Tired of the same-old tours? There’s so much more to South Africa than just the Garden Route and Kruger National Park… the country all the way at the very bottom of the African continent is also known for its beautiful beaches, diverse and vibrant cultures, majestic mountains, world-class cuisine and wine, desolate deserts, rolling fields, sub-tropical coastlines, trendy cities and so much more. There is something to suit every taste, interest and travel style, and with our specialist guides and FIT tours, you are bound to discover something new! Here’s a list of some of our top highlights to get you started.
- World Class Wines in the Winelands
When people think of sun-dappled vineyards, a crisp sauvignon blanc or a moody merlot they’re not usually thinking of Africa but they really should be as more and more South Africa is being recognised for its world-class wine. The region known as the Winelands stretches from Cape Town’s suburbs to charming, historic and picturesque towns further out such as Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Oenophiles should absolutely take a day or two to taste the varietals on offer.
2. Dramatic Peaks of the Drakensberg
With high pointy peaks resembling the back of a gigantic dragon it’s no wonder where this breathtaking mountain range got its Europeanized name, Drakensberg is Dutch for “Mountain of Dragons” and the Afrikaans settlers of Dutch descent would have marveled at these majestic peaks just as travellers do now. The Zulu name uKhahlamba “barrier of spears” is just as apt a description for the largest mountain range in South Africa that spans from Lesotho to KwaZulu Natal. Discover ancient San Rock Art, exhilarating hiking trails and stunning vistas such as the Ampitheatre or Cathedral Peak.
3. Wildflowers on the West Coast
South Africa’s West Coast stretches from Cape Town all the way up to Namibia’s border, and the road that travels along it is known as the Cape Namibia Route. After leaving Cape Town’s surrounds, towns become few and far between and are mostly rural fishing villages and farming towns. Many of these towns are worth visiting, particularly Paternoster with it’s whitewashed cottages and fantastic restaurants. It’s a beautiful landscape to take in but becomes even more breathtaking after the winter rains when thousands of wildflowers bloom and transform the fields into a patchwork quilt of vibrant colour. These fields of flowers stretch for miles up the coast and are absolutely not to be missed if you find yourself in South Africa between June and September.
4. Marvelous Markets
Markets are having a bit of a moment in South Africa. Every weekend and even in the week there is a multitudinous variety to choose from with the most located in Cape Town, Johannesburg taking 2nd place and then various small towns along the Garden Route or other popular tourist routes. The original Neighbourgoods Market found in the Woodstock neighbourhood of Cape Town is the one that started it all, and grew in such popularity that there is a sister version in Johannesburg’s trendy Braamfontein area. Cape Town now also has the Bay Harbour Market, the Oranjezicht Farmer’s Market, Mojo Market and many more each offering their own unique flavour but all focusing on fresh artisanal food and beautiful jewellery, clothes and curios. In Johannesburg there is the Linden Market, The Market on Main in Maboneng, and 1Fox Market Shed. Along the Garden Route the Wild Oats Market in Sedgefield is the place to be on a Saturday morning and in Hermanus be sure to visit the Hermanuspietersfontein Food & Wine Market.
5. Eerie Art in the Middle of Nowhere
The Karoo is a semi-arid area characterised by vast open spaces and quirky small towns straddling most of South Africa’s inner country. Some of these towns are more charming than others but the landscape itself is awe-inspiring with an impressive stillness and one of the most amazing night skies completely splattered with stars. You’ll find some impressive game farms in the Karoo and anyone doing a comprehensive tour of South Africa will certainly pass through it due to its vast size. Near the town of Graaff-Reinet, a historical and charming destination of its own you will find an even smaller quirkier town called Nieu-Bethesda, home of the Owl House. A museum that used to be the childhood home of a troubled artist who transformed the entire space into an art piece made of cement, glass bottles and crushed glass. It’s eerie and fascinating and descriptions barely do it justice, it needs to be experienced in person.
6. Up and Coming Urban Hotspots
Cape Town and Johannesburg are South Africa’s two biggest cities and they couldn’t be more different. Cape Town, of course, has the beaches and the mountains and is known for an incredibly laid back attitude, while Johannesburg is known as the City of Gold, it’s an African business epicentre and people hustle harder. Both cities have their unique attraction but a recent trend has been formerly gritty neighbourhoods turning into funky urban centres with cool cafes, thought-provoking street art and a palpable vibe of creativity and innovation. In Joburg, the hippest neighbourhoods are Braamfontein, Melville, and Maboneng. In Cape Town, it’s Woodstock, the Bo Kaap and Sea Point’s Main Road. Take a morning or afternoon to wander through these areas snapping pictures for Instagram, trying excellent coffee and sampling artisanal food.
7. The Best and Most Beautiful Beaches
Did you know South Africa has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world? Cape Town, Durban, the Garden Route, the Wild Coast, the West Coast are all along the country’s expansive coastline and offer a uniquely memorable beach experience. In Cape Town Clifton and Camps Bay are the most popular (and consistently voted the most beautiful in the world) but why not try out Llandudno, Muizenberg, Boulder’s or Blauuwberg for something a bit different. Travelling up the West Coast you will find rugged and seemingly isolated beaches that stretch for miles although the water is quite cold for swimming. Warmer water can be found in Durban, the Wild Coast and the Garden Route. Durban’s waters are the warmest and a trip to the area can easily be combined with a safari further inland. The Garden Route is home to an array of beach towns all characterised by lush greenery right up to beautiful sandy beaches. Don’t forget your swimming costume!
8. The Tip of Africa
There are 2 contenders for the Southernmost point of Africa and while Cape Agulhas is officially the tip of Africa, Cape Point certainly feels like the end of known world with its historic lighthouse located high up on a jutting peak – which is why for years it claimed to be the furthest South you can go in Africa. Both are worth a visit, as the Cape Point Nature Reserve is an amazing area to explore with fields of fynbos, buck and baboons, and various beaches that are visited by whales. If you want that iconic shot next to the sign that says Southernmost Point of Africa then plan a detour on your way to the Garden Route, the Overberg area is well worth a visit, especially De Hoop Nature Reserve.
9. The Best Indian Food this Side of the Equator
Do spicy curries, warm buttery flaky rotis, and fresh sambals make your mouth water? Then you are in for a treat… South Africa has the largest Indian community outside of India and this means an abundance of quality Indian cuisine from affordable canteen style restaurants to stylish upmarket places all excellent to satisfy that craving. Durban has the largest Indian community and some parts of the city can be referred to as Little India especially the Victoria Street Market. Of course, South Africa has added its own unique twist with the addition of Bunny Chow, which does not actually involve rabbits in any form, but is actually a hollowed-out half loaf of bread filled with a deliciously saucy meat or vegetable curry.
10. A street with 2 Nobel Peace Prize Winners
In South Africa there’s an interesting street that is the only one in the world that has been home to 2 Nobel Peace Prize winners. Both Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have lived on Vilakazi Street in Soