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South Africa, a country of incredible natural wealth, is known for its beauty and the complete contrast of its different regions. From cosmopolitan cities that live to the rhythm of vibrant culture, to museums and historic sites that will help you to travel through South Africa’s history.
Durban itself is home to friendly people, stunning landscapes, excellent food and an abundance of activities to do in and around the city. For your visit, here are some top tips and suggestions of the best things to do in Durban and the greater region surrounding it.
This coastal town, nestled in the KwaZulu-Natal province, is in the eastern part of South Africa and is the third-largest city in the country. Known as a multicultural city with colonial, Zulu, African, British and Indian influences, Durban was rehabilitated for the FIFA World Cup in 2010 with new infrastructure and services that gave its inhabitants greater facilities and amenities.
The city of Durban offers visitors various modes of transport. These include:
Durban offers many interesting things to see. Tourists should visit the City Hall (built in 1910 and a replica of Belfast City Hall), the colonial statues of Francis Farewell Square, the post office (built in 1885), the Clock of Vasco da Gama, the Emmanuel Cathedral (from 1904), Juma Masjid Mosque, Salisbury House (built in 1925) or the Dick King Statue.
For culture and history lovers, plenty of museums are open to the public. The Durban Holocaust Centre, Natal Maritime Museum and Cato Manor Heritage Centre are all worth visiting. Visitors will also be drawn to the Botanic Gardens and Umgeni River Bird Park.
Durban city provides an array of activities to keep you busy for weeks.
An extensive seaside promenade surrounded by hotels and restaurants, relax at one of Durban’s many beaches. Visitors should head to Umhlanga beach with its lighthouse and great surf spots, watch a rugby game at Kings Park Stadium and enjoy tailgates before the game.
Visit a Sangoma (a traditional African healer) or discover the Indian side of Durban at Victoria Street Market.
For a true glimpse into South African countryside head to to the Valley at 1000 hills and witness stunning landscapes, valleys and cliffs that engulf you as you wander through them.
For history lovers, a trip to Rorke’s Drift is a must-see. This battle took place just after the Battle of Isandhlwana in 1879. Visit Rorke’s Drift on a Kwa-Zulu Natal self drive itinerary.
This 2km tree adorned road, with Victorian-style houses, is the perfect place for window shopping, perusing art or eating out. There’s never a quiet moment here so travellers can make it a day or night activity or maybe even both!
Just outside of Durban, there are many more exciting things to see and do.
Visitors who have time on their hands are encouraged to drive to the provincial capital Pietermaritzburg, famous for its architecture such as that of its Town Hall, its Supreme Court and Tatham Art Gallery.
In the Midlands, travellers will find one of the poshest beach towns in the country: Umhlanga Rocks as well as the city of Eshowe, which is the oldest town, founded by the Europeans of Zululand.
Located between South Africa and Lesotho, Maloti-Drakensberg Park is a UNESCO protected area. Visitors can then head to Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve to see a unique landscape and wildlife or go to the Elephant Coast area with its 21 different ecosystems, including the UNESCO-listed site of iSimangaliso Wetland Park.
At any age, why not play adventurer and encounter the elephants, zebras, buffaloes, hippos, and lions on a safari experience to or from Durban. After all, you are visiting South Africa! Our experts recommend the Kruger & Kingdom small group tour.
For ocean lovers, travellers can watch the Hermanus whales and the Great White sharks, enjoy some of the best surf on the planet near Cape Saint Francis or awesome diving along the coastline. South Africa has many golden beaches and vineyards as far as the eye can see. This country is full of surprises to create moments that you will never forget.
You may also like our top tips for going on a Safari.
Travellers who love shopping will find all they need in the various shops, shopping centres (Gateway Theatre Shopping, La Lucia Mall, Pavilion Shopping Centre) and markets available to visitors. Why not buy traditional items such as tribal masks, spices, Zulu jewellery, traditional medicines sold by the Sangoms, tam-tams or hand-woven baskets?
In South Africa, everywhere floats the perfume of “braai”, the local barbecue. From townships to posh restaurants, some of the best meat on the planet is grilled and served here.
There is even a national day, on September 24th, called “braai day” to celebrate the arrival of summer and signals the return to backyards and the gathering of friends and family. Ask the locals in Durban to make you taste the boerewors, a long beef sausage with spices, and Biltong, the national beef jerky.
The local dishes are the translation of the multicultural side of Durban. Regional specials include:
For those with a sweet tooth, try the milk pie (tart with concentrated milk, vanilla essence, cornflour, and cinnamon), the Malva Pudding (pudding with apricot jam, vanilla, corn syrup and brown sugar) or the Koeksister (braided doughnut dipped in a cane syrup). Desserts in the KwaZulu-Natal province region are incredibly sweet so get ready for a sugar rush with the Koeksister!
Out of the many types of beers, you will find, here are some of the drinks visitors should taste in Durban. The Black Sambucca (with liquorice flavour), the Bombay Crush (a drink made with Tukmaria seeds, cold milk, vanilla ice cream or whipped cream and rose syrup), and from its British roots the traditional ” Teatime”.
Our Africa Experts know all the best places to stay in and around Durban. Top recommendations include Southern Sun Maharani for access to the Golden Mile, Protea Hotel for a stay in Umhlanga and Fairlight Beach House if a guesthouse experience is what you are looking for.
We can also help you find the best spot to rest your head in KwaZulu-Natal-Natal. We love Leopard Mountain Lodge in Manyoni Reserve for the views, Thanda Safari Lodge for safari luxury and style, Rorke’s Drift Hotel for a stay in the Battlefield region and Ghost Mountain Inn for an intimate resort at the base of Ghost Mountain.
If you are planning a holiday to South Africa, consider adding some time in Durban at the beginning or end of your trip in order to see yet another side to this diverse and beautiful country.