Sign Up
Newsletter Signup
Free Fodor's Newsletter

Subscribe today for weekly travel inspiration, tips, and special offers.

Passport: Your weekly travel wrap-up
Today's Departure: Your daily dose of travel inspiration

Durban and KwaZulu-Natal Travel Guide

Gallery
  • Photo: lcswart / Shutterstock

Plan Your Durban and KwaZulu-Natal Vacation

Durban isn't slick or sophisticated, but 320 days of sunshine a year entices visitors and locals alike to the vast stretches of beautiful beach that hug the coastline. The close proximity to the beach has given the province's largest city a laid-back vibe that makes it a perfect holiday destination and the ideal springboard from which to visit the diverse beauty of the rest of the province of

KwaZulu-Natal.

As one of the few natural harbors on Africa's east coast, Durban developed as a port city after the first European settlers landed in 1824 with the intention of establishing a trading post. It's the busiest port in South Africa as it exports large volumes of sugar and is home to the country's largest import and export facility for the motor industry. The port also has a passenger terminal for cruise liners that mostly operate between November and May.

The city's "Golden Mile" (an area much larger than the name implies) consists of high-rise hotels flanked by a popular promenade and beaches, and the colonial-inspired suburbs of Berea and Morningside that overlook the city offer boutique hotels and packed restaurants.

Residential and upmarket commercial development has seen coastal spots like Umhlanga to the north earn cult status with tourists, and collections of small villages along both the north and south coasts have access to pristine beaches. Add to the mix two World Heritage Sites (Drakensberg and St. Lucia Wetland Park), and KwaZulu-Natal itself embodies South Africa's mantra: the world in one country. More importantly, it's truly representative of South Africa's rainbow nation.

KwaZulu-Natal (commonly referred to as KZN) is a premier vacation area for South Africans, despite being a comparatively small province (which, perhaps surprisingly, has the country's largest province population at more than 10 million people). It's all but impossible to resist the subtropical climate and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. In fact, the entire 480-km (300-mi) coastline, from the Wild Coast in the south to the Mozambique border in the north, is essentially one long beach, attracting hordes of swimmers, surfers, and anglers.

KwaZulu-Natal's two-part moniker is just one of the many changes introduced since the 1994 democratic elections. Previously the province was known simply as Natal (Portuguese for "Christmas"), a name bestowed by explorer Vasco da Gama, who sighted the coastline on Christmas Day, 1497. KwaZulu, "the place of the Zulu," was one of the nominally independent homelands created by the Nationalist government (1948–94), but with the arrival of democratic South Africa the two were merged to form KwaZulu-Natal. The province is now defined as the Kingdom of the Zulu, and the local Zulu population (about 2.2 million) is characterized by warm hospitality and friendly smiles. The Indian population—originally brought here by the British in the late 1860s as indentured laborers to cut sugarcane—has also made an indelible mark and now represents about 1 million of Durban's total population of 3.5 million.

Read More

Top Reasons To Go

  1. Beautiful Beaches Durban's beaches are some of the world's safest and most beautiful. The long, sandy beaches and inviting water temperatures extend all the way up the Dolphin (north) Coast and beyond, as well as south from Durban, down the Hibiscus Coast and into the Eastern Cape.
  2. Reliving History Explore the battlefields of the Anglo-Zulu and Anglo-Boer wars, making sure you visit the legendary sites of Isandlwana, Rorke's Drift, and Blood River.
  3. Game Viewing Although smaller than Kruger, the easily accessible Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve, Mkuze, Ithala (aka Itala), and Pongola game reserves are all teeming with game, including the Big Five.
  4. Amazing Natural Wonders KZN has two World Heritage Sites—the Drakensberg and Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park—as well as numerous game reserves.
  5. A Vibrant City Durban, Africa's busiest port, has a distinct feel, flavored by its diverse populations. In the city center, you'll find mosques, temples, and churches. Take a rickshaw ride along the Beachfront after browsing for Zulu beadwork, or try a local "bunny chow" (curry inside a hollowed-out loaf of bread).

When To Go

When to Go

The height of summer (December and January) brings heat, humidity, higher prices, and crowds, who pour into "Durbs," as it's fondly known, by...

Read More

Travel Tips

Durban and KwaZulu-Natal Travel Tips

See All

Advertisement

Advertisement

Trip Finder
Store
Guidebooks

Fodor's The Complete Guide to African Safaris

View Details
Travel Deals

Love To Travel?

Get FREE e-mail communications from Fodor's Travel, covering must-see travel destinations, expert trip planning advice, and travel inspiration to fuel your passion.

How we use your email

Thank You

Now sit back, relax, and check your inbox to start planning your next travel adventure.

Please tell us more about the type of travel you're interested in. Check all that apply.