Best places to visit in South Africa
What are the best places to visit in South Africa?
Below several travel experts have compiled their insider tips on the best places to visit and things to do in South Africa. From wine tastings, to safaris, great hikes and unique views from southernmost points of Africa. Surely this will inspire your next trip outside of the mayor cities.
For a short trip itinerary to Pilanesberg Park from Johannesburg feel free to check out my post.
Bo-Kaap, Cape Town
By Jyoti from Story at Every Corner
Bo-Kaap is a famous destination in Cape Town, that you should have in your itinerary. Tourists visit this neighborhood in Cape Town for its bright and beautiful homes, historic buildings, and the famous Cape Malay cuisine.
A great way to visit the neighborhood is with a walking tour. There are multiple free walking tours of Bo-Kaap. The guides tell stories of Bo-Kaap and tips on things to do
This charming old neighborhood has been keeping the Cape Malay traditions alive for centuries. You will learn why people color their homes so bright.
You’ll see where Cape Malay cuisine originated, learn where you can find places to eat the most authentic food, and where you can take cooking classes. Sadly, with gentrification on the rise, the neighborhood is at risk of losing its culture and people are working hard to keep it alive.
While in Bo-Kaap, you should visit Auwal Masjid and learn how Tuan Guru started the first masjid of South Africa and how he brought together the community, they called home. Be sure to talk with Ahmad, who now takes care of the masjid. While you’re there, check out the amazing wall murals by the renounced artist, Jason Sonny.
No visit is done until you stop by at Bismillah, and have a Cake Malay meal or snacks.
When photographing the colorful homes, please be respectful of the community. The residents are very private and don’t like to be in tourist photos.
Enjoy the views at Cape Point
by Martha from May Cause Wanderlust
Cape Point is right next to the Cape of Good Hope, and many people think this is the southernmost point of Africa. But they’re wrong! That is actually Cape Agulhas further east along the coast.
Despite this, Cape Point is a very beautiful destination, so it is definitely worth a visit.
Cape Point sits within Cape of Good Hope National Park, and once you have paid the entrance fee (R340 for adults), you can drive pretty close to both capes. From the car park, you can walk to Cape Point along a signposted route.
It is uneven at times and there are lots of steps, so wear comfortable shoes and bring some water. If you don’t want to do the walk, fear not, you can take the funicular instead.
If you do walk, along the way you will get a good view of the Cape of Good Hope, and you might spot some wildlife. There are several detours off the path, so if you want you can explore the ruins of an old WW2 radar station.
The main attraction through, is the old lighthouse with panoramic ocean views towards the south tip of the cape. From here you can marvel at the teal sea and fearsome rocks. It is really stunning.
Once you have had your fill of sea views and steps, you can grab a bite to eat at the restaurant next to the car park.
Great White Sharks, Gansbaai
By Becki from Meet Me In Departures
For a lot of people, the whole concept of jumping into a cage to get up and personal with a potential killer is the stuff of nightmares. It’s not for everyone.
However, if this is on your wildlife bucket list, and you’re passing through the town of Gansbaai, you’re in luck. Just of the coast of this town is one of the best places in the world to see Great White Sharks.
The reason why so many Great Whites congregate here, is that their main diet are seals. Not far from the coast is Geyser Island, which is home to a 40,000 strong colony of Cape Fur Seals.
As you pass through this town, you will see a number of outlets offering Cage Diving. You can also book an excursion from Cape Town as a day tour, with a very early start as it’s at least a 2hourdrive away. So you’re better to stay in Gansbaai town.
Whichever the option you choose, be sure to book through an ethical company that promotes shark conservation and promote an educational visit with marine biologists who give the commentary on the boat.
They will tell you what to look for with regards to shark behaviour before you enter the water. If you are provided with a wetsuit, and the cage is attached to the boat. If you’re still not sure, then you can also opt to view the sharks from the top deck of the boat.
Visit the southernmost point of Africa at Cape Agulhas
by Nicholas of Rambling Feet
The southernmost point of the African continent is not the fabled Cape of Good Hope, but Cape Agulhas a good three-hour drive to the east. An old lighthouse and a small monument park mark the spot, which is also where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet.
