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Pocket Guide: Durban

The cosmopolitan charms of Durban extend from its Golden Mile of beaches and into its Art Deco and colonial architecture that characterise its downtown area. South Africa’s third-largest city can be just as hip, cool and fun as its more famous rival of Cape Town. For a start there is that stunning beach itself, perfect for tackling on a surf board or just lounging on a towel. Then there’s the enervating clash of the sculpted, historic architecture and the bustling African markets of downtown. And of course, there’s the amazing Durban hotels. The distinctly African areas are always given an interesting twist, and some delightful eating out opportunities, by the presence of the largest concentration of people of Indian descent outside of India itself. Throw in some great museums, a stunning aquarium and a host of entertainment options and you’ll begin to get a sense of the delights that Durban has in store for you.

The Best Hotels in Durban for You

The Golden Mile - The beaches near downtown that stretch along the Indian Ocean offer some world-class surfing opportunities and plenty more besides. The wide sandy beaches are perfect for families and there are also play pools and playgrounds for children along the waterfront, as well as hotel, bars and restaurants. Get a beach hotel in Durban to enjoy all these seaside attractions.

Victoria Street Market – For a unique shopping experience head for the Victoria Street Market. Here barrels of Indian spices and incense infuse the air and local crafts can be browsed. The typically Durban relaxed Afro-Oriental atmosphere ensures you can not only pick up some bargains but enjoy a memorable time doing so. Experience the scents of this incredible market with a Durban hotel close to the market.

The Marina – This waterfront marina was completely revamped in preparation for South Africa’s hosting of the 2010 World Cup. It’s a joy to stroll around and there are plenty of welcoming bars and cafes to drop into for a drink and restaurants, offering a range of cuisines, for a night out – as well as a healthy supply of Durban hotels too. You will find the enormous uShaka Marine World here, with its huge aquarium and waterpark.

Crocodile Creek – Take a trip to the sugar town of Tongaat and you will discover this creek that is home to over 7000 Nile crocodiles, alligators, snakes and many other reptiles. Take a stroll, if you dare, through the nearby bush and hill trails that pass waterfalls, river plains and lead you to tree top walkways. Have an adventure in nature with a hotel in Durban.

Valley of 1,000 Hills – Easily reached from a hotel in Durban, there are breathtaking views, several nature reserves, many hiking trails and cultural villages to see here. Visit a reconstructed Zulu village and get a glimpse of crocodiles and pythons as you take in the picturesque surroundings.

How to Make the Most of Your Hotel in Durban

The aquarium in Durban is hard to beat, in terms of its size, facilities and marine animals. The beach itself is a graceful, wide arc of golden sands that is an absolute pleasure to behold and even more of a joy to relax on. The architecture of downtown contains many Art Deco and colonial gems but it is brought to life by the African markets (that are incongruously full of Indian spices and scents). You can spot crocodiles at the Crocodile Creek or take a cruise on the St Lucia Estuary to admire hippos bathing and crocodiles keeping an eye out for likely prey.

Try to surf the waves, attempt to win big at the casino or horseracing and test your nerve on a skydive over the beautiful countryside that surrounds the city. Families will love the Gateway Theatre of Shopping, a mall situated just north of Durban. Amongst all the shops in this megamall are a range of entertainment options for kids, including a skateboard park and an artificial wave centre, known as Wavehouse, where you can test your surfing abilities. If it’s history, rather than extreme sports, that gets your blood racing then a tour to Shakaland will introduce you to the traditions, cuisine and music of Zulu history and culture.