Escape into Hogsback, South Africa's Magical Forest

Stunning Hogsback forest
Stunning Hogsback forest | © Klim Levene / Flickr
Photo of Gill Lange
1 June 2018

Fly away to a magical land as Culture Trip takes you into the ethereal forests and magical mountains of misty Hogsback. Nestled in the Amatola Mountain range and housing the oldest forest in South Africa, this little village makes for a dreamy escape.

How the village got its unusual name

For such a pretty location, the village is, surprisingly, named after a pig. However, there’s nothing gluttonous or brash about Hogsback. Although the origins of its name are slightly obscure, many believe the village owes its title to the shape of the three mountains that overlook Hogsback, topped by rocky ridges resembling the bristles on a hog’s back.

The misty mountains of Hogsback | © Klim Levene / Flickr

Butterflies, birds and cascading water

While fairies may be hard to find (they hide under mushrooms, of course) butterflies are bountiful, as are delicate mosses and a whole host of rare wildlife, such as the Cape parrot, Knysna Loerie and Samango monkey. Some butterfly species occur only in the extremely pure air of this forest, where ancient and enormous Yellowwood, Iron Wood and Stink Wood trees form the forest canopy, sheltering the delicate life below.

The misty forest floor in Hogsback | © Klim Levene / Flickr

Such verdant vegetation could not survive without plenty of water and the Amatola Mountains also just happen to boast more waterfalls per square kilometre than anywhere else in the world. Dozens can be found within Hogsback itself, with names that flow out your mouth as sweetly as the water that cascades down the rock face. Swallow Tail, Bridal Veil and Madonna and Child are a few of the more famous, while the Kettlespout Falls are a natural phenomenon. In heavy winds the water gets blown up, rather than flowing down, causing a fine spray that resembles steam from a kettle spout.

Swallow Tail Falls | © Valerie Hinojosa / Flickr

Hobbits and goblins

With its fantasy-like setting, it’s no surprise that Hogsback is thought to have inspired JRR Tolkien, who visited the village as a child. It is also believed that his nanny came from Hogsback and spun him tales of giant flying snakes that lived in the village’s mountains. As a result, today, there are several places in the village with names derived from Tolkien’s books such as Hobbiton-On-Hogsback, Rivendell and Bag End.

Adventure, art and magical moments

Hogsback’s natural beauty lends itself to being one with the outdoors, and the village and its surrounds are littered with stunning hiking and walking trails. Abseiling, mountain-biking and horse riding are also popular pastimes. Trail maps and equipment are available through Hogsback Adventures.

Horse riding in Hogsback | © South African Tourism / Flickr

Serious hikers can tackle the Amatola Hiking Trail, a spectacular 100-kilometre (62-mile) extremely challenging yet epic trek that was once voted the best in South Africa.

Other attractions include the Eco Shrine Centre for Art and Ecology, an outdoor art installation where ecology, art and a sense of the sanctity of Earth all come together; the Labyrinth, designed to symbolise a path to spiritual discovery and fulfillment; Crystal Corner, selling all kinds of stones and healing crystals and The Fairy Realm, a garden meander filled with fairy sculptures, birds, ponds and tranquility.

The Eco Shrine Centre | © Valerie Hinojosa / Flickr