Our Top N3 Gateway Gems 💎
Throughout this crazy 2020 year we have been featuring the N3 Gateway region’s most iconic landmarks as #N3GatewayGems 💎 on our social media media platforms to inspire our community when we couldn’t travel. These Gems have have ranged in type quite vastly from impressive buildings, to music festivals and wonders of nature. Luckily travel is open and with it comes our go-to list of the region’s favourite landmarks which you can’t afford to miss out!
Umgeni Steam Railway
If you’re running out of steam on your holiday, take it easy at a train window while still taking in the country, it’s countryside and it’s history on one of South Africa’s oldest steam trains, the Umgeni Steam Railway. Steam puffs as a journey runs on railway lines build in the early 1800’s serving as one of South Africa’s oldest functioning tracks of history.
This local locomotive fleet is a collection of authentic rail beauties including a Class 3BR, a Class 12R, a Class 14R, two Class 19D’s, a Garratt GF, a Garratt GMAM and a 1892 vintage Dübs Class-A; all varying in age from 1892 – 1954. Be pulled by a 1912 locomotive while seated in a carriage built in 1908 accompanied by coaches from the 1930’s up some of the steepest railway gradients in South Africa (1:20 -1:50) through one of the oldest running tunnels, Drummond Tunnel (1880) to overlook the Valley of a 1000 Hills with its captivating landscape stretching as far back into history as steam can carry you.
The colonial station of Inchanga has a buzzing Inchanga Craft Market where rail travellers can buy handmade crafts and home-made food. Special excursions take in the scenery of Baynesfiled, Crammond / Bon Accord, Nottingham, Wartburg and Pietermaritzburg on rail.
Inhlosane is an iconic hill visible from just about anywhere in the Midlands. At 1976 metres above sea level, it is one of the highest peaks before the Drakensberg – which can be clearly seen from the top.
The shape of the hill, viewed from the east, inspired its name which means the ‘developing breast of a young girl’. During the Bambatha Rebellion, Inhlosane was the furthest point that Bambatha’s men came – their cries from the top of the peak chilling the blood of the pioneer settlers in the valley. In 1945 a big fire was lit on the peak of Inhlosane to celebrate the end of World War 2.
Hiking up Inhlosane is a popular pastime for both locals and visitors. The last part of the 2,2km ascent to the ridge is very steep through large dolerite boulders. Grassland flowers are splendid during summer, including swathes of pink Watsonia and blue Wahlenbergia. Near the top of the ridge, Ericas and Senecio macrocephalus thrive. Baboons and red rabbits are often seen on the slopes and Jackal buzzard swoop below.
Boston Dargle Impendle Tourism
Nestled in the rolling foothills of the Maluti Mountains of the north eastern Free State lies the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. Copper, bronze and gold paint the iconic Golden Gate cliffs and it is for this reason the park got its name – from the brilliant shades of gold cast by the sun on the park’s sandstone cliffs, especially the imposing Brandwag rock, keeping vigil over the main rest camp. Highlands National Park is the only nature reserve that protects grassland biome in SA!
The hike up to the Tugela Gorge to the base of the Amphitheatre is a Drakensberg favourite. It’s a long walk but is relatively flat, so it’s not very strenuous and the views are absolutely breathtaking.
This not-to-be-missed museum has been voted as South Africa’s Best Country Museum. Built on the actual Talana battlefield at the base of Talana Hill, the museum defends history on the 20 acre Heritage Park.
It takes half a day touring the 17 buildings on site to absorb the impact of the ‘Boer’ (Farmer), British and Zulu combat legacy. Restored homesteads, garden headstones; South Africa’s first coal mine; a locomotive; weapons; uniforms, photographs; an original hand built wagon and one of the only two wooden wool presses left in South Africa, spin tales of time. Rare artefacts and archives serve as evocative references. Exclusive Zulu beadwork, hand-blown glass and precious books are for sale at the shop. Miner’s Rest restaurant serves meals in a pre-1914 corrugated iron miner’s home.
The Marianhill Monastery is located in Marianhill on the outskirts of Pinetown. The monastery was founded by Trappist monks in 1882 as a Catholic Mission and now boasts an impressive display of architecture and design. Beautiful frescos adorn the cathedral ceiling and light streams through stained glass windows.
