There are beautiful places able to touch the most hidden strings of the heart, places that can leave us open-mouthed, breathless. If you have decided to take a trip to South Africa, be prepared for the amazing places that you will meet continuously.
Immense spaces, without end, in which the line of the horizon seems almost an imperceptible veil and where to be the master is only the nature.
From the sheer ocean cliffs of Cape of Good Hope to the flowering of Namaqua National Park, from the Blyde River Canyon in Mpumalanga to the lush Winelands, we have gathered 13 spectacular places in South Africa to see at least once in your live .
It is not a ranking, but we hope there are 13 reasons to pack and travel to South Africa!
13. Explore Kruger National Park
Founded in 1898, with its two million hectares it is one of the most amazing and famous national parks in the world, able to offer a total immersion in nature. Within the Kruger there live an impressive number of species both animal and plant: 336 trees, 49 fishes, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 mammals. That is why during your stay you will not be difficult to meet the famous Big Five, as well as many other animal species.
The Kruger is divided into two areas, a private one that offers the opportunity to explore the park with a specialized guide and to stay indoors, and a public explorable only with a rental car. The two areas are bordering without fence, so as to allow the animals to circulate freely.
The philosophy of the park is in fact to promote the free movement of animals through national borders, such as the one with Zimbabwe and neighboring Mozambique.
12. Climb Table Mountain⠀
A travel to Cape Town would not be the same without its absolute icon: the very high and imposing Table Mountain. With its 1000 meters above sea level, this great mountain takes its name from its own shape, similar to that of a table.
A trip to Cape Town that is self-respecting can certainly not exclude the experience of climbing up to its peak to admire the panorama at three hundred and sixty degrees across the city. To get on Table Mountain you can use the cable car or you can walk along a walking path.
Walking up to the top takes about two hours all uphill, while the cable car takes less than 5 minutes.
Once you get to the top the surprises are not exhausted: in fact, there are many paths that you can walk to discover the rich flora that stretches along the whole Table Mountain. You think there are about 2,200 species of plants and 1470 floral species. It is no wonder that Table Mountain was elected as one of the seven new wonders of the world.
11. Visit West Coast National Park in the spring
This place is one of the most amazing natural parks in South Africa, full of vegetation, golden beaches as far as the eye and five marine protected areas, yet the West Coast National Park is almost unknown to tourists visiting South Africa.
Because of the absence of large crowds of people, the park has maintained its authenticity in time, managing not only the territory but also its atmosphere full of suggestions and tranquility. The multi-faceted nature of the park makes it a unique place where the varied vegetation and fauna join in a breathtaking beauty that challenges every imagination.
The best time to visit the West Coast National Park is from August to September, when the park explodes into a kaleidoscope of colors thanks to its flowering.
Its rich vegetation, especially in the month of August, is animated giving incredible shades ranging from orange to yellow, from purple to pink, from red to white. Imagine the color contrast of wild flowers and plants with the blue of the Atlantic Ocean and the sky. A unique spectacle.
Inside the park, which can be visited in at least two days, there are many activities: from trekking to water sports and simply relaxing on the beach.
10. A trip to Cape Winelands
About 40 kilometres from Cape Town are the Winelands, lush valleys full of beautiful Dutch-style farms, precious vineyards and beautiful landscapes. Forget Safari Africa, here the scenery changes completely. Small villages dotted with Cape Dutch-style buildings and a geometric tangle of vine rows, vegetable gardens and orchards, make up the beautiful valleys of the Winelands.
To experience the best of the territory, we advise you to spend one or more days of wine tastings that organize the farms of the area. Right in the Winelands you will find the most popular wine in South Africa!
Traveling from Stellenbosch to Paarl to the town of Franschhoek, there are plenty of towns rich in wineries that allow you to try their own wines and visit the wineries and vineyards. With nearly 200 wine and grape growers, Stellenbosch was the first region to create a tasting trail, making it one of South Africa’s six most popular tourist destinations.
