Well done to Derek Auer who is the winner of our ‘Sense of Place’ photo competition, that took place during December/January. We had 80 entries this year, which makes it our most entered photo competition. The judges spent hours working through the top 20 most voted for entries. Even though it was close, in the end they felt that Derek’s photo best captured A Sense of Place.

The competition mechanism was simple. People were invited to submit a photo that in their opinion best captured ‘A Sense of Place’ (the slogan of Champagne Castle Hotel), and had to include the mountain, Champagne Castle. The photo didn’t have to be taken from the hotel property. 

Entrants then voted for, and asked their friends to vote for their photo. We then took the 20 most voted for images and our panel of 3 judges, based at the hotel, selected the winning photo. 

Well done Derek.

Below, in no particular order, is a gallery of the 20 most voted for photos

This has now become an annual competition at Champagne Castle Hotel. The ‘A Sense of Place’ Photo Competition.

We’re looking for your photos that best capture ‘A Sense of Place’ and that MUST include Champagne Castle (the mountain). We’ll then take the top 20 most voted for photos (you can only vote once per day) through to a judging panel, made up of 3 members of our team, for a final selection. We’re looking for the photo (from the top 20) that best captures the essence of ‘A Sense of Place’

Last year we had over 60 entries. We’re hoping to see a far larger number this year.

Entries close on 13 Jan 2017 and voting closes on 20 Jan 2017. The winner is announced on 24 Jan 2017 on our Website and Facebook page.

How To Enter?

  • Desktop – You can enter right here on this page below (we’ve embedded the entry mechanism)
  • Mobile Device – Click here to enter 

* you don’t have to have stayed at Champagne Castle Hotel or taken the picture from our property, to enter

The theme for New Year 2016 is ‘Magic Desert Mountain‘ inspired by timeless oral legends from the vast Saharan Desert Region

Where the mountains meet the desert you will find treasures enough to satisfy all of your needs. The Atlanteans, the Berbers, and even the Tuareg hold these legends to be true. Some say the treasures are made up of precious metals, but others say the treasure is made up of the oldest libraries on Earth hidden away in the Mountains and will someday be rediscovered. They contain knowledge of times before the Deluge. For 12 hours, over New Years Eve, we’re going to transform the hotel into a desert, and allow it to meet up with the mountains. The treasures we’re hoping you find are one of celebration, fun and laughter as we welcome in the year 2017

A feature of Champagne Castle Hotel New Year evenings is that our guests go to a lot of time and trouble to dress up and get into the theme. And of course we do our best to match their effort. It makes for an evening that always counts among our highlights of the year.

Below we’ve collected a diverse selection of Saharan Desert Fashion to serve as inspiration for their New Year’s Eve outfits.

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desert morocco moroccan sahara theme new year drakensberg hotel vacation holiday


desert morocco moroccan sahara theme new year drakensberg hotel vacation holiday

desert morocco moroccan sahara theme new year drakensberg hotel vacation holiday

desert morocco moroccan sahara theme new year drakensberg hotel vacation holiday

On 6 June 2015 Adriaan and Esther were married at Champagne Castle Hotel. This morning while working through the comments, shares and likes on our Facebook page, we came across their absolutely stunning wedding video (embedded below).

The video was created by Raising Flags, who are a video production company based in Bloemfontein South Africa, specialising in Weddings and Corporate videos.

So happy anniversary to Adriaan and Esther, and thank you for leaving such a beautiful set of memories for the rest of us to share with you.


According to a new study completed by the University of Illinois and the University of Hong Kong, simply taking a walk down a tree-lined street has the power to significantly decrease your stress levels. Imagine what a walk in a forest at the foot of South Africa’s 2nd highest mountain will do?

The reviews of Champagne Castle Hotel on TripAdvisor are dominated by comments on the spectacular scenery seen from the rooms, the veranda or around the grounds of the hotel. Many of those reviews are from people who have taken a walk up onto the mountains, with either Wonderboy, our resident guide, or on their own. Those walks are often described as magical, even sacred. So a study like the one mentioned above isn’t news to us. It is helpful to have some science to include in our narrative.

Unless you’re doing the Sunset Trail, every walk starts and ends through the forest that borders the hotel. While the Hotel is within the World Heritage Site, we like to think of the forest as Nature’s Official Entrance. That means that you’re getting a double dose of stress-reduction when you go for a walk. On the way out (or into the forest) and on the way back (our out of the forest).