In addition to this, the monastery is well known for its organic produce, including milk, cheese and yoghurt. You can stop at the monastery and enjoy a delicious lunch in their tea garden. The menu ranges from light snacks to heartier fare – sit in the shaded garden and relax to the monks chanting in the background. Tours can be arranged.
Nambiti Game Reserve
Located about halfway between Joburg and Durban, outside the town of Ladysmith near the Alfred Duma Municipality, Nambiti is a big 5 game reserve with over 40 other game species as well. What makes it unique is the diverse terrain of grasslands, riverine bush, savannah and thornveld inside the 22 000 acres of reserve.
Nambiti it is an ideal Bush and Berg shortbreak holiday destination.The historical Zulu, British and Boer War battlefields areas are easily accessible from Nambiti.
Spion Kop was the site of the most futile and probably bloodiest battle of the Anglo-Boer War. Astoundingly, there were three men on Spion Kop that day – Gen. Louis Botha, Winston Churchill and Mahatma Gandhi – who each later influenced the course of world history.
The Battle of Spion Kop was fought about 38 km west-south-west of Ladysmith on the hilltop of Spioenkop along the Tugela River, kwaZulu-Natal from 23–24 January 1900. It was fought between the South African Republic and the Orange Free State on the one hand and British forces during the Second Boer War campaign to relieve Ladysmith. It was a Boer victory.
Lesotho! Beautiful, culturally rich, affordable and easily accessible from Durban and Johannesburg, mountainous Lesotho is a vastly underrated travel destination. The contrast with South Africa could not be more striking, with the Basotho people’s distinct personality and the altitudinous terrain’s topographical extremes. Even a few days in Lesotho’s hospitable mountain lodges and trading posts will give you a fresh perspective on Southern Africa.
Maletsunyane Falls is a 192 metre high waterfall near the town of Semonkong (The Place of Smoke), which also is named after the falls.
The mighty Maletsunyane Falls is one of the highest single dropping falls in Africa, creating a haze of smoke as the water plummets with savage splendour 186m down into a spectacular gorge.
If you’re brave enough, you can tackle the abseil at the falls. At 204m, the abseil was named the longest commercially operated single-drop abseil in the world by the Guinness World Records in October 2005.
Nelson Mandela Capture Site
Have you seen the Nelson Mandela Capture site sculpture? The sculpture, a collaboration between artist Marco Cianfanelli and Jeremy Rose, significantly comprises 50 steel column constructions – each between 6.5 and 9.5 metres tall – set into the Midlands landscape. The approach to the site, which has been designed by Mashabane Rose Associates, leads one down a path towards the sculpture where, at a distance of 35 meters, a portrait of Nelson Mandela, looking west, comes into focus. The 50 linear vertical units, line up to create the illusion of a flat image.
Snow on the Sani Pass! It looks like a winter wonderland. Situated between KZN and Lesotho the pass was built circa 1950 and remains a challenging drive in 4×4 vehicles with all the drama, scenery, bad weather and treacherous conditions expected of a pass with a summit altitude of 2876m above sea level. That equates to 9400 feet and at 10,000 feet aircraft need pressurised cabins! Snowfalls can be expected as late as October.
The entire planet knows about Cape Town’s iconic version…but not many people in and out of South Africa have ever seen or heard of Pietermaritzburgs’ own Table Mountain.
Pietermaritzburg’s Table Mountain is one of KZN’s lesser-known gems. Steeped in local folklore including tales of giant snakes and cannibals, the mountain has served as a refuge for its community throughout history and is considered a sacred place. There are distant views of Pietermaritzburg and the Umsunduzi River across to the Umngeni River and the hilltop panorama of the Valley of 1000 Hills. The view down onto Nagle Dam is also impressive and on a clear day, both the coast and the Drakensberg can be viewed from this spectacular vantage point.
The Little Church
When you reach Van Reenen look out for the signs to the Little Church, a chance to stop and take a break. Known modestly as the “Little Church”, it is the smallest church in the southern hemisphere, and it offers a place for rest and reflection. The Tea Garden with the best views of the valley below serves delicious home-made meals from all day breakfasts through lunch to afternoon teas; you simply have to try the scones with cream and the amazing ‘Msobo’ jam!
For more details on any of these iconic #N3GatewayGems 💎 Please drop us a line on email@example.com or on social media @n3gateway