Spectacular South Africa
People should consider visiting South Africa for a wide range of reasons, as the country offers a diverse and captivating travel experience. Here are some compelling reasons to visit South Africa:
Natural beauty: South Africa boasts stunning natural landscapes, including iconic destinations like Table Mountain, the Drakensberg Mountains, Blyde River Canyon and the Garden Route. The country is also home to numerous national parks and wildlife reserves where you can see the Big Five (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros) and other incredible wildlife.
Safari adventures: South Africa offers some of the best safari experiences in the world. You can go on thrilling game drives and guided safaris in places like Kruger National Park, Addo Elephant National Park and many private reserves.
Cultural diversity: The country is known for its rich cultural diversity, with 11 official languages and various ethnic groups. You can immerse yourself in South African culture by attending traditional ceremonies, visiting cultural villages or enjoying vibrant music and dance performances.
Historical significance: South Africa has a complex and storied history, with important sites like Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned), the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, and the historic city of Soweto offering opportunities to learn about the country's past.
World-Class cities: South Africa is home to vibrant cities like Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban, each with its own unique charm. Cape Town, in particular, is often ranked as one of the world's most beautiful cities, known for its stunning coastline, wine regions and diverse culinary scene.
Adventure activities: Whether you're into hiking, surfing, shark cage diving, or paragliding, South Africa offers a plethora of adventure activities to satisfy thrill-seekers.
Wine tourism: South Africa is renowned for its wine regions, especially the Cape Winelands. You can tour vineyards, taste world-class wines and enjoy exquisite food pairings.
Breathtaking beaches: The country's coastline stretches for thousands of kilometers, offering pristine beaches and excellent opportunities for swimming, surfing and sunbathing.
Friendly Locals: South Africans are known for their warm hospitality and friendliness towards tourists, making visitors feel welcome and at home.
Affordability: South Africa is often considered a more budget-friendly destination compared to many Western countries, offering excellent value for money.
Eco-Tourism: The country is increasingly focusing on sustainable tourism and conservation efforts, making it an ideal destination for eco-conscious travelers.
Unique wildlife encounters: In addition to the Big Five, South Africa offers unique wildlife encounters, such as whale watching in Hermanus and the chance to see penguins at Boulders Beach.
Culinary delights: South African cuisine is a fusion of various influences, and you can savor dishes like braai (barbecue), bobotie, boerewors and malva pudding.
Scenic drives: South Africa offers some of the most picturesque road trips, like the Garden Route, the Panorama Route and the Wild Coast.
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Where to stay in South Africa
Last Word Constantia
Acclaimed 5-star luxury boutique hotel focused on luxury and adventure.
Singita Kruger National Park (Sweni and Lebombo Lodges)
Part of Singita’s award-winning 15 safari lodges, Sweni is a riverside standout and showcase of modern African design, while Lebombo offers dramatic views and glass-walled lofts.
$100 hotel / resort credit.
Breakfast daily for two guests per bedroom.
Extended check-in/out based upon availability at check-in.
Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff, Johannesburg
Experience luxury and panoramic city views at Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff, where elegant accommodations, impeccable service, and a stunning hilltop location in Johannesburg offer an extraordinary stay in South Africa's vibrant city.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.
$100 (or units of local currency) credit (per day for suites and per stay for rooms and junior suites).
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Things to do in South Africa
Safari and wildlife viewing
Embark on a safari adventure in one of South Africa's renowned national parks or private game reserves, such as Kruger National Park, Addo Elephant National Park or Sabi Sand Game Reserve, to see the Big Five and other incredible wildlife.
Visit Cape Town
Explore the vibrant city of Cape Town, known for its stunning landscapes, including Table Mountain, Cape Point and the Cape Winelands. Don't forget to take a cable car ride to the top of Table Mountain for panoramic views.
Take a ferry to Robben Island to tour the former prison where Nelson Mandela was held during apartheid. Learn about the country's history and Mandela's struggle for freedom.
Visit the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg to gain a deeper understanding of South Africa's history and the apartheid era through thought-provoking exhibits.
Explore the breathtaking Blyde River Canyon, one of the world's largest green canyons, offering opportunities for hiking, boat trips and scenic drives.
Immerse yourself in South Africa's diverse cultures by visiting cultural villages, attending traditional ceremonies and enjoying local music and dance performances.
Tour the Cape Winelands, including Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Paarl, to sample world-class wines, enjoy picturesque vineyard landscapes and savor gourmet cuisine.
Relax and unwind on South Africa's beautiful beaches, such as Camps Bay Beach in Cape Town, Durban's Golden Mile and the Wild Coast's unspoiled stretches.
