For the Tourism Trade and Visitors to the Drakensberg
Winter 2023

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       Porcupine - Daniel Schultz

WinterDrakensberg's period of rest. A time to relax and sleep in a little longer, but to later enjoy the warmth of a Drakensberg mid-day and the spectacle of the ruggedly beautiful and snow-capped peaks that make up this magnificent region. Encounter Jack Frost as the sun sets and sip red wine before a crackling log fire.

Winter is not a season; it's a celebration." --Anamika Mishra” – 

This edition includes overviews of:




Drakensberg Porcupines

Drakensberg Porcupines or Hystrix africaeaustralis are gentle and friendly rodents; however, they won't hesitate to turn and push their dangerous quills into threatening beings. They are southern Africa's largest rodents, reaching lengths of one metre and a weight of some twenty kilograms.

Domingo Trego, Pixabay

They are nocturnal, and visitors to the Drakensberg usually only experience their presence by the odd quill they leave on a hiking trail. Porcupines remind one of the Hippy Era, having long hair on their heads and shoulders. Their tail and back have extremely sharp black and white quills. They live in burrows and forage on plants. Additionally, they gnaw on the odd bone.

Newcastle, doorstep to the Northern Drakensberg

Newcastle is a fascinating gateway to an important portion of the Northern Drakensberg. The peaks are not as high here as in the Central and Royal Natal sections, some 2000 metres. However, the landscape is magnificent, and the range of activities is extensive.

The earliest inhabitants of the area surrounding Newcastle were the San and iron age Nguni, such as the amaZizi and AmaHlubi. King Shaka is rumoured to have visited the mountain on the outskirts of Newcastle and named it Majuba, or the place of doves.

Newcastle was initially a stop for wagons going north and was known as Post Halt II. Slowly but surely, a settlement began to develop at this 'wagon stop'. In 1854, Dr Sutherland surveyed, drew up a township plan and registered it as 'Newcastle'.

Fort Amiel was established in 1876 due to the potential threat of the Zulu Kingdom, and this period followed the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 and the First Boer War of 1880. Three of the most significant battles of the First Boer War were fought close to Newcastle, namely, Laing’s Nek, Schuinshoogte and Majuba. 

The increase in traffic to the gold fields of the Transvaal and the demand for improved transport soon brought a railway to Newcastle on the 15th of May 1890. A town hall commemorating the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria was completed in July 1899. The Second Boer War followed this. Newcastle was largely evacuated as a result. The Boers occupied the town and renamed it Viljoensdorp.

Newcastle continued to develop, and after the First World War, developers began to consider this town as an important industrial hub seriously. In 1918, Mr JK Eaton decided to build Steel Works, and the Newcastle Iron and Steel Works Ltd was established. Between 1920 and 1926, the first blast furnace to be erected in South Africa was completed, and the project was acquired by Union Steel Corporation (SA). By 1937, African Metals had purchased the Newcastle Works; by 1945, a second blast furnace was operating. Some 150 000 tons per annum of various pig iron grades were being produced. Durban Falkirk Iron Co. Ltd. was in production by 1948.

The 1950s and 1960s saw slow and steady growth. A third, Iscor Works, was then established. Later, Karbochem established a plant in Newcastle. Newcastle is now KwaZulu-Natal's third most significant urban area and continues to grow due to new investment from funders from areas such as the Far East.

Some core attractions:

  • Chelmsford Nature Reserve - one of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife's reserves. Famous for its herds of the rare Oribi antelope;
  • Vulintaba - renowned Northern Drakensberg Resort;
  • Various battlefield sites such as Laing’s Nek, Schuinshoogte and Majuba and Botha's Pass;  
  • Fort Amiel - has a wide range of exhibits on the history and heritage of Newcastle. In addition, it has a magnificent view of the Northern Drakensberg;
  • The Newcastle Town Hall and monuments;
  • Carnegie Art Gallery - houses an extensive collection of African art;
  • Albert Luthuli Museum at Blaawbosh Intermediary School. Albert Luthuli was a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and the Eight President of the ANC. He was a principal at this famous school; and
  • Haggard's Hilldrop B&B was the home of the famous author H. Rider Haggard.

When Champagne Castle was Cathkin Peak

Champagne Castle, South Africa's third-highest peak, was initially and in the late 1800s known as Cathkin Peak. Only after it was finally summited in the 1880s was it referred to as Champagne Castle.