There’s no shortage of international tourists here, some on day trips while others take a detour from a roadtrip along the Garden Route. It’s worth staying in the resort village of L’Agulhas, though.
You notice straightaway that the holiday homes, restaurants and art galleries feel more spacious and laidback. You will see none of the electric fencing that surrounds many residences in Cape Town and other densely populated cities.
It invites you to take a break, relax and let your guard down slightly. In the mornings, before the tourists arrive, the beach and the ocean pools are all yours to enjoy.
Feel the need to stretch your legs and get out of town? Take a short drive to Bredasdorp or a farm stall for a nice meal! Or visit Struisbaai (and meet Parrie the stingray if you’re lucky), or explore the sea caves at Arniston at low tide.
Visiting the penguins on Boulder’s Beach in False Bay near Simon’s Town South Africa
by Tracy of Travel Travels in Time
One of the best places to visit in South Africa is to see the African penguin colony who reside at Boulder’s Beach in False Bay near Simon’s Town. It is an easy day trip from the beautiful South African city of Cape Town.
It takes about an hour to drive from Cape Town to the beach. Alternatively catch the train from Cape Town or join an organised tour.
The penguin colony have been living on the beach since 1982 and are the one of the only colonies found on the African continent. There are between 2 and 3 thousand penguins in the colony. To see them, take in the view from 3 boardwalks around the beach.
The penguins are on the verge of extinction and are protected as part of the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area. This is the only place in the world where you can actually get close to these delightful birds.
The cost to enter the beach is R65 per person. The beach is actually in the middle of a residential area which means that parking is limited so try to go early in the day.
It is important to respect the animals and not get too close. Depending on the time of year there may be eggs or chicks in nests which can be incredibly close to the boardwalk! The penguins are very cute but they are wild animals.
Try local beer and wine in Franschhoek
by Nicholas of Rambling Feet
The town of Franschhoek is one of the oldest in South Africa. An hour’s drive east of Cape Town, it is in the heart of the wine-growing region. Like Stellenbosch, there is an abundance of vineyards set against a mountain backdrop.
No one in your party needs to be the designated driver and miss out on the full gastronomic experience.
There are many accommodations and dining options within the town and on the farms. So stay overnight and take the Franschhoek Wine Tram or tuk-tuk to visit the various vineyards.
It’s a hop-on/hop-off service that lets you explore each stop and enjoy the food, wine and scenery at your own pace. If you fancy beer and spirits instead, there is also a Brew Hopper tour that drives you to four different Cape craft breweries and distilleries in the area.
You’ll be surprised by how affordable the food and drinks are, given their exceptional quality. The town itself is easy to walk around if you want to see the well-preserved white-walled Cape Dutch architecture.
Some of these spots are the Dutch Reformed Church, the Town Hall and the Huguenot Memorial Museum, which documents the settlement of French Huguenot refugees in the area.
See the Big 5 at Hluhluwe Imfolozi
by Victoria of Guide Your Travel
The Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park is considered the oldest nature reserve in Africa. This beautiful park is perfect for safaris, exploring and enjoying the incredible South African scenery.
While it’s not as well-known as the Krüger National Park the Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park is deemed to be just as beautiful and impressive. It’s also a lot less crowded and can be more affordable to visit since not as many tourists choose to go here.
You can see the “Big 5” at the Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park. There are several options for camping, guided safaris or more luxuries stays within the park. Also, you can visit the park for only a single day although a fee is applicable.
You’ll have to have your own car (4×4 is recommended). For most people, it will be a better option to take a guided tour. This option will increase your chances of seeing animals lile lions, elephants or giraffes.
Guides will known exactly where to go and can tell you all you need to know about the park and its animal species.
The Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park is known for its conservation efforts and today has the largest population of white rhinos in the world. Definitely put it at the top of you bucketlist for South Africa.
by Rai of A Rai of Light
As the richest country in Africa, South Africa offers a luxurious getaway with facilities and infrastructure to accommodate the international traveller. It includes a host of sights and vibrant cities that should not be missed.
