Ixopo, a small KwaZulu-Natal town south of Pietermaritzburg, is the main centre of the Southern Midlands and forms part of an important sugar farming, and forestry area. Ixopo was Founded in 1878 and originally named Stuartstown, in honour of Marthinus Stuart, the settlement's first magistrate. However, the old Zulu name for the area proved far more popular and the town was named Ixopo.
Set in the exquisite Natal Midlands countryside, the town lies on a tributary of the Mkhomazi River and is most famous as the setting for Alan Paton's novel 'Cry the Beloved Country'. Ixopo still boasts two of its 19th century churches and a seminary that is still operational, while two other landmarks further enhance the area's spiritual tradition and reputation. The famous Bhuddist Retreat Centre, situated on the outskirts of town, was awarded National Heritage status by the former President Nelson Mandela. This wonderful sanctuary is set amongst small dams, grassy hills and tranquil forests overlooking the Mkhomazi River as it makes its way through the valley below.
Ixopo and the neighbouring farming areas of Creighton (34 km away) and Donnybrook (37km away) offer an array of activities for the eco-tourist. The surrounding countryside of this charming town is what attracts those seeking to get away from it all. The area is well known for Bird Spotting with nearby breeding sites of the rare Blue Swallow. There are many hiking trails and a few beautiful waterfalls, including the 80m Qunu Falls, along the Mzimkulu and Mkhomazi rivers. White –water rafting in the valley’s rivers and mountain biking in the hills is a big drawcard to the area. In the village you can browse craft outlets and visit the welcoming restaurants and pubs. For the artist, there are well-lit art studios and enchanting art retreats to be had.
The Paton Express, a narrow gauge locomotive which takes visitors on scenic rides through the picturesque countryside, is putting Railway Tourism on the map in the Ixopo area and is well worth the experience.
How to get there
Follow the R56 from Middelburg through to Ixopo, (Odometer 681km).
Follow the R56 from Pietermaritzburg through to Ixopo, (Odometer 85.5km).
Self-drive would be best.
Where to Stay
Ideal for overnight, weekend or weekly stays with a variety of Guest Houses, B&Bs and self-catering cottages available with farmstays outside of town. Recommended accommodation places include Belmont Conference & Wedding Venue, Kings Grant Country Retreat, Amble Inn, Smithfield Guest House, Trevelen Country Cottage, Korongo Valley Guest Farm and Myddelton Farm Wedding Venue and Country Getaway.
Where to Eat
Go dine at the Kings Grant Country Retreat or stop over at the Amble Inn Restaurant for Breakfast, lunch or early dinner. Korongo Valley Guest Farm is another great place to relax and enjoy breakfast or lunch.