There are three stories as to how it was renamed. The first is an account of Grantham and David Gray, who decided to climb Cathkin Peak with a bottle of champagne to celebrate their ascent. When they reached the top, they noticed that it was half full. They proceeded to accuse one another of sneaking a drink. However, they later compromised by agreeing to rename Cathkin Peak 'Champagne Castle'.  The second, probably true, was that David Gray did not climb Cathkin Peak. Instead, it was Grantham and his servant that climbed the peak. They, too, carried a bottle of champagne to celebrate their ascent. Unfortunately, the servant broke the bottle on the ascent. Grantham felt this was an appropriate Christening and renamed Cathkin Peak 'Champagne Castle'. David Gray was upset about this, as he wanted this peak to remain Cathkin Peak, the name of his farm. As a result, for many years, this peak was known as Champagne Castle or Cathkin Peak. This is illustrated in the map below.

From Map of the Colony of Natal By Alexander Mair Land Surveyor Natal 1875

The third is that Champagne Castle owes its name to a bet between two Natal government authorities. However, not much information exists to verify this account. The peak, now named Cathkin Peak, was initially regarded as the highest peak in the Drakensberg. It is a particularly difficult climb to the top of Cathkin Peak. Amplett, West and Kelly were the first to summit it on 12 September 1912. When they reached the top, they noticed that some peaks in Lesotho were much higher than Cathkin's.

Tree Fuchsia

Tree Fuchsia is usually a small tree of two metres and is common in the Montane vegetation belt of the Drakensberg. However, these trees can reach up to twelve metres and sometimes more.

Its tubular flowers, of up to 40 mm, are spectacular. The colour of the flowers ranges from brick red to orange and yellow. You can note these beautiful blooms from May until December. The nectar of these flowers attracts Sugar and various insects.

Prevalent along the stony fringes that run along Drakensberg's many hiking trails and the edges of its forests. Tree Fuchsia is evergreen, often multi-stemmed, with bright green pinnate or, once compound, opposite leaves. Furthermore, the leaves have a finely serrated edge. The bark is pale grey and brown. Moreover, it is grooved longitudinally. The flowers produce clusters of spherical green berries that transform into juicy black fruit. 

Tree Fuchia (Source: Wikimedia Commons)


Carter Trail

Carter Trail is a moderate hike that starts at the Champagne Castle Hotel. Please ensure you have paid the necessary fee and filled in the hiking register at Monks Cowl. This trail is some 11 kilometres, and the duration is some 150 minutes.

Source: Wikilot

The trail follows the contour of the Matterhorn and eventually slightly into Wonder Valley. Return the same way. You can view or download a plot of this map on Wikiloc.

Hiking Tips

Sign the mountain rescue register;

Wear sturdy hiking boots and carry a walking pole;

Wear a light rucksack even for a walk;

Ensure it contains food items for at least one day, warm clothing and a poncho (the weather in the Berg can change suddenly), sufficient water, a small medical aid kit, a cell phone, map, compass, torch, whistle and a box of matches; and ideally a bivvy bag;

If you encounter a bushfire, try to get to a small grove of trees as quickly as possible or light a fire break around you. At worst, run directly through the fire and roll;

If caught in a lightning storm, urgently head for a forest. At worst, squat over insulating material and ideally cover yourself with a poncho or raincoat. Discard any metal items and leave your backpack a distance from you. Do not lie down or stand under an isolated tree; and

Walk in a group of at least three people.

The San's Marauding Bandits

There is a romantic and commonly held notion that Drakensberg's San was a peaceful and egalitarian community. Bands of this community are believed to have had the view that the cattle of the Iron Age Nguni communities in the Drakensberg, and later the settlers, were owned by all and thus could be hunted as ordinary wildlife. This may have initially been true, leading to misunderstandings and skirmishes between these parties.

However, some groups of San learnt that stealing large numbers of stock was a commercially viable venture. These bandits brought havoc to the Natal colony and almost ruined many early settler farmers. Unfortunately, the reaction of the colonialists was not just; they often regarded the Drakensberg San as vermin and shot them on sight. These actions decimated the Drakensberg San. Interesting stories of these initial encounters can be read in early historical accounts of the Natal Colony, such as the classic of Bulpin, 'Natal and Zulu Country'.

Bulpin, for example, highlights that San bandits often stole whole herds of cattle and managed to drive them into Lesotho for a reward. Matters got so out of hand that Natal colonial authorities even established Fort Nottingham, specifically, by the 45 Regiment of Foot, the Sherwood Foresters, in 1856 to counter this threat.

Drakensberg Events in the Central and Northern Drakensberg

Winterton Parkrun takes place every Saturday morning from the Waffle Hut starting at 08.00

Cathkin Park Community Projects Run takes place on the last Friday of the month at 17.00  in Summer and 16.30 in Winter at Drakensberg Brewery at Berg Air Complex.