We’re not sure what science has to say about walking onto millions of years old mountains, or looking back down the Champagne Valley from hundreds of meters above it? Whatever science has to say, almost 50 years of talking to people at dinner about their walk during the day confirms that it’s good for your soul.

We look forward to welcoming you back from your next stress-reducing walk with us. See you soon

Towards the end of 2015, the R74 which is a beautiful and picturesque alternate route from Harrismith to Champagne Castle Hotel (via Bergville and Winterton), re-opened after years of roadworks and re-surfacing.

The R74 is an alternate route to the N3 which is known for closue due to snow or heavy vehicle accidents over Van Reenen’s Pass. While the road has been in a deplorable condition since 2009, it is now re-surfaced and in a stunning condition. There is still some very minor work being done on patches of the road on the Bergville side of Sterkfontein dam.

For a description of the pass (from Mountain Passes South Africa) take a look at the video embedded below

There’s an excited and proud buzz circulating through the team at Champagne Castle Hotel today. We’ve just heard from TripAdvisor that we’re a 2016 Travellers’ Choice winner. We’re now on their Top 25 South African Hotel’s list, and we’re rated in the Top 1% of properties on TripAdvisor.

We received the award through the reviews and opinions of the TripAdvisor global travel community who have stayed with us, and we’re extremely grateful for each review.

Every single morning the management team (made up of a representative from every department in the Hotel) meets to talk through the day before, and the day ahead. A permanent item on our agenda are the TripAdvisor reviews we receive. Every review is read out, and discussions are had on every item a guest brings up. Action points, where necessary, are tabled, executed and followed up the next day at the meeting.

Sometimes the reviews are difficult to read. One mistake from one of our team can turn someone’s stay with us from great to average, or even worse. And of course, there are reviews that are wonderful to read, because for that guest, we got it right (which of course is our goal with every one of our guests)

From all of us at Champagne Castle Hotel, a big thank you to each of our guests who take the time to post a review of their stay at Champagne Castle Hotel. Those reviews contribute to us ensuring that we’re perpetually improving everything we do, to ensure all of our future guests have the best possible stay with us.

TripAdvisor Traveller's Choice Award Winner 2016 top 25 1% south africa hotel hotels vacation holiday drakensberg


If you’ve stayed at Champagne Castle Hotel over Christmas during the past 10 years, you’re aware of the imported traditional decorations we’re famous for. This year we did something completely different for Christmas decorations.

Champagne Castle Hotel is very unique in it’s geographic location. Not only are we situated in one of the most idyllic and beautiful parts of the world, we fall within a World Heritage Site. There are not many hotels that can claim that. Coupled with our responsibility as a hotel to do everything we can to look after the environment, we are continually reminded by virtue of our location, that the planet we all circumnavigate the sun on, receives a terrible beating from we humans.

This year we wanted to make Christmas count. We wanted to make a difference, on behalf of all our guests at this special time of the year, by creating a Christmas that would have a net benefit to the environment. We started our ‘doing more with less’ project early in 2015 and involved every department at Champagne Castle Hotel. The framework was simple….. every decoration should be constructed primarily from materials found in the forest, or from things we were throwing away. We wanted to minimise items brought onto the property to celebrate Christmas.

While you might think that doing more with less would cost less, we never imagined that it would take the investment of time and energy that it did, nor did we expect to learn as much as we have.

Our hope this Christmas, was that as our guests walked around the hotel and noticed the various decorations we’d created and the materials used, that they’d pause and take a moment to reflect on how doing more with less is a worthy Christmas message, and a worthwhile pursuit for each and every citizen of this most beautiful planet we call earth.

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As part of our Christmas theme we wrote a story to illustrate what we we had done…….

Juno and the Star Lift-Off Launcher

There is a little known story that occurred just over 2000 years ago. In an area now known as uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park.  A World Heritage Site of recent times, but not because of the Bushman paintings as some might suggest. It is, in fact, the story of a little girl that gave the area it’s protected status.

Juno was her name, and she had a very special job in those times. The King of the Stars had entrusted Juno to make sure every star in the sky shone brightly, and was in place for each night’s spectacular sparkly show. Juno was very good at what she did, and the King of the Stars would often visit to tell her.