The coastal city of Durban, found along Natal Bay in the province of KwaZulu Natal, is one such example. It is known for its colonial influences, laidback lifestyle, and a host of things to do.
A highlight of a visit is a walk along the seafront promenade that runs from Moses Mabhida Stadium to the Suncoast Casino, providing expansive views of the Indian Ocean.
Other attractions include uShaka Marine World, Victoria Street Market, and the Durban Botanical Gardens. This vacation spot is dispersed with warm waters and golden sand beaches that cater to every type of visitor.
These include families looking for calm waters to swim in to ocean enthusiasts looking to surf, kite-surf, and bodyboard. The best among them include North Beach, Umdloti Beach, and Umhlanga Rocks.
As the curry capital of the country, the city is also a popular destination for foodies. Don’t miss bunny chow, Durban’s most famous meal.
Get active along the Garden Route
Alya from Stingy Nomads
The Garden Route is one of the best places to visit in South Africa. The 300-kilometer route starts in Mossel Bay and finishes in Storms River.
It follows the beautiful coast offering travelers incredible scenery: unspoiled sandy beaches, lush green forest, dramatic cliffs, charming towns, and stunning lookout points. Garden Route is a perfect place for a romantic escape, a family holiday, or an adventure trip.
The region has plenty of outdoor activities from snorkeling with seals and hiking to cage diving with sharks and bungee jumping from Bloukrans Bridge.
Other adventure activities include ziplining, paragliding, kayaking, surfing, quad biking, canyoning, and more. Anybody will be able to find here something he/she enjoys doing.
There are several National parks and reserves along the route as well as private game reserves where visitors can see African animals and birds.
Some of the highlights of the Garden Route include St.Blaize trail in Mossel Bay, white-sand beaches of Sedgefield, Map of Africa viewpoint in Wilderness, Knysna Lagoon, Robberg Nature Reserve in Plettenberg Bay, and Tsitsikamma National Park.
There are plenty of accommodation options along the route from luxury hotels to budget backpackers. For those who enjoy camping, the Garden Route offers some incredible spots e.g. wooden decks in the indigenous Knysna Forest or camping by the ocean at Tsitsikamma.
Sea-side charme at Knysna
By Dani from No Hurry To Get Home
Knysna is a city nestled between the Outeniqua Mountains and the Indian Ocean. It is da must on any South Africa itinerary if you want a combination of small-town charm, gorgeous beaches, and unparalleled outdoor adventures.
Seriously, there are so many things to do in Knysna to suit any type of traveler. Feel like going on a hike? There are dozens of trails available. Want to spend the day lounging by the beach? Totally doable. If you feel more in the mood to have an adventurous day spent scuba diving or paragliding, that’s an option, too!
Knysna has pretty much a little bit of everything. A few of the must-dos include checking out the Knysna Heads, going whale watching, checking out a few beaches, and exploring the city’s art scene.
If you’re feeling up for extra adventures, make sure you hit a few hiking trails (The Circles in the Forest trail in Goldfield Forest is awesome!) Or dive deep under the waves to check out a real-life shipwreck.
Addo Elephant Park
by Rai of A Rai Of Light
Addo Elephant Park, found in the Eastern Cape, is well known for its diverse variety of landscapes, plants and animals. Established in 1931, the 50,000-hectare park is the third largest national park in the country.
This wildlife conservation area is one of the most accessible game reserves in SA and can easily be visited as a day trip from Port Elizabeth. For a more in-depth experience, it is recommended to spend at least two days exploring the area.
Expect to witness hundreds of elephants, as well as an abundance of antelope species that include eland, kudu, hartebeest, and zebra. The best time to visit is during the dry winter months between May and August.
During which water becomes a scarce resource, forcing the wildlife to gather around waterholes and in turn providing some great viewing opportunities.
There are two main entrances, the Colchester Gate and the Addo Main Camp, and visitors have the option to self drive or to join a guided drive. A visit to Addo Elephant Park is bound to be a highlight and should not be missed when travelling to South Africa.
