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Your guide to Pietermaritzburg
All About Pietermaritzburg
Located in South Africa’s Msunduzi River Valley at the foot of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, Pietermaritzburg mixes raw natural beauty with a deep cultural history. Known as the City of Flowers for its blaze of roses and azaleas growing in lush public gardens, the second-largest city in the province enjoys a rich Zulu culture expressed in the town’s galleries, museums, performance venues, and festivals. Pietermaritzburg is home to several natural reserves and parks with scenic hiking and biking trails through grassy plains and wetlands. People come here from around the region to observe wild animals in their natural habitat, including countless birds and butterflies, giraffes, zebras, and elephants. If you visit the city’s famous botanical gardens, be sure to check out the indigenous medicinal plants.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Pietermaritzburg
The best time to visit Pietermaritzburg is fall through winter, from March to August, when the weather is moderate with adequate sunlight and rainfall. If you are in Pietermaritzburg in May, hit up the five-day Art in the Park festival, a thrilling display of local creativity. The spring months between September and November are a beautiful time in Pietermaritzburg, when the city's gardens are blooming. The summer months from December to February are also a pleasant time to travel and you’ll usually encounter fewer people on the trails. Don’t miss Maritzburg Fantasia, a 10-day pre-Christmas celebration with performances, food, and children’s entertainment.
Top things to do in Pietermaritzburg
KwaZulu-Natal National Botanical Garden
Pietermaritzburg Botanical Garden is a mesmerizing journey into the woods, where you’ll be able to see some rare and endangered species of plants. Spectacular clivias, tulips, and London plane trees decorate the path inside the garden. The deep green foliage contrasts with the blue sky and colorful flowers where over 150 species of birdlife and bees come for nectar and food.
Located in downtown Pietermaritzburg, the KwaZulu-Natal Museum is dedicated to providing an understanding of the history of southeastern Africa. With exhibits based on archaeology, African culture, and European settlements, the museum is the largest in the city and has been in operation for well over a century. It’s also home to the most significant collection of Zulu craft objects, and there are information plaques and guides to help you absorb everything the museum has to offer.
Nelson Mandela Capture Site
Outside the town of Howick, 30 minutes northwest of Pietermaritzburg, the famous anti-apartheid leader was apprehended in 1962 and spent the following 27 years imprisoned. The Nelson Mandela Capture Site and Visitor Centre memorializes the spot of his arrest and documents his life. To recognize the 50th anniversary of the arrest, a South African artist later created a striking memorial and likeness of the peace activist using 50 steel columns. You’ll also find hiking and biking trails near the site.