One day the King of the Stars surprised Juno with an unexpected visit. He rushed into Juno’s kitchen, with a look of importance in his eyes.”Juno” he said with his deep and booming voice, “I have a very important task for you. Tonight I need you to lift the special star you keep for big occasions into the sky, and set it on a journey northwards from here. There is a child being born in a stable and wise men and women, kings and queens, shepherds and people of all sorts will be attending a celebration. We have been asked to make sure a star marks the spot, so that everyone can find their way. I know I’m not giving you much time Juno, but if anyone can, you can. Remember Juno, you might have to do more with less.”

And with that, the King of the Stars left Juno to get on with her very important task. Juno gathered her team of helpers together. Benny the rabbit, Sipho the fox, Samantha the Duiker, Noni the bear, and Raj the baboon. They collected all the equipment they normally used to launch stars, and Juno and Noni carefully removed the special star from the secret cupboard and gently packed it into Juno’s bag. They set off towards the highest mountain. There was no other mountain anywhere else in the world that was more perfect for launching stars. It’s top was large and flat, ideal for star lift-offs of the type Juno was known for.

It was normally a 10 hour journey to the top of the perfect, big and flat topped mountain, but today Juno and her team had to do it in just 8 hours. They would need the extra time to get the special star launched. From the start they would have to be speedy. Juno put Benny and Sipho in charge of getting them there on time. She chose them because nothing is faster than a Rabbit, and nobody is smarter than a fox. If anyone could, they could. Juno remembered the King of the Stars last words to her, and while she didn’t understand them, she thought it smart to repeat them to Sipho and Benny, “Remember, you might have to do more with less.”

Halfway up the perfect, big and flat topped mountain, at the part it was always hardest and hottest, Noni the bear had run out of water. She called to Benny and Sipho, asking them to make a turn to the stream running down the far left side of the perfect, big and flat topped mountain. “Sipho, Benny”, she called. “I’ve run out of water, as I always do. I’m bigger than the rest of you and need to drink more water than anyone else.”

Benny and Sipho knew there was no time for detours. They had been put in charge by Juno to lead the team to the top of the perfect, big and flat topped mountain faster and in less time than ever before. Sipho had a bright thought, as Foxes often do. He stopped the expedition and asked everyone to show him their water bottles. He saw that Samantha the Duiker had far more water than anyone else. Duikers are smaller and more nimble than most, and need to drink less. Now Sipho the fox had an even brighter thought. He asked everyone to share their water so that they each had what they needed, and no more. He had solved Noni’s water problem, and even made Samantha’s bottle lighter and easier to carry. The expedition set off again up the perfect, big and flat topped mountain.

In exactly 7 hours and 59 minutes, one minute shorter and faster than Juno had asked, Sipho and Benny got the team to the top of the perfect, big and flat topped mountain. While everyone wanted to stop and high five and cheer, there was no time for that now. High fives and cheers would have to come later. What was needed now was for the star lift-off launcher to be assembled and put in place so that the special star could be sent northwards to mark the baby birth celebration.

Raj was always in charge of assembling the star lift-off launcher. Baboons are quick, and strong and can move up and down, and in and out of a star lift-off launcher better and faster than anyone else. While Raj always did most of the work, every now and then you’d hear him shout out to the rest of the team, “Will someone please pass me the green, grafter gaffle shwoop” or “Please throw up the tremor handle so I can fasten the wrapper to the rampoon nugget.”

While this wasn’t the first time that Juno and her team had launched a star, it was the first time they’d launched the special star. As Juno worked as hard and fast as she always did, she started to feel that excited bubbly feeling in her tummy begin to grow. The same feeling she always got when she was doing something for the first time. That feeling that let her know that she should pay extra careful attention to each moment, because these were especially extra fantabulous moments.

And suddenly, as if by magic, Raj shouted down from inside the top of the outside of the star lift-off launcher, “It’s finished. We can launch the special star.” Noni and Juno took the special star out of the bag they’d carefully put it into before they left. Samantha was in charge of placing it into the starter pocket. Sipho would line up the starter pocket with the ending shooter. Benny would press the button when Juno had made sure that everything was ready, and Raj would lie on the floor next to the star lift-off launcher because he was exhausted from putting everything together.

“We’re ready to go” shouted Juno. Benny knew what he had to do. He pushed the button and the special star shot down, at an incredible speed, from the starter pocket towards the ending shooter. As Juno watched, the bubbly feeling in her tummy stopped getting more bubbly. Something was wrong, and while she didn’t know why or what, her tummy was telling her so. And then the most terrible thing happened. The special star just stopped moving. For no reason that even Sipho could work out, and foxes can work most things out.

