Durban, South Africa
Finally, you’ve arrived! This up-and-coming hot spot is the place where your trip starts and finishes. You’ll probably have a pretty good idea of how local life unfolds after spending seven days here. There are lots of experiences to have in Durban, from flat out relaxing, to adrenaline inducing, and much in-between. Spend time on the beach surfing, strolling, and sunbathing; dig into local Afro-Indian delicacies; immerse yourself in Zulu history, art, and culture; and get to know this city inside and out. Do as the locals do, and take it all one step at a time. You’ll soon forget all about that jet leg. But first, get to your hotel.
King Shaka International airport is about 35 kilometers north of Durban’s city center. The fastest way to get downtown is to take either the airport shuttle bus or to grab a taxi. Taxis are more expensive but will get you to your destination quicker than the buses. For more convenience, check with your hotel to see if they offer airport pick up, as many hotels have this service. Now, all that’s left is to check into your hotel before you hit the town!
The best way to learn about any city is to dive right in: get out there and start exploring, learn about your surroundings, and experience the city on the ground level. Durban is pretty spread out, but still relatively easy to navigate. There are some great walking tours in Durban - ones you can do with a group, and ones you can do by yourself or whoever you’re traveling with. Spend your first day exploring the South Beach Area and the beautiful coastal promenade, called the “Golden Mile.” This is a great for people watching, as both Durbanites and visitors take to the coast at all times of days. Vendors, exercisers, entertainers, and everyone else take to the promenade creating
NIGHTLIFE IN DURBAN
Being a beachside getaway, there’s no shortage of nightlife in Durban - whether than means relaxing seaside, or partying it up. You might be tired after hours of exploring on your first day, so consider finding a happening spot - preferably outside to enjoy the warm weather - near the beach to put your feet up and taste some of the fine, local food. Durban boasts an impressive number of restaurants, serving the most popular worldwide cuisines. Your choice!
Morning and Afternoon
Durban has one of the largest concentrations of people of Indian decent outside of India, which has created a diverse and unique mix of Afro-Indian culture. Streets, restaurants, and marketplaces are often unmistakably filled with Indian culture and vibrancy. Indians play an important cultural and historical role in Durban, and it’s an important cultural experience to learn how this came to be.
The Victoria Street Market is an indoor bazaar located in the Indian quarter. It serves as an eclectic hub of activity all year round. There are a lot of goods targeted for tourists, as well as crafts, African and Zulu souvenirs, Indian spices, food, brassware, and a lot of handmade items. There are around 170 stalls, and vendors are generally friendly. It’s a great place to do some shopping.
After shopping, you may want to leave the busy markets behind and you may find yourself gravitating back to the seaside. What looks like a big gap in Durban’s coast is one of the largest ports in the world. In the harbor, only a couple kilometers from South Beach is Wilson’s Wharf. It’s a great place to enjoy the harbor atmosphere - there’s a number of popular restaurants, and live music is always on the go.
To the beach! Being a beachside getaway, after all, no trip to Durban is complete without diggin’ your toes into the golden sand along any of the city’s wonderful beaches. Durban’s beaches stretch for miles and miles, but even if you stick north of the harbor, there are 16 beaches to see before Umgeni River. Consider visiting North Beach, South Beach, Umhlanga Rocks, and uShaka Beach. Think about the S’s: swimming, scuba-diving, sharks (see them through cages in the water!), strolling along the beach, surfing, sand castles, and good ol’ South African vibes.
After beachin’ it, head back up to the promenade. Like in many other African nations, football is an obsession, more so a way of life. When the 2010 FIFA World Cup came to South Africa, Durban received a new football stadium - the futuristic-looking Moses Mabhida Stadium. The promenade leads directly to the stadium. Try and catch a football match or maybe South Africa’s rugby team, the Sharks. However, the stadium is a spectacle of its own. Go on an adventure walk up the stadium’s arch to the Sky Platform for a thill-seeking experience.
This day is all about the beach. You could spend your whole trip seeing the attractions around Durban’s shoreline. But have you seen the sunset yet? Find a nice spot, such as on Umhlanga Rocks, or on the picturesque Umhlanga Pier - rated the most beautiful in the world by CNN - and watch as the sun slowly dips into the horizon over the Indian ocean, while the sky lights up with hues of orange, pink, and purple. You’ve got a full day ahead of you tomorrow. After another delicious dinner in Durban, it’s probably a good idea to head back to your hotel and shut things down for the night in order to be on your best note in the morning.
You could spend your full 7 days in Durban without batting an eyelash. However, it’s always best to get out of the city and explore the rural surroundings, especially when filled with ancient Zulu culture and history. Tours range in duration - this one will take you to Zulu villages and on a guided tour of the Vally
Your guided tour starts off by heading inland to the Vally of 1000 hills in the hills of KwaZulu Natal, where you’ll visit Phezulu Cultural Village. Meet and interact will local people, learn about their fascinating history, try some local Zulu foods, and try your hand at Zulu dancing, which is associated with stories of Zulu life and culture.
The Valley is located about 30 kilometers inland from Durban. This type of tour is about immersing yourself in the local nature, and seeing just how beautiful and mesmerizing the surrounding landscapes can be - land shrouded in history and life, that has been home to Zulu people for centuries. You can guess how the area got its name - for miles in every direction, hills endlessly roll into the horizon. Wildlife is abundant, nature is pristine, and you won’t tire of the spectacular views. The hills tumble towards the Umgeni River which flows into the Indian Ocean.
Head outside Durban and delve into the rich history that’s found in these flowing hills, dotted with gorges, villages, and flora and fauna. If you rent a car, you can embark on this tour yourself. Go farther off the beaten track, stop at your leisure, and seek out hidden gems. There are many shops and cafes on the way, where you can buy locally-made trinkets and artifacts and eat and drink with a backdrop dreams are made
BACK TO THE CITY
You may not want to leave, but it’s time to head back to the city. Go back to your hotel to freshen up and relax after a long tour around the beautiful valley.
Get some fresh air on the promenade. Due to the expansive upgrades the city received in 2010, the Golden Mile is now more beautiful than ever, especially during the evening. As in many cites, take caution at night, know your surroundings, and don’t wander into any ill-advised areas.
There’s a good chance your stomach’s rumbling by now. It’s easy to enjoy Durban’s great variety of international cuisines, however, make sure you don’t skip out on eating your fair share of African meals. You won’t even have to stray from the beach - head to Moyo’s, one of Durban’s most popular African eateries, and stare out at the ocean while you become even.
Whether it’s in Durban itself, or outside of the city, there are natural wonders to behold nearly every step of the way. The Botanical Gardens were founded in 1849 and are the oldest surviving gardens in Africa. The gardens are famous for its world-renowned collection of living fossils - seed producing cycad plants that date back 250 million years. The Garden boasts an amazing cycad forest which, as soon as you step inside, is like stepping back in time. Don’t miss the rare opportunity of visiting.
UMGENI RIVER BIRD PARK
Located on the north side of the Umgeni River, the Umgeni River Bird Park makes for a great afternoon of learning, exploring and relaxing all at the same time. There are several aviaries that you can walk through and explore. The park is home to many species of exotic birds from all over the world. There’s a free bird show every afternoon, where you can learn about the animals and see what they’re capable of. The Blue Lagoon is just down river, which makes for a great place to have a picnic and interact with other park-goers. Continue north to the picturesque red and white Umhlanga Lighthouse. Take in the superb view of the lighthouse.
Ushaka Marine World is the number one tourist attraction in Durban. The huge theme park consists of a sea world, a wet and wild area, a kids area, a village walk, and many other unique sections. You could spend a whole day there, but an evening will do. The aquarium is vast, informative and capable of entertaining your imagination for hours. There are numerous restaurants and cafes so you don’t need to go far for dinner. If you don’t want want to witness animals in captivity, consider letting your inner child loose and stick to the water world. If that doesn’t suit you, think about going on a boat tour.
Durban features some wonderful local art. Start off your morning by heading to the Jhansi Museum to see some amazing Zulu art and artifacts. This speciality museum is a hidden gem in Durban, focusing on African cultural art, featuring Zulu headrests, beadwork, spears, and tribal costumes. Book ahead to have a tour with the museum curator to learn more about the precious Zulu artifacts and gain insight into Zulu history. This is a must-stop for any culture vulture. Also visit Campbell Collections
Go from really small to really big this afternoon. Near North Beach sits the peculiar Mini Town. The mini town features many of Durban’s landmarks, though much, much smaller. It’s a fun walk through.
Now for the grander sights! Head to Durban’s harbor - the Port of Durban - the largest and busiest in Africa. The distance around the vast port is 21 kilometers. It handles over 30 million tons of cargo each year and it is definitely a sight to behold, even if container ships aren’t your thing.
Your last night already! Oh how the time flies when you’re having fun. This is the time to squeeze in those last experiences you want to have, and eat until your stomach and heart are content, which means one thing: bunny chow. Durban’s quintessential dish, bunny chow originated in the city’s Afro-Indian community.
The dish - a hallowed out loaf of bread that’s filled with curry - is found basically everywhere throughout the city. It is an absolute must-eat. Head to Canecutters for one of the most recommended bunny chows.
Depending on the time of your flight you might choose to stick around the hotel and get everything in order. But probably not if your flight isn't until later in the day and you know there’s one last bunny chow out there with your name on it. So, hit the streets one last time and fill your stomach! Were there other things you had read about that you didn’t have time to do or see? Now’s your chance - your last chance!
Bring your camera - there’s always time to snap a few more shots and make a few more lasting memories. We suggest hitting the Golden Mile (which is actually four miles) again, and this time letting someone else do the work - hire one of Durban’s pimped-out rickshaws and take a relaxing ride up.