty retreat in the battlefields of KwaZulu-Natal. The pretty little town of Dundee, which has managed to retain much of its aesthetic rustic appeal, lies...

Elandslaagte

Overnight? Elandslaagte accommodation
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 smattering of bui...

Estcourt

Overnight? Estcourt accommodation
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. Initiall...

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 houses built by the Voortrek...

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 worth his salt will know ...

Isandlwana

Overnight? Isandlwana accommodation
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 sight. ...

Ladysmith

Overnight? Ladysmith accommodation
Ladysmith today acts as a commercial centre for the large surrounding farming district became the centre of attention during the Anglo Boer War, both locally and overseas, when it fell under siege from October 1899 to March 1900. Set on the banks of t...

Lüneburg

Overnight? Lüneburg accommodation
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 school in n...

Nambiti Private Game Reserve

Overnight? Nambiti Private Game Reserve accommodation
Nambiti's chief appeal is its exclusivity as the only reserve in Kwazulu-Natal with big 5 viewing. Lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo and rhino are included in the 30 species of game the malaria-free 22 000 acre reserve offers in Ladysmith close to the sout...

Newcastle

Overnight? Newcastle accommodation
The guesthouses and game lodges offering accommodation in Newcastle, are as irresistibly alluring as the magnificent landscapes of KwaZulu-Natal's Battlefields region, which is an important part of the history and culture of South Africa. Deeply invol...

Paulpietersburg

Overnight? Paulpietersburg accommodation
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 which grows on...

Rorkes Drift

Overnight? Rorkes Drift accommodation
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 drift the river enters...

Spioenkop

Overnight? Spioenkop accommodation
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 Spioenkop Mounta...

Utrecht

Overnight? Utrecht accommodation
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 green landscapes tha...

Vryheid

Overnight? Vryheid accommodation
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 battles of the Battlefield...

Weenen

Overnight? Weenen accommodation
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 Africa today...

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