Pietermaritzburg - KwaZulu-Natal
Pietermaritzburg with its red-brick buildings and green parks will remind you of many an English provincial city. Named after the Voortrekker leaders Piet Retief and Gert Maritz this city, which is the joint capital with Ulundi of KwaZulu-Natal is a wonderfully pleasant place to stroll around and enjoy the sights. During term time this city comes alive with with the many students from the KwaZulu-Natal University and other technical colleges situated here creating a lively nightlife.
You can find wonderful Victorian buildings in the heart of the city along with civic gardens and war memorials. The climate here is warm and dry but more pleasant than Durban where the humidity can drain you. Please note that you can expect heavy rainfall here from December to February though.
There are many places to visit here including the old Colonial Building dating back to 1899 which also has a statue of Gandhi situated outside commemorating his first visit to South Africa in 1893. There is also a network of alleyways between Longmarket Street and Church Street, called The Lanes, where you can find many small shops and cafes.
Pietermaritzburg is well known for being either the start or finish of the famous Comrades Marathon which takes place annually between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. The start and finish alternates each year which is why some years the Comrades is an Uphill Run and others a Downhill Run.
Pietermaritzburg is also the starting point of the Dusi Canoe Marathon the biggest canoeing event in the African continent. The race attracts up to 2000 paddlers racing over a distance of 120km all the way down the the finish point at the Blue Lagoon in Durban. The race takes place in February each year to coincide with the summer rains. The Dusi Canoe Race takes place over three stages with two overnight stops along the way.