Its location is so majestic that it’s even said to have been the inspiration for the epic Lord of the Rings books by JRR Tolkien, who was born in South Africa. Despite this quaint mountaintop settlement’s being far off the well-trodden tourist tracks, it certainly has no shortage of enchanting attractions.
Getting to Hogsback
The Baz Bus, a private hop-on-hop-off bus service, offers shuttle trips to Hogsback from East London and Chintsa, however, driving your own vehicle is probably easiest and most convenient. If you’re travelling to South Africa from abroad it would be most logical to fly to and rent a car in East London, the closest major city to Hogsback.
As soon as you enter the town, you’ll notice that Hogsback is a tiny village that’s essentially one main road in length. But don’t let its diminutive size fool you. The town boasts a number of excellent accommodation options and some incredibly beautiful attractions, both natural and manmade.
Where to stay
The most famous of Hogsback accommodations, Away with the Fairies, is much more than a simple backpackers’ lodge. Its restaurant and bar area (below) serves up excellent fare and often see buzzing nightlife, with both locals and visitors enjoying a lively nightcap or two.
Besides offering a variety of affordable lodgings, the lodge also has one of Hogsback’s most renowned attractions, the photogenic bathtub (below), perched almost precariously on the edge of a cliff overlooking the forest.
In addition to the vibrant backpackers’s lodge, a number of other hotels and guesthouses await. The historic Hogsback Inn, offering accommodation steeped in Old World charm, is a good choice for those looking for a more private and luxurious experience.
Another more upmarket, yet rustic option is the Arminel Hogsback Hotel and Village (above), which offers 26 elegant rooms as well as 18 self-catering cottages, making it a perfect venue for holidaying families, conference participants and even wedding parties.
The Edge Mountain Retreat, another charming mountainside resort, has a range of accommodation options of both the self-catering and bed-and-breakfast variety. The Edge also boasts some of Hogsback’s most dramatic views.
Because of the town’s small size, regardless of where you end up staying, you can be guaranteed that you’ll be close to its biggest attractions, most notably the various hiking, biking and horse-riding trails that wind through Hogsback’s mountains and forests.
Its forests, mountain peaks, and hiking and cycling trails are by far the biggest draws of this little-known South African destination.
The lush forests that blanket the village’s adjacent mountains and valleys provide some truly spectacular hiking opportunities. Within the forested areas you’ll encounter a number of stunning waterfalls with evocative names, such as the Madonna and Child Falls (above) and the Swallowtail Falls.
For the more adventurous, horse-riding expeditions (above) are offered at Terra Khaya, Hogsback’s very own eco lodge and mountain sanctuary. Terra Khaya is also known to periodically host workshops and programmes on sustainable lifestyle.
Other fascinating points of interest that await Hogsback’s visitors include the tranquility-inducing labyrinth at the Edge Mountain Retreat, as well as the Eco-Shrine art installation (above) created by local artist Diana Graham as a means of bridging art and nature, connecting the sacred and scientific.
Additional stops to add to your Hogsback itinerary include the Hogsback Arboretum, a beautiful garden of trees from where you can go on hiking trails into the forest and mountains; and the Camelot Fairy Meander, which is a walk through a private garden filled with sculptures of fantastical creatures, fairies and the like.
Finally, if you happen to find yourself in Hogsback in winter (June-August), you’re likely to see a white wonderland as the region is one of the few in South Africa that is all but guaranteed to enjoy some snowfall in the winter months. To celebrate, the town holds annual winter celebrations, with musical performances, workshops, craft markets and adventure activities.
– TEXT BY SAUL LIPCHIK
PHOTOS: AWAY WITH THE FAIRIES BACKPACKERS HOGSBACK FACEBOOK, TERRA-KHAYA FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM, ARMINEL HOGSBACK HOTEL & VILLAGE
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.