Drakensberg Boys' Choir School has a concert on Wednesday afternoons during term times

Mountain Music Club occurs on the last Saturday of every month from 5 pm at Mac's Café, Cedarwood Shopping Centre. Dave: 0822527768


24 – 25th June: Berg and Bush 2 day

24th June: Drakensberg Polar Bear Swim Challenge at Dragon Peaks. Belinda 0837737450

29 July Berg Air Festival

1st – 2nd Sept: The Berg Show at Winterton Country Club. Joanine 0828564368

30th Sept: Run the Berg.

8th -12th Dec: Christmas in the Berg at the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir School

Source: Ann Gray


Drakensberg's Tourism Market

The Central and Northern Drakensberg has several major resorts that accommodate over 100 guests and a significant concentration of smaller self-catering, B&Bs, lodges and Guest Houses—easily accessed from this region's core markets, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. This area is about a four-hour drive from Gauteng and two-and-a-half hours from Durban. It is possible to fly into Pietermaritzburg and reduce the driving time to this destination. 

The Drakensberg is positioned at the consolidation or mature stage of Butler's Tourism Area Lifecycle model in domestic tourism and the exploration phase concerning the foreign market. The domestic market mainly comprises leisure holiday tourists who self-drive to the area. They tend to be couples or family groups. Occasionally conference and incentive groups visit the area, particularly resorts such as Champagne Sports Resort, Alpine Heath and Drakensberg Sun. These are the 'Well-to-do Mzansi Families', 'Spontaneous Budget Explorers' and 'Seasoned Leisure Seekers'.

Foreign tourists are predominantly self-drive young and middle-aged adventure seekers (Next Stop South Africa's and Wanderlusters from the Millennial and Generation X groupings). Attracted to the area for hiking and other adventure opportunities, such as zip-lining, hot-air ballooning, and helicopter flips.

According to South African Tourism, some 65,000 foreign tourists visit the Drakensberg annually. This segment is approximately 8% of the foreign tourists visiting KwaZulu-Natal and 1% of all foreign tourists visiting South Africa. This portion seems to be a growing market, as an estimated 47,000 visited this area in 2016.

The nature of this market can be assumed to be in line with the foreign makeup of the KwaZulu-Natal overseas tourism market that predominantly comes from the UK, Germany, USA and France.

Tourism KwaZulu-Natal has determined that some 186,000 domestic tourists visit the Drakensberg annually. The key markets are the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

The overall Drakensberg tourism market is worth in the order of two billion Rand per annum.

This market is beginning to recover from the ravages of COVID. The Smith Travel Research (STR Statistics for the Drakensberg Midlands and as supplied by Tourism KwaZulu- Natal have revealed that:

South Africa's occupancy rate for hotels, lodges, etc., for January to December 2022 was 55% versus 36% for the same period in 2021. South Africa's Average Daily Rate or ADR was R1316.00 as opposed to R1108.00 in 2021. The Revenue per Available Room or REVPAR was R720 versus R398 in 2021. 

In the case of the Drakensberg & Midlands, the occupancy rate was 67% vs 47%. ADR R1146 vs R1083 in 2021 and Revpar R771 vs R505.

South Africa's foreign tourism arrivals were up 153% for January to December 2022 as opposed to the corresponding period in 2021. The number of foreign tourists in 2022 was 5.7 mn vs 2,3 mn in 2021.

Tourism growth for the Drakensberg and Midlands seems to be slowing down. The year-to-end April occupancy figure was 55.3% vs 55.8 in 2022.  This growth has been stifled due to South Africa's poor economic performance and a Global economy that is also struggling.

Globally, tourism is expected to recover to 2019 levels in 2024.



Drakensberg's Weather Charts


Drakensberg Tourism Directory

Download the Drakensberg Experience Map

Adventure Operators

Active Escape

All Out Adventures

Berg Adventures

Cathkin Trails for Mountain Bikers

Drakensberg Ballooning

Drakensberg Canopy Tours

Drakensberg Hikes

Drakensberg Mountain Bike Trails

Dragon Peaks Resort

Four Rivers Adventures

Hike The Berg

Hot Air Ballooning SA

Leap Adventures


The Northern Horse

Ushaka Horse Trails

Westline Aviation

Battlefield Sites



Doornkop Laager site


Fort Durnford

Rensburgskop Battlefield

Siege of Ladysmith (various)


Thukela Heights (Various)



