Colenso is a small town situated between Ladysmith and Estcourt and only just over an hour from Pietermaritzburg and approximately two hours from Durban.

Colenso has retained a country atmosphere with only about 6,000 residents and a small, but adequate commercial centre which includes a dairy shop, supermarket, hardware shop, vegetable market and one or two tea rooms. Situated on the banks of the Thukela River in the foothills of the magnificent Drakensberg Mountains, African life can be observed here in an undisturbed natural state, unspoiled by any form of commercialisation.

This historic town forms part of the KwaZulu Natal Battlefields Route and has many historical offerings for visitors. Colenso’s main attraction is to visit the several sites commemorating parts of the Battle of Colenso which was fought in December 1899 and was the first of five battles to try and lift the siege on Ladysmith. In total 1 100 men were killed at Colenso versus the eight Boers who lost their lives.

Colenso, although a small town, offers a variety of accommodation which includes B&B’s, Guesthouses and self-catering cottages.

Things to do and see

  • Colenso Museum
  • RE Stevenson Museum
  • Bloukrans Monument
  • Ambleside Military Cemetery
  • Chieveley Military Cemetery
  • Bulwer Bridge
  • Colenso Anglo-Boer Gun Site
  • Clouston Koppie of Remembrance
  • Battlefields Route
  • Fort Durnford Museum, Escort
  • Soofie Mosque, Ladysmith


Colenso receives approximately 723 mm of rain annually with most of its annual rainfall during summer.

Summer months, November to March will have average temperatures of between 15˚C and 31˚C.

Winter months, May to August will have average temperatures of between 1˚C and 22˚C.


There are daily local flights into Pietermaritzburg Airport, approximately 143 Km’s away via the N3, and into King Shaka International Airport in Durban, approximately 236 Km’s away also via the N3. Car hire facilities are available at the Airport.


Several major battles of the Anglo-Boer War were fought in the vacinity. The Battle of Colenso, fought on 15 December 1899, was the first of five battles to try and lift the siege on Ladysmith

The town was used as a base by the British Army during the Anglo-Boer War and in 1855 the town was named after Bishop John William Colenso who translated New Testament of the Bible into Zulu, which also earned him the name Sobantu – Father of the People.

Prior to this the town was known as the Greater Tugela Drift or Commando Drif and even eSkipeni, meaning Place of the Boat in Zulu, as it was one of the major stopover points for the flourishing wagon transport trail between Durban and Johannesburg, and the Free State.

A number of smaller battles that became known collectively as the Battle of Tugela Heights - possibly the largest battle ever fought by the British Army up until the Second World War - were fought a short distance from Colenso, en route to Ladysmith.

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