Did you know?
The Umgeni Choo-Choo follows in the tracks of pioneer wagon trains dating back to the 1830s.
Half an hour inland from the beautiful beaches of Durban, at the gateway to the scenic KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, lies the picturesque Valley of a Thousand Hills.
Conveniently located midway between the coastal hub of Durban (now known as eThekwini) and the provincial capital Pietermaritzburg, the region is ideally suited to a lazy days browsing through the many arts, crafts, collectibles and curios found in the area.
Around the rim of the Valley of a Thousand Hills lie verdant suburbs dotted with cottages and bed and breakfast establishments, while upmarket shopping centres in Hillcrest, Westville and Botha's Hill offer shoppers a plethora of décor, home crafts, clothing, food and other goodies.
The world-famous Comrades Marathon runs through here in May and the Amashova cycle race follows the same route in October. The raging Umgeni River in the valley below is the testing ground for participants in the gruelling Dusi Canoe Marathon every February.
This region is also home to the 1000 Hills Chefs School one of the country's top culinary schools and training ground for a number of the world's top chefs; bespoke wooden furniture by Shelldon; the 1000 Hills Bird Park and the early Saturday morning Shongweni Farmers' Market at Assagay.
For generations the Zulu have lived in and around the valley and no visit is complete without a trip to one of the Zulu cultural villages, where tourists can gain insight into the culture and traditions of one of the largest ethnic groups in South Africa. Traditional dancing, cultural shows and curios are showcased at Phezulu Safari Park, while crafts and curios are sold at the 1000 Hills Arts and Crafts Village.
Mariannhill Monastery, established by Roman Catholic monks more than a century ago, boasts striking architecture and an art gallery, while the Umgeni Choo-Choo steam train departs from Kloof Station on the last Sunday of every month and winds through the valley to Inchanga for lunch before returning home.
The nature reserves of Assagay, Springside and Krantzkloof Gorge offer respite from the bustle of the modern urban lifestyle, but the adventurous might prefer paragliding or rock climbing at Inchanga and Monteseel, or mountain biking at Giba Gorge Mountain Bike Park.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Valley of a Thousand Hills Tourism
Tel: +27 (0) 31 777 1874
How to get here
Fly in via King Shaka International Airport and take the N3 heading inland from Durban. Watch for the many signboards halfway between Durban and Pietermaritzburg.
Around the area
Shongweni Dam and Game Reserve offers hiking trails where large game such as bushbuck, wildebeest, rhino and giraffe can be seen. And if you need to pamper yourself, the spas at Makaranga and Crowhurst, both in Kloof, are excellent.
Tours to do
The Mariannhill Monastery near Pinetown has an art gallery featuring the works of local artists and a fascinating museum detailing the monastery’s rich history. Guided tours are available.
While there are public transport options, such as taxis and buses, hiring your own vehicle would allow you to explore at your own pace.
What to pack
Always remember a hat and plenty of sunscreen.
Where to stay
The leafy suburbs around the valley offer a wide choice of charming B&Bs and cosy self-catering cottages for rent.
In May the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir performs a series of concerts at the Makaranga Garden Lodge.
There are many roadside curio stalls selling a variety of leather, glass, bead and wood pieces.