Willow Grange

Winston Churchill Capture Site

Zaailaager / Saailaager


Alkamia B&B

At Home

Bell Park B&B and S/C

Bingelela Restaurant / Pizzeria & B&B

Cathkin Cottage B&B

Easby B&B

Itumeleng B&B Bergville

Nzima B&B

Tugela Fall B&B


Amphitheatre Backpackers

Drakensberg Bush Lodge

Inkosana Lodge

Booking Agencies & Tour Operators

Africa Ignite

Berg Adventures

Cathkin Booking & Management Services

Cathkin Park Reservations

Golf got you

Ron Gold Historical Tours

Camping & Caravanning

Mountain Splendour Eco-Resort

Dragon Peaks Mountain Resort

Monks Cowl Camp

Royal Natal Camp

Injisuthi Camp

Coffee Shops & Restaurants

Bingelela Restaurant / Pizzeria & B&B

Canaan Coffee & Gifts

Champagne Bistro

Chocolate Memories

Drakensberg Brewery

Farmers Fork

Four Rivers

Kabbo Burger Factory

Mac's Coffee Shop

Pig & Plough

Scrumpy Jack Farmstall

The Coffee Patch

The Griller Restaurant

The Salesyard

The Tower of Pizza

Thokozisa Restaurant

Valley Bakery

Waffle Hut

Conference Venues

Alpine Heath

Alpine Heath

ATKV Drakensville Resort

ATKV Drakensville Resort

Cathedral Peak Hotel

Champagne Castle Hotel

Champagne Sport Resort

Dragon Peaks Mountain Resort

Little Switzerland Hotel

Sandford Park Country Hotel

The Nest Hotel

Wits End Mountain Resort

Craft Shops


Cedarwood Village Shopping Centre

Chocolate Memories

Farm Friends Farmstall

KwaZulu-Natal Weavers

Sandra's se Winke;

The Oaks Supermarket

The Outspan


Estate Agents

Chas Everitt - Pierre de Wet 0645120809

Game Reserves/ Conservation Areas

Kwaggashoek Game Ranch

Slievyre Game Farm

Spionkop Nature Reserve

Weenen Nature Reserve

Zulu Waters Game Reserve 

The Drakensberg World Heritage Site


Hlalanathi Berg Resort

Champagne Sports Resort

Cathedral Peak Hotel

Monks Cowl Golf Resort

Guest Houses

Ashtonville Terraces Guesthouse

Monte Vista

The Riverhouse

Lodges, Hotels & Resorts

Alpine Heath

Ardmore Guest Farm

Blue Haze Country Lodge

Cathedral Peak Hotel

Champagne Castle Hotel

Champagne Sports Resort

Cheetah Ridge Lodge

Dragon Peaks Mountain Resort

Dragons View Lodge

Esiweni Lodge

Ezulwini Berg Resort

Hlalanathi Berg Resort

Inkungu Lodge

Kwaggashoek Game Ranch

Little Switzerland Hotel

Mackaya Bella Lodge

Monks Cowl Golf Resort

Montusi Mountain Lodge

Sandford Park Country Hotel

Spionkop Lodge

The Cavern Resort & Spa

The Nest Hotel



Sandra se Winkel


Other Attractions

Cathedral Peak Wine Estate

Dragon Rock Reptile Centre

Drakensberg Boys Choir School

Drakensberg Brewery

Falcon Ridge Raptor Centre

H and D Honey Products

Public San Rock Art Sites

Injisuti Camp, guided tour to Battle Cave

Main Cave, Giants Castle Camp

Road Side Assistance

Tyre Roadside Assistance 0617821591


Accommodation at Trek Trips & Trails

Alpine Heath

Alpine Heath

Ama Casa Self-catering Cottages

Amphitheatre Backpackers

ATKV Drakensville Resort

Bell Park B&B and S/C

Birdsong Cottages

Celtis cottage

Champagne Cottages

Champagne Lane Resort

Champagne Valley Resort

Dalmore Guest Farm

Didima Camp

Drakensberg Dream Cottages

Drakensberg Hikes

Drakensview S/C

Fernwood Shareblock (Pty) Ltd

Giants Castle Camp

Glenside Farmhouse

Goodhope Country Escape

Graceland Self-Catering Cottages

Highbourne Cottages

Hill Billy Cottages

Ihophe(Turtle Dove)

Ihophe(Turtle Dove)

iKhaya Lodge

Ikhayamalafu Mountain Hideaway

Ikhunzi Cave

Ledges Retreat

Little Acres

Linglela Lodge

Nambiti House

Oak Cottage

Ondini Guest House

Ouma se Opstal

Peak View Cottage


River Crossing

Rockwood Earth Lodge

Slievyre Game Farm

Sungubala Eco Camp

Swallowfield Rondavels

Tendele/ Royal Natal

Vultures View

Wits End


Alpine Heath

Champagne Castle Hotel

Champagne Sports Resort

Monks Cowl Golf Resort

Spoilt Green Eco-Spa

The Nest Hotel

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