Did you know?
The Cathedral Peak crags are so jagged Zulus call them 'abaMponjwana' – the place of little horns.
Local and foreign travellers in their 70s will tell you childhood stories about Cathedral Peak Hotel, nestled in the beautiful, jagged Drakensberg range in KwaZulu-Natal.
They will speak with fondness of holidays spent hiking the valleys and mountains, of running down the corridors to breakfast, and of time spent in the games room and in the lush gardens of this historical hotel.
Visitor reviews will show you just how popular the Cathedral Peak Hotel is with both South African and foreign travellers, and how much repeat business the hotel enjoys.
People who arrive here tend to spend their first day simply drinking in the magnificent mountain views and enjoying the great menu items on offer.
By day two they’re out in the mountains on guided tours, arriving back at the hotel exhausted in the late afternoon. A quick nap charges the batteries for an evening in the restaurant and an after-dinner chinwag at Harry’s Bar.
Children have their own programme, dining arrangements and games room.
The Cathedral Peak Hotel was built in 1938 by Albert van der Riet, a young man who knew these mountains well.
He was also a world-renowned deep-sea fisherman who once landed a record-sized broadbill swordfish. It was Van der Riet who stocked some of the local rivers with brown trout, whose descendants are being fished by hotel guests to this day.
Van der Riet and his wife, Doreen, turned out to be perfect hoteliers, full of charm and the kind of personal touch that turns guests into long-time friends.
The hotel is now owned and run by their son, William, and his wife, Belinda.
The hotel officially opened in 1939, and during World War II was the perfect place for wounded Allied soldiers to rest up and recuperate: the surrounding mountains of the Cathedral Peak Nature Reserve and the fresh air were great antidotes to the ravages of war in North Africa.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
How to get here
From Johannesburg, take the N3 highway past Harrismith. Turn off at the Bethlehem/Phutaditjaba sign and keep on the Bethlehem road until you get to the Bergville turn-off. Follow this road over Oliviershoek Pass (be patient here, there may be road construction), pass Bergville and follow all the Cathedral Peak signs to the hotel. The distance from Johannesburg to the hotel is approx. 450km. Plan for about driving time of 5.5 hours.
Best time to visit
Winters (June to August) in the Drakensberg are always cosy in the hotel, and it is often snowy outside – but check weather reports for closed roads, etc. Summer (November to February) is delightful, with spectacular afternoon thundershowers, good light for photography, alpine flowers and mostly clear days.
Around the area
Visit the Didima Rock Art Centre in the uKhahlamba Drakensberg World Heritage Site. The area has more than 600 identified San rock art sites. The centre tells the story of the San who lived in the Drakensberg by way of a multimedia show, displays and crafts.
Tours to do
Check with the hotel reception desk for details on guided walks and helicopter sightseeing flights – an absolute must if you have the time. Also, there are many generic tours of the Drakensberg – see the listed websites.
Once at the Cathedral Peak Hotel, you can walk, ride mountain bikes, horse ride or take helicopter flips.
What will it cost
Rates at the hotel range from R1 115 to R1 245 per person per night sharing, which includes dinner, bed and breakfast, and 2 sessions of tea servings. Check with the hotel for weekend specials, honeymoon specials and summer specials.
Length of stay
You could stay at least 2 nights at the Cathedral Peak Hotel – possibly even more once you start exploring the area.
What to pack
Pack the best hiking boots in your cupboard, the floppiest hat on your rack and a light rucksack with space for lots of water and a warm, waterproof garment.
What to eat
A group of top-shelf chefs runs the kitchen at the hotel, offering excellent and varying buffet choices at mealtimes.
The celebrated Drakensberg Boys’ Choir holds its annual Music in the Mountains Festival at the end of April/May. They also hold a Christmas in the Berg performance early in December. Check the listed website for details.
Walking sticks from the local craft shops – good presents and useful for your hiking trips.