Raj, who was lying on the ground next to the star lift-off launcher, because he was exhausted, had been watching all of this, and maybe because he was just watching or maybe because he had a lucky thought, suddenly shouted over to Juno, “It’s the super slippery speedy pipe. It’s not long enough for the special star to get the right amount of speed to launch to the right height it needs to.”

What was Juno going to do? They had used everything they normally do to build the star lift-off launcher. There were no extra bits and pieces to make the slippery speedy pipe longer. This was a disaster. Juno would have to tell the King of the Stars that she had failed. Juno had never failed. What was she going to do? Juno fell onto the ground in a heap. Tears started to fill up her eyes. This would be the worst day Juno had ever had. And just when she was about to completely give up, the words of the King of the Stars played through her mind, “Remember Juno, you may have to do more with less.” For the first time that day Juno knew what the King of the Stars meant when he said those words.

Juno jumped up and shouted to everyone, “We have to do more with less.” Samantha, Sipho, Benny, Noni and Raj all looked up at Juno, and instead of thinking she was mad, their faces lit up and they all jumped into action. They’d never had to do this before, and they didn’t even know if it was possible, but if anyone could, they could. From the top of the perfect, big and flat topped mountain everyone began to look around for anything that they could use to make the super slippery speedy pipe longer.

Noni found a tree that had fallen over. The insides had been eaten by termites and it was hollow. She had found a pipe, just long enough to be long enough. Raj and Samantha collected vines that they used to tie Noni’s log in place. Benny and Sipho collected moss from the rocks on top of the perfect, big and flat topped mountain that they rubbed on the inside of Noni’s hollow tree to make it slippery enough.

When they were all done, Juno knew that she knew what the King of the Stars had meant when he said those words earlier in the day. As she thought about the day, she remembered all those moments where they had done more with less, and while they’re not words that easily make sense, doing more with less can make extra special things happen.

They launched the special star, and sent it northwards to mark the celebration of the birth of a baby. Kings, queens, wise men and women, shepherds and people of all sorts were there that evening at that stable.

As Juno and her team walked back home from the top of the perfect, big and flat topped mountain, Juno looked at her team and said to them, “When you do more with less, you can change the world.”

The theme for New Year 2015 is ‘Champagne Royale‘ inspired by the timeless James Bond. A feature of Champagne Castle Hotel New Year evenings is that our guests go to a lot of time and trouble to dress up and get into the theme. And of course we do our best to match their effort. It makes for an evening that always counts among our highlights of the year. This year we’ve invited our New Year’s Eve guests to pick any James Bond character from any of the 23 James Bond movies as their outfit inspiration.

Below we’ve done our best to collect a diverse selection of outfits from a diverse cross section of James Bond films.

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bond girls women woman james ian flemming new year champagne castle hotel

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During October 2015, Champagne Castle Hotel is going to be opening a Guest Gallery to showcase your holiday photos. We’re aware that thousands of photos are taken on our property each year. Photography is a gift and an art, and we’d like to put your gift and your art on show for others to see and to enjoy. The photos will be on show at the Hotel, as well as on our Facebook Page (look out for the Guest Gallery link going up in October on our FB page) We will also put some of the photos onto our Instagram and Twitter feeds.

The Guest Gallery will go up in the corridor between reception and the main lounge (as you walk to the shop).  There will be 4 photo frames that will make up the gallery.

We’re looking specifically for photos that capture the beauty that defines Champagne Castle Hotel’s slogan, ‘A Sense of Place‘.


Because we’ll be printing the photos out, and placing them into an A4 frame we do need minimum dimensions in order to ensure a good quality print. The photos need to be taken with a device that has at least an 8mb camera. This will ensure an image with a size of between 1754 x 1240 pixels and 3508 x 2480 pixels (photos must be landscape and not portrait).

By sending us your photos to us you give us permission to display your photos in the Guest Gallery at the Hotel and/or the Digital Guest Gallery on Facebook, and/or our Instagram and Twitter feeds. We will credit the photographer of every photo we display. Where a photographer is not highlighted in your email, we will credit the sender of the email. All submissions for the Guest Gallery can be sent to pics@champagnecastle.co.za