Perhaps the title is a little misleading…after all, this Champagne Valley has nothing at all to do with bubbly – it’s more about the crisp, clean air! The beautiful Champagne Valley is situated in the middle of the Drakensberg (Dragon Mountains – so called because the range looks like a back of a huge dragon) mountain range in Kwazulu Natal. Champagne Castle is the second highest peak in the range, and the valley below and surrounding it is a very popular destination for local and international holiday makers. There are several really good hotels and resorts in the area, as well as opportunities for caravanning and camping right in the heart of the mountains – it would be an ideal destination for a South African campervan rental holiday.
Exploring the Champagne Valley, South Africa
The Champagne Valley is an easy 2.5 hr drive from Durban, or about 4 hrs from Johannesburg. We have a Timeshare chalet at the Champagne Sports Resort, and go up there every year to play golf and commune with Nature in one of the most beautiful parts of the country. You really need your own transport here; we picked up our car rental at the King Shaka Airport (Durban), grabbed some supplies and were at the resort in no time at all. (You can buy most things locally in the little town of Winterton, about 30kms from the Valley, and there is a great bakery just down the road from the resort, The Valley Bakery, where you can go for breakfast or lunch and pick up a great freshly-baked loaf!
The opportunities for outdoor activities in the Valley are almost endless, and the area will appeal to adventure seekers of all ages, as well as those who would just like to kick back and relax with a good book against the beautiful backdrop of mountains. Just a short distance down the road you will find the Four Rivers Rafting and Adventures, where there are many activities to get the adrenalin flowing: choose from Quad Bike Trails, Abseiling, Archery, Mountain Boarding, Zipline and white-water rafting (in Season). For those, like myself, who prefer slightly less hectic pursuits there is brilliant trout fishing at several venues (both lake and river fishing available – most hotels in the area have equipment for hire and you can buy a temporary licence). We love playing golf on the excellent 18 hole course at Champagne Sports Resort, which has to be one of the most scenic courses in the country, and there are also two 9 hole courses at Monks’ Cowl and Cathedral Peak). The world-famous Drakensberg Boys’ Choir is just up the road and presents regular concerts, and you can also attend a falconry display at the Falcon Ridge Bird of Prey Centre.
Hiking, however, remains one of the prime attractions for visitors exploring the Champagne Valley in South Africa; there are dozens of trails that take you through forests and valleys, past pristine waterfalls and along the contour paths all the way up the mountains. It is extremely important to register your walk and make sure you have adequate drinking water and a warm jacket – the weather can change in the blink of an eye up in the mountains!
On one of our non-golfing days we drove up to Cathedral Peak, about 50 kms from our base. The scenery is wonderful – fertile farming valleys nestling at the foot of the surrounding mountains, and the entire area dotted by little rural villages; here goats, cattle and people have right of way, so drive carefully and respect their rights! The mountain views from the Didima and Cathedral Peak resorts are unsurpassed and well worth the interesting drive.
Finally, there are also several interesting sites for history buffs, including the Anglo/Boer War battlefield sites of Spioenkop, and the place where Winston Churchill was famously ambushed and captured.
Exploring the Champagne Valley in South Africa is a marvelous antidote to city life, an opportunity to enjoy Nature at its’ best and one of the most relaxing holiday destinations in the country – come and try it for yourself, you will love every moment!