9. Dragons mountains, Drakensberg
Between South Africa and Lesotho, rise the spectacular Dragon Mountains, one of the most scenic mountain ranges in the world. Declared in 2000 World Heritage by UNESCO, they reach the 3,482 meters at Thabana Ntlenyana, developing along the flanks of the immense natural aerial mountains protected, ready to welcome the most adventurous tourists.
Imagine a cliff of over a thousand kilometers of rocky cliffs and jagged peaks that degrade towards the ocean. Inside is Tugela, the second highest waterfall in the world.
The Drakensberg is also known as the “Ramsar site” for the presence of high-altitude marshes, protected by the Ramsar Convention by virtue of their international importance.
If all this was not enough, this incredible mountain range encloses the highest concentration of rock engravings of all sub-Saharan Africa.
We are not surprised that J.R.R. Tolkien was inspired by this landscape for tales of Middle-earth de “the Misty Mountains”.
8. Travel to Kalk Bay, Cape Town
You could easily spend a whole day at the amazing Kalk Bay without really finding out. This impressive and charming Cape Town neighbourhood, just 30 minutes from the city centre, stands out from the rest of the town for its consistently holiday atmosphere, original shops, seafood restaurants and spectacular beaches so popular Surfers.
Named by Forbes Magazine in July 2018 as “one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world”, Kalk Bay is loved by both tourists and locals alike. Its charm lies in its versatility: antique shops, vintage bookstores and art galleries go hand in hand to quaint restaurants, colourful fishing boats and creativity in all its corners. From a relaxing stroll along the pier to an ocean-view seafood lunch, up to an afternoon of relaxing on the beach or a cocktail in the many clubs that animate the area, Kalk Bay has all you need to experience a day out from South Africa’s local!
7. See Pretoria during the Jacaranda bloom
Imagine more than 70,000 Jacaranda trees in bloom. Imagine parks, streets and squares immersed in the color lilacs. The Jacaranda bloom comes to life in South Africa from the end of September to mid-November, with a peak in October.
The City par excellence where you can admire these descending trees from Brazil is Pretoria. Some of the town’s oldest trees are located in Cilliers Streets, while the greater concentration can be admired in the Klapperkop Nature Reserve, full of dreamy and amazing panoramic views. During the flowering period of these spectacular trees, the city is transformed into an authentic flowery rug. A real magic!
The Praetorians love their jacaranda so much that they dedicate the Pretoria Jacaranda Festival; While the students of the University of Pretoria believe that if you study for an exam and a flower of Jacaranda falls on your head, the exam will be successful.
6. Garden Route
From Cape Town to Port Elizabeth is one of South Africa’s most incredible scenic roads, about 1000 kilometers long. The main artery is the N2, a path dotted with places of interest reachable through secondary roads and deviations along the route.
We advise you to devote at least four to five days to the Garden Route and to take it by car. There is a particularly recommended time of year to visit the Garden Route, as the route holds the Guinness records of the most temperate climate in South Africa, never below 18 degrees.
What to visit along the Garden Route? There are many stages of interest: from the Winelands famous for the most prestigious South African wines of the country, to the picturesque villages of Hermanus and Gaansbai known respectively, for the transit of whales near the mainland and for diving with sharks White. Another unmissable stop is Cape Aghulas, the southermost point of the African continent where the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean meet.
If you like animals we recommend a stopover in Oudtshoorn, a village famous for its high concentration of ostriches! While a little further on are the Cango Caves, the most extensive caves in South Africa, excavated for more than 4 kilometers in limestone.
We could go on forever, the truth is that the Garden Route with its rich vegetation and overlooking the ocean, is an incredible route to discover a varied and spectacular South Africa.
5. Namaqua National Park, the desert that blooms.
How can one of the most arid places in South Africa turn completely into a mantle of colourful flowers? Namaqua National Park, on the border with Namibia, is one of the most beautiful and magical places in the country that can surprise the most navigated visitor. During spring the park, which stretches over 700 square kilometers, is flooded with flowers giving rise to an impressionist painting.
From Orange to lilacs, from yellow to dazzling white, there are almost 4,000 species of flowers that are born on the territory, some of which include species such as lily, Aloe and many wild plants.
