Between Port Alfred and East London lies some of the Eastern Cape’s least-developed coastline, although it has now fallen into the hands of developers as more and more people discover the beauty of the region. East London, wedged uncomfortably between two ex-Bantustans, is the largest city in the central region of the province, with excellent beaches for surfing and swimming and good transport links to Johannesburg and along the coast. Inland, Fort Hare University near Alice has educated political leaders across the subcontinent, including Nelson Mandela, and has the country’s finest collection of contemporary black South African art.
Sweeping up from Fort Hare’s valley, the gentle, wooded Amatola Mountains yield to the dramatic landscapes of the Eastern Cape Drakensberg, which offer hiking, horseriding and even skiing opportunities. Before white settlers (or even the Xhosa) arrived, these towering formations were dominated by San hunter-gatherers, who decorated the rock faces with thousands of ritual paintings, many of which remain surprisingly vivid.