Wine tasting in Stellenbosch
by Ella of Many More Maps
If your idea of heaven is relaxing in beautiful surroundings and sipping wine to your heart’s content, Stellenbosch is the best place to visit in South Africa! This university town is just 50km from Cape Town, so it’s the ideal spot for a weekend break or day trip.
The Stellenbosch region is the ideal climate for growing grapes, so you’ll find mile after mile of vineyards covering the land. Because of this, Stellenbosch is crammed with world-famous wineries.
There are so many places you can go wine tasting in Stellenbosch that it’s hard to choose where to start!
The most historic and popular wineries in Stellenbosch are probably Lanzerac, Waterford and Simonsig, all of which welcome visitors.
Many wine farms also offer tours of the estate, as well as tastings. Some even have accommodation, which is usually very luxurious and expensive, but ideal for a special occasion.
If you’re staying in Stellenbosch for a couple of days and have already visited the wineries, there’s still a ton of non-wine-related activities in Stellenbosch. It’d be easy to spend hours just hiking the mountains surrounding the town and snapping photos!
For the best hiking and horseback riding trails, head to the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve. For some beautiful nature closer to the city, don’t miss strolling around the Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden.
by Kenny of
by Kenny of
Where to stay when visiting Kruger National Park -Pezulu
by Debbie Fettback from WorldAdventurists.com
One of the dreamiest locations to stay in South Africa is the Pezulu Tree House Lodge. Located just forty minutes from Kruger National Park, it is a great addition to your Kruger adventures.
Pezulu is a small Game Lodge within Thornybush Game Reserve in Limpopo, South Africa. You can go on game drives, bush walks, or take a day-long ranger course (for kids and adults).
With ten treehouses to choose from, you are sure to find one that will delight you. The fanciest treehouse is the “Dream” treehouse. The treehouse overlooks the watering hole, with breathtaking savannah views.
Early mornings and sunset are fantastic for watching the animals at the watering hole. See wildlife right from the deck of the treehouse. One of the most exciting experiences is to pull the bed out onto the treehouse deck. You can sleep under the African night sky.
You will swear that you have never seen so many stars! Also incredible is waking to the sound of rustling leaves to discover that the giraffes are enjoying a feast from your treehouse.
Another great feature was the outside washroom and shower and indoor jacuzzi. Having an outdoor shower is so refreshing after a warm busy day on game drives or a bushwalk.
In the evening, enjoy a three-course dinner around a log fire in the outdoor boma.
Pezulu is an experience that you will not want to leave off your bucket list. It is an incredible way to experience South African wilderness with some extra comforts.
Bonus: make an impact in Swaziland
by Nicole of Go Far Grow Close
In 2006, a group of people purchased the former mining town of Bulembu and restored it to a fully sustainable town, where it cares for over 350 children from newborn to adulthood. It turned former housing for miners into homes for the children.
Each child lives in one of these homes with up to five other children. One caregiver is called an “Auntie” (a Swazi reference). These five children, of various ages, then become a part of a caring family. They stay together in these homes until they reach adulthood and then, beyond as a family.
You are welcome to stay at its own lodge, and explore the town and the surrounding villages, to learn about the organization, Swazi culture and the children. Alternatively, you may also apply to stay as a volunteer or even an employee.
You will find a dairy farming, a honey industry, water bottling, and timber enterprises. All of them have the goal of sustaining the town and feeding, schooling and clothing the children. Spending time in Bulembu is an eye-opening and rewarding experience.
For those who are travelling to South Africa with children for a safari, taking a few days and visiting Bulembu will open their eyes to their own luxuries and the injustices delivered to others. At the same time you learn about how kindness and generosity help others.
What is your favorite place to visit in South Africa?
Hopfully, this article inspired you to visit some more off-the-beaten-path destinations and experience the country at your own pace.
Don’t forget to check out the road trip itinerary to Pilanesberg Park from Johannesburg
Do you have any additions to the list above? Things you have seen or done in South Africa that you can recommend to other travellers? Please comment below and let us know what we’re missing!