KwaZulu-Natal's Midlands region is often likened to England, with its rolling green hills and country atmosphere. But that's where the similarity ends. This popular part of the province is closest to the historical city of Pietermaritzburg, while the beautiful Midlands area that surrounds it is filled with rustic charm. It is famous for local hospitality, the Comrades Marathon, the Dusi Canoe Marathon and the enchanting Midlands Meander tourism route.

Did you know?

The Comrades Marathon, an annual Pietermaritzburg to Durban or Durban to Pietermaritzburg event, is the world's oldest and largest ultra-marathon road race.

The KwaZulu-Natal Midlands is located between the magnificent Drakensberg mountains, KwaZulu-Natal's game reserves and the eThekwini-Durban metropolitan area. The largest urban presence is Pietermaritzburg, a deeply historical city characterised by museums, historical routes and perfectly preserved Victorian architecture.

Art galleries, antique stores, an African-inspired shopping mall, interesting buildings, Butterflies for Africa, the Golden Horse Casino, the Howick waterfall and museum, and the surrounding Midlands Meander tourism route are popular attractions to include on your itinerary.

Pietermaritzburg, the administrative capital of the province, was founded by the Voortrekkers (Dutch-speaking colonists who moved from the Cape to the interior) in 1838 and was once the capital of the Boer (Dutch-speaking farmers) republic, Natalia.

It is regarded as the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi's non-violent resistance, satyagraha, as it was here that he decided to fight racial discrimination against Indians after being forcefully removed from a train for sitting in a first-class carriage.

Investigate this heritage on an historical walking tour or take a half-day for full-day driving tour. Places worth seeing include the KwaZulu-Natal Museum, Tatham Art Gallery, KwaZulu-Natal Railway Museum, Voortrekker Museum, Msunduzi Museum Complex, Comrades Marathon House and Macrorie House. The Pietermaritzburg Botanical Gardens, Garden of Remembrance and Church Street mall with its African Arts and Crafts Centre.

Beyond the city limits, the Victorian-inspired streets give way to beautiful countryside, characterised by rivers, farms, nature reserves and lush green hills that roll away to the distant Drakensberg mountains.

This is the home of the Midlands Meander, South Africa's first and finest arts and crafts tourism route. The meander is scenic and bursts with attractions, featuring around 130 destinations offering everything from handmade arts and crafts and homemade treats to world-class accommodation. Explore studios and galleries, country kitchens and homesteads and experience the true warmth of South African hospitality.

The Midlands also features a wealth of natural attractions. Visit the Midmar Dam and enjoy a picnic, lakeside walks and water sports, try some game viewing at Tala Game Reserve or the Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve, or pop in at the Albert Falls Dam Nature Reserve, and go for a game drive, game walk or a spot of bass fishing, or take a trip further inland to Howick to see the magnificent falls of the same name.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Msunduzi Pietermaritzburg Tourism Association
Tel: +27 (0)33 345 1348
Fax: +27 (0)33 394 3535

How to get here

Fly from any of South Africa’s major cities to King Shaka International Airport north of Durban. Take the N3 inland.

If you’re driving from Johannesburg take the N3 freeway direct to Pietermaritzburg. From Cape Town, take the N2 freeway to Durban. From Durban, pick up the N3 to Pietermaritzburg.

Best time to visit

Pietermaritzburg is an all-year-round destination due to its warm climate. Spring to autumn (September to May) is the best time to visit the Midlands, as days are warm and sunny, and the nights moderate. Winter (June to August) produces mild days, but very cold nights.

Tours to do

Historical tours of Pietermaritzburg; Victorian and Edwardian architectural heritage tours of Pietermaritzburg; the Midlands Meander tourism route; Midmar Dam; Albert Falls Dam Nature Reserve; Church Street mall, Garden of Remembrance, historic Railway Station, KwaZulu-Natal Museum, Gandhi statue, the Botanical Gardens and Butterflies for Africa, all at Pietermaritzburg.

What to eat

Farm-fresh produce, homemade treats, art, craft, books, furniture and preserves in the Midlands.

What's happening

Dusi Canoe Marathon at Pietermaritzburg in February; Grape Crushing Festival at Nottingham Road, Midlands, in April; Comrades Marathon at Pietermaritzburg in May; Fort Nottingham Highland Gathering at Fort Nottingham, Midlands, in May; Midlands Meander Slow Food Festival at the Midlands in June; Garden & Leisure Show at Pietermaritzburg in October.

Best buys

African arts and crafts at the African market of Church Street mall, Pietermaritzburg; local art, crafts, homemade treats and preserves along the Midlands Meander.

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