1 000 hills. A legion of kings, culture, and opportunities for adventure


Kings have come and gone. But in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, traditions persevere. The region in KwaZulu-Natal, central to Shaka’s reign, has witnessed countless battles over the centuries. Today, it’s the site of carefully preserved customs and relics. For travellers seeking an exhilarating journey, this rolling terrain is filled with myriad opportunities for adventure.

Over the last three decades, the Gasa clan have shared their culture at the PheZulu Safari Park. Their dances and drumming are a lively celebration of their roots. Throughout the valley, as in the rest of the province, women observe Zulu customs by crafting traditional beaded jewellery. Composed of symbolic shapes and colours, these pieces uphold the practice of expressing emotions and communicating through beadwork.

While the area’s heritage has endured, the very landscape has changed with time. In the 1800s, a railway line was built from Durban through the valley to Pietermaritzburg. Hot coals fuelled the steam trains. Ticket punchers clicked away. As the greenery passed by, leather seats secured travellers’ comfort. Although electric engines have since replaced coal, the dedicated volunteers of Umgeni Steam Railway keep these rituals running. Sturdy locomotives such as Wesley, built in 1938, still chug through the hills thanks to them. On the last Sunday of every month, the Inchanga Choo Choo goes on a three-hour round trip from Kloof to the village of Inchanga. At the stop, a craft market and food stalls delight passengers. 

For those who can’t be still for hours, the Krantzkloof Nature Reserve offers a chance to explore the valley on foot. Hikes such as the leisurely Longshadow Trail and the longer Southern Loop wind through forests and gorges. The area is dotted with waterfalls and the occasional zebra, and encompasses three different biomes. Up the road, a peaceful atmosphere imbues the picnic spots of Makaranga Garden Lodge. The complete opposite is just half an hour away. Inanda Dam is alive with activity as people take to the water on jet skis and yachts. The Umgeni River, home to the annual Dusi Canoe Marathon, flows steadily past. 

This magnificent array of adventure, nature, and history is a 45-minute drive out of Durban. Overlooking the scenery from the vantage point of Botha’s Hill, it’s clear why so many choose to live in the area. At the Rob Roy Retirement Village, residents experience an uninterrupted panorama. The Valley of a Thousand Hills may appear to be steeped in serenity. But each moment of silence is interrupted by the beat of drums or the whistle of trains. In fact, this kingdom is humming with an energy that captivates all who pass through.

Nuraan Shaik