The park is characterized by its extreme temperatures, during the day you reach the 40 ° while the night temperature can drop 8 ° below freezing.
A place that, apparently, seems inhospitable all year round, but with the arrival of spring (early August/mid-September) completely changes. We advise you to explore the park calmly, perhaps riding a bicycle, admiring not only the stupendous flowering but also the rich fauna, including numerous gazelles, porches and baboons.
4. Discover Durban Waterfront
The third largest city in South Africa is a mix of colors, music and most beautiful beaches to lose your head. Between exclusive hotels, trendy bars and restaurants, the travel to Durban offers its visitors all year round fun and plenty of outdoor activities. For this reason the city has been dubbed “the playground of South Africa”.
Its flagship is the extensive Golden Beach promenade overlooking the Indian Ocean, where you can relax in the sun or ride the waves on the surfboard.
Unlike the waters of Cape Town, those in Durban enjoy a warm temperature all year round.
In addition to the beautiful waterfront, Durban is characterized by its breathtaking views of the Drakensberg Mountains, the wildlife reserves and a rich panorama of events for each season of the year.
3. Soweto Township Johannesburg
The urban settlement, or better known as Township, of Soweto sees its origin to the southwest of Johannesburg, in 1930, when with the advent of the “gold rush” many migrant workers moved here. Soweto with its 2 million inhabitants is the largest urban settlement of black people in South Africa; A place full of political events and struggles to overthrow the state of apartheid.
Of great historical importance is the student revolt of 1976, “The Soweto Uprising”, in which thousands of students went down the streets to protest a legislative decree requiring the use of Afrikaans in African schools. Although the march was completely peaceful, many children lost their lives at the hands of local police forces.
Today Soweto, although still retains a dilapidated and partly degraded aspect, is a tourist destination and business center of great importance. To visit the home of former president Nelson Mandela where was drafted the Freedom Charter, as well as the home of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Memorial Museum of Hector Pieterson, the church Regina Mundi and the area of Diepkloof Extension recently built, Rich in schools and parks. But above all else to distinguish Soweto is the strong sense of community of its inhabitants proud of the history of its neighbourhood.
2. Hermanus, spotting the whales.
Have you ever heard of whale watching? It means “spotting whales.” In Hermanus, a collection and picturesque town on the south coast of South Africa, this is a practice often practiced frequently.
From June to November, in fact, there is a real magic: it is possible to see the passage of hundreds of whales migrating from the cold waters of the Antarctic to the hottest ones on the south coast of South Africa to reproduce and breed their young.
This phenomenon, beloved by the locals so much to dedicate a festival (the Whale Festival, announcing the beginning of the season of whales), attracts tourists from all over the world, curious to see the queens of the ocean closely. The peculiarity of the town is to be the only place in the world from which you can see whales from the mainland. A unique spectacle dubbed by South Africans “the Whale soup”, given the large number of specimens that can be sighted.
Not only so the famous Big Five, even the marine fauna of South Africa is just as extraordinary!
As well as being the best observation point for whale-crossing in South Africa, Hermanus is a charming town, ideal for strolling along the more than twelve kilometres of scenic trails overlooking the sea, snooping around the city centre and maybe Taste a good cheesecake in one of the many cafes.
1. Inspect Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
Straddling South Africa and Botswana, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park has an extension of 35,550 square kilometers, including the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana. The Union of the two parks, whose boundary is uniquely symbolic, occurred in 2000 and gave birth to the first trans-frontier Park of Africa and consequently one of the largest national parks in the world.
What distinguishes it is in fact the absence of fences: Tourists and animals can circulate freely through the international border within the park
The scenery that will be paleserà before the eyes is almost deserted: to be the master only high reddish dunes, golden shrubs and large spaces where the animals, including lions, cheetahs and hyenas, are free to run.
A silent ecosystem where only the wildest and most uncontrolled nature reigns. To circulate inside the park we advise you to rent a 4 x 4, so you don’t have problems with the sometimes muddy terrain.
Despite being less frequented than other South African national parks, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park was named by the South African traveler magazine GO! As the “most photogenic of our national parks”.