South Africa offers numerous hiking opportunities, including the Drakensberg Mountains, Tsitsikamma National Park's Otter Trail and the famous Table Mountain hikes.
Get your adrenaline pumping with activities like shark cage diving in Gansbaai, bungee jumping from Bloukrans Bridge, paragliding in Cape Town or white-water rafting on the Orange River.
If you're into surfing, South Africa has excellent surf spots along its coastline, such as Jeffrey's Bay and Muizenberg.
Visit historic towns like Stellenbosch, Grahamstown and Kimberley, which offer a glimpse into South Africa's colonial past and the gold and diamond rush.
Drive or bike along the Garden Route, a scenic coastal stretch with lush forests, pristine beaches and charming towns like Knysna and Plettenberg Bay.
Explore the ancient rock art sites in the Cederberg Mountains and the Drakensberg Mountains to discover the rich cultural history of the indigenous San people.
Adventure in the Drakensberg
Apart from hiking, the Drakensberg region offers activities like horseback riding, mountain biking, and exploring the Tugela Falls, the second-tallest waterfall in the world.
Enjoy shopping at local markets and boutiques for handcrafted jewelry, textiles and traditional African crafts.
South Africa is a birdwatcher's paradise, with numerous birding hotspots, including the Greater Kruger National Park and the West Coast National Park.
Dolphin and whale watching
Go on boat tours from places like Hermanus and Plettenberg Bay to see dolphins and whales in their natural habitat.
Hot Air Ballooning
Experience the beauty of South Africa from a different perspective by taking a hot air balloon ride over the countryside, especially in regions like the Magaliesberg.
Sample South African cuisine, including boerewors (sausage), bobotie (spiced meat dish) and bunny chow (curry served in a hollowed-out loaf of bread) at local restaurants and street markets.
Places to eat & drink in South Africa
The Test Kitchen: Located in Cape Town's trendy Woodstock neighborhood, this award-winning restaurant offers a tasting menu that showcases innovative South African cuisine.
The Pot Luck Club: Also situated in the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock, this restaurant features a tapas-style menu with stunning views of the city.
Bree Street: This vibrant street in Cape Town is lined with a variety of eateries, including Bocca for pizza, La Parada for tapas and Jason Bakery for pastries and coffee.
Kloof Street: Known for its eclectic dining options, Kloof Street features restaurants like Yours Truly for pizza and burgers and Black Sheep for contemporary cuisine.
V&A Waterfront: The waterfront area offers a mix of upscale and casual dining options with views of the harbor. Try Willoughby & Co. for seafood or the V&A Food Market for diverse international fare.
Stellenbosch and the Winelands
Jordan Restaurant: Located on a wine estate, Jordan Restaurant offers a fine dining experience with seasonal menus that pair perfectly with their wines.
Delaire Graff Estate: Enjoy gourmet cuisine at this estate, surrounded by stunning vineyard views in Stellenbosch.
Babel at Babylonstoren: This restaurant is known for its farm-to-table dining, set in a picturesque garden. Try their fresh, seasonal dishes.
Maboneng Precinct: This trendy area in Johannesburg is home to a variety of hip restaurants and bars, including Arts on Main for brunch and The Living Room for rooftop cocktails.
Marble Restaurant: Located in Rosebank, Marble is famous for its South African grill menu and stylish setting.
The Oyster Box: Enjoy seafood and stunning ocean views at this iconic hotel in Umhlanga, just north of Durban.
Moyo: Located on the Durban beachfront, Moyo offers a unique African dining experience with live music and traditional dishes.
Port Elizabeth and the Garden Route
The Fat Fish: This restaurant in Plettenberg Bay is known for its seafood and oceanfront dining experience.
The Bungalow Restaurant: Located in Clifton, Cape Town, this beachfront restaurant offers cocktails and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine.
Richmond House Restaurant: In Port Alfred, this restaurant is known for its farm-to-table dining experience and beautiful garden setting.
Winelands and wine routes
Haute Cabrière Wine Estate: Located in Franschhoek, this estate offers a gourmet dining experience with a selection of their wines.
La Petite Ferme: In Franschhoek, this restaurant overlooks the valley and offers a seasonal menu paired with their wines.
Kruger National Park Area
Lukimbi Safari Lodge: If you're on safari near Kruger National Park, Lukimbi offers a unique dining experience in the wilderness.
Skukuza Golf Club Restaurant: Inside Kruger National Park, this restaurant offers a break from safari activities with a variety of dishes.
Need to Know
Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, Wine Regions You Should Visit in France.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to South Africa.