Amathole Mountains, Eastern Cape
Did you know?
The Amathole range is one of the last strongholds of yellowwood forests in South Africa.
A Victorian-era British general once called the Amathole Mountains of the Eastern Cape a ‘peculiar geographical accident of country'. The Xhosa called them ‘The Calves', because this emerald range resembled a herd of young cattle grazing in a grassy field.
The Amathole Mountains were, for many years, a natural fortress for the Xhosa. They still have great spiritual significance for the communities living there.
The Amatholes are truly beautiful: deep wooded ravines, sunlight filtering through ranks of tall trees and shiny streams threading their way down the hills and over mossy rocks. When the midwinter snows fall, these mountains resemble the most breathtaking of Scottish highlands.
If you're a fit and practised hiker, then the six-day Amathole Trail is an enchanting experience. You begin your adventure near King William's Town and you finish at Hogsback village. In the course of the hike, you will pass giant wormhills, rich forests, wildflowers on the grasslands, waterfalls galore and, with a bit of luck, a rare sighting of the endangered Cape parrot.
And just as a bonus for bird watchers, there are glimpses of the Narina trogon, the Knysna turaco (previously known as the Knysna loerie), the orange thrush (previously the orange thrush) and the grey cuckooshrike. At your feet you will find the Hogsback toad and Africa's largest butterfly, the emperor swallowtail. Troops of samango monkeys and the odd lone bushbuck add to the idyllic setting of the Amathole range.
One of the legendary Xhosa chiefs who ruled the Amatholes was King Sandile, who fought the colonial British in the War of the Ax during the 1840s. He was buried in the foothills of his magical mountains on the newly proclaimed Sandile Heritage Route, part of an Eastern Cape heritage tourism initiative that follows the lives of Xhosa kings in the region.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Eastern Cape Tourism Board
Tel: +27 (0) 43 701 9600
Amatola Hiking Trail
Tel: +27 (0) 43 642 2571
How to get here
From Alice, drive 28km on the R345 to Hogsback village, the heart of the Amatholes.
Length of stay
Ideally, set aside a week for hiking and sightseeing.
Where to stay
Hogsback village has a good variety of accommodation. For a magnificent view, stay at The Edge.
Walking sticks from the Hogsback crafters.