South Africa is a vast place, but if you’re trying to plan a trip there, you are probably already well aware of that fact. The logistics of traveling from one far-flung city to another during the festivities can be very complicated; instead of wearing yourself out, why not plan a long, leisurely vacation in this fascinating country? South Africa has many exciting sights and attractions and is teeming with gorgeous scenery and heavenly vistas, including many things that will appeal to the whole family.
Familiarize yourself with the twelve best things to see in South Africa:
Located off the coast of Cape Town in Table Bay, Robben Island is less a scenic place to explore than a historical one to learn more about South Africa’s apartheid past. For many years, political prisoners were held on this island in several prison buildings. The most famous prisoner ever held here was Nelson Mandela, who later became the president of South Africa. Don’t miss this amazing place, especially if you are a history buff.
The Wild Coast
If breathtaking coastlines are your cup of tea, then you absolutely must include South Africa’s Wild Coast during your visit. Popular with South Africans, this region doesn’t get nearly as much attention from people outside the country. Therefore, you can enjoy a lot more solitude when you explore here. Highlights include the round huts of many small villages and the Wild Coast Trail, which will engage even the most experienced hikers out there.
Kruger National Park
Covering a massive area of more than 20,000 square kilometers, Kruger National Park is the ultimate place to enjoy a bona fide African safari. Established in 1898, it is the oldest wildlife park on the continent. The sheer variety of the wildlife here is reason enough to include this topnotch national park during your South Africa vacation with the ability to see giraffees, cheetah, hippos and crocs. The fact that you don’t have to rough it in off-roads vehicles is another perk. Thanks to its size and its many first-rate facilities, it’s easy to plan a visit to Kruger National Park.
The Garden Route
Stretching along the Indian Ocean between St. Francis and Mossel Bay, you’ll find South Africa’s famed Garden Route. Some of the best surfing in Africa can be enjoyed here, along with superb hiking and other outdoor opportunities. Whether you focus your visit on the first-rate Tsitsikamma National Park or take in the sumptuous coastal scenery on the Outeniqua Choo-tjoe Train, you’re sure to fall in love with the Garden Route. Be sure to plan a stop at Knysna. Tucked between the Indian Ocean and the Outeniqua Mountains, Knysna boasts many wonderful hiking opportunities in its nearby forests; its lagoon provides some of the best water sports and beach locations in the region. The town itself is charming and welcoming. Once you’ve been here for a day, you won’t want to leave.
While many South African attractions involve active pursuits, the Winelands is a wonderful place to relax and restore yourself. Mile upon mile of verdant vineyards stretch across this lovely land full of purple mountains, stately oaks and a bounty of colorful flowers ; wine tastings and other activities can be found in abundance. Tour a local winery or enjoy some agritourism at a working farm; no matter what you do, you’re going to be enchanted by South Africa’s Winelands region just east of Cape Town.
Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve
With the third-largest canyon in the world, this nature reserve boasts some of the wildest and most exciting topography in all of South Africa. Several natural wonders can be found here, including the world-famous God’s Window formation. Be sure to bring your camera when you visit this reserve, which is located near Kruger National Park - you’ll have many prime photo opportunities.
Table Mountain National Park
As the home of Cape Town’s most famous landmark - Table Mountain - Table Mountain National Park is an ideal place to include on any tour of South Africa. In addition to riding to the top of Table Mountain in a cable car, you can take in sights like Cape Point, Signal Hill and the Lion’s Head. Spend a day there exploring, or consider camping out for the night for additional fun and adventure.
Believed by many to have inspired Tolkien when he wrote The Lord of the Rings, Hogsback - which is located in the Amatola Mountains - is a truly amazing place. Dotted with majestic waterfalls and rocky outcrops, Hogsback features some of the most interesting scenery in all of South Africa. Many different species of bird call Hogsback home, including a large array of parrots. Horseback riding and trout fishing are both popular here, so if you enjoy either one you’ll be perfectly content.
The Golden Mile
Durban is one of South Africa’s great coastal cities; it’s also well known for its phenomenal beaches. The string of beaches along Durban’s waterfront are collectively known as The Golden Mile, and it’s easy to see why. This sun-kissed part of South Africa is ideal for people who want to enjoy some fun in the sun. From lounging in the sun to splashing in the surf to enjoying exciting beach activities, the Golden Mile is a superb place to include during your South Africa journey.
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to cram 3.5 million people into a relatively small geographical area, you can find out by visiting Soweto, Africa's less glamorous side. Located on the outskirts of Johannesburg, this is the place where many of the most important events of apartheid occurred. Guided slum tours are highly recommended; they are not only the safer option, but they help you gain insight into the many historical things that have happened in this place. Although it’s not a scenic attraction, it’s well worth a look.
Stretching over more than 600 miles, the Drakensberg Mountains are located in eastern South Africa - roughly between Durban and Bloemfontein. Set aside a day or two to explore these verdant and majestic mountains in order to enjoy some phenomenal outdoor activities. Canopy tours are available, where you take views from the tops of towering trees; fishing, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, golfing, rock climbing and bird watching are all popular in this region of South Africa.
If time is not an issue, consider heading over to South Africa’s Western Cape to spend a day or two in Hermanus. This charming city used to be a small seaside fishing village; today, it retains much of its small town qualities while still being engaging enough to keep visitors on their toes. The top thing to do in Hermanus is whale watching; there are cliff paths from which you can view the surprisingly graceful creatures. If you’d like to add a thrilling nature experience to your South African journeys, stop by Hermanus at some point.