South Africa promises to impress in unique wildlife and breathtaking scenery. Beyond that, the eclectic culture, lively cities, and abundance of nature make the region a must-visit for all types of travelers. Aside even from the world-famous Kruger National Park, which allows you to witness the “Big Five” in action, South Africa offers a whole country full of lush landscapes and wildlife parks. Coupled with almost 2,800 kilometers of coastline, the Kalahari Desert to the northwest, and the very special Drankensberg countryside, this diverse place has something for everyone. The modern capitals of Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban are ideal starting points for a road trip or a great home base for an exciting city break.
Where to stay at a hotel in South Africa? Top locations at a glance:
City or Vineyard Fun on the Western Cape
Driving the Southern Coast
Wildlife and nature in Kruger National Park and uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park
A visit to the world-famous Kruger National Park should be on everyone’s bucket list. Opt for a wildlife safari through this breathtaking landscape filled with Africa’s Big 5: lions, leopards, rhinoceros, elephants, and Cape buffalo. The extra-adventurous can even choose a self-drive safari through this game reserve—the largest in Africa. Just meters away from the beasts you’ve only seen in zoos or photos, a trip through the northeasternmost part of South Africa promises to be one you’ll never forget. At a luxurious wildlife hotel on the outskirts of the park, enjoy colonial splendor in all-inclusive service, extensive spa areas, and amenities and rooms all radiating the spirit of safari. Drakensberg and uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park boast some of Africa’s most breathtaking natural landscapes and fascinating flora and fauna. A UNESO World Heritage Site, the park is filled with rocky caves and a huge collection of paintings made by the San people over a period of 4,000 years. Beyond the game reserves, South Africa is home to some of the best hiking trails of varying difficulty and composed of different, equally-stunning landscapes—among them coastal forests, river crossings, and wild viewpoints. Adrenaline lovers can also get excited about bungee jumping, surfing off the eastern coast, and rock climbing on the Cederberg Mountain. Africa’s Kalahari Desert is a must-see for admirers of solemn landscapes surrounded by vibrant colors and jarring contrasts. Head up to the border with Namibia and Botswana for a safari through seas of orange and black wiry trees.
The Wild Coast and Johannesburg
Stretching from East London north along the shore to around Port Edward, South Africa’s Wild Coast is a very special coast indeed. Called the Wild Coast for a reason, the choppy waters are filled with sharks and the roads a little bumpy. Beyond that though, this area of true natural beauty is worth a visit for the sights of shipwrecks and the confluence of green forests and bright-blue water and sky. Coffee Bay is a small town known for its remarkable beaches and being home to a large number of coffee trees, which grew from coffee beans scattered from shipwrecks and plunderers. North up the coast is the slightly larger town of Durban, an up-and-coming port city with extensive, pristine beaches. With perfectly mild weather all year long, Durban is the perfect place for a lavish resort holiday. Up north in Johannesburg, or Jo’burg, find a fascinating cityscape of renaissance. Explore fascinating history museums and discover Africa’s troubled past. Treat yourself to some seriously good cuisine in the city’s up-and-coming restaurant scene and make sure to check out Constitution Hill, a former prison for men, women, and children; this now museum works to document South Africa’s move toward democracy.
Good to know
Getting there: British Airways and Virgin Atlantic offer direct flights to Cape Town. From there, book a transfer at the airport to get into the city or pick up a rental car for your road trip. For other locations, there are four other major airports in the country: OR Tambo which serves Johannesburg, Pretoria International Airport which serves Johannesburg and Pretoria, King Shaka International Airport in Durban, and the Nelspruit International Airport which serves those coming into Kruger National Park. If you’re looking to see more of the country in a short time and the road-trip idea is not of interest, there are also over 130 airports throughout the region, making connecting via domestic flight a possibility.
Safety: Do keep in mind that although there is an urban renewal project underway in Johannesburg and South Africa generally, poverty and crime have not been eliminated. In Johannesburg, avoid the areas of Hillbrow, Yeoville, and Berea at all costs, and simply be cautious otherwise. Your hotel staff will make sure you have the most fulfilling and safe stay by offering tips throughout your visit. It is not recommended to travel alone to Johannesburg. Visit Constitution Hill during the day, but it is not necessary to book a private tour—the hop-on hop-off bus or something of the like will suffice in terms of getting there.