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Situated amongst green expanses of the KwaZulu-Natal Province and with the majestic Drakensberg Mountains as a backdrop, Ladysmith is a delightful town on the battlefields route. This route traces the many battles that took place in the 1899-1902 South African War and Ladysmith took centre stage during a bloody siege that resulted in the loss of many lives. Two of the world’s most iconic figures, Winston Churchill and Mahatma Ghandi, had a role to play in the Ladysmith siege.
The town was officially established in 1850 and named after the title of British Governor Harry Smith’s wife.
With a small aerodrome and located close to the main highway between Johannesburg and Durban, Ladysmith is the primary commercial centre for the region.
Top 6 reasons to visit Ladysmith
1. Take a walk through the town to appreciate the beautiful Victorian buildings and absorb the ravages of war displayed by various statues, gardens and monuments erected to honour the war victims and heroes. Stop by at the strikingly impressive Soofi Masjid (Mosque).
2. The Siege Museum has a number of fascinating exhibits on display relating to the siege and subsequent relief of the town. Talk to the curator for an insight into the town’s history.
3. Travel to the Spioenkop Dam Nature Reserve to hike the self-guided trails and swim in the dam. Boating is permitted and the reserve has some interesting wildlife for game viewing. Climb the summit of Spioenkop for staggeringly beautiful views.
4. Arrange to obtain the keys for Malandeni, a marsh along the Klip (stone) River and approximately 2km out of town. This flood plain is filled with algae, attracting over 200 bird species, including the gallinule and other rare birds. Take along a pair of binoculars.
5. Pack a picnic basket and head for the Klip River Falls, south of Ladysmith and where the Klip River meets the mighty Tugela River. The falls are also known as Little Niagara.
6. You are in a gorgeous part of the country, complete with unspoilt natural assets, take the time to relax and enjoy the tranquillity, and the friendly townsfolk’s hospitality.
Ladysmith has its own airport for chartered flights. The nearest international airport to Ladysmith is King Shaka International Airport approximately 250km away. Shuttle service companies operate at the airports, however, to best enjoy Ladysmith and surrounds, hiring a car is the practical choice. To hire a vehicle, simply order one online.
Did you know?
Ladysmith had a lard factory and the fat was collected from a once-abundant zebra population inhabiting these parts. Sadly, the zebra has moved on but it’s unlikely the lard will be missed.
The town’s most famous resident is Joseph Shabalala, leader of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, an all-male choir group that won 4 Grammy awards and sang with Paul Simon on his renowned Graceland album released in 1985. The group also collaborated on David Guetta’s 2014 album release called Listen.
For a more down to earth experience there are guest houses. Less expensive than hotels, they offer a more homey environment, as well as more privacy. Converted from a private house it’s a much gentler environment and for those with furry friends, there are also pet friendly options. They are usually well situated with shops and places of interest nearby. Being so small it offers a much more personal and intimate attention to it’s upkeep, leaving you with a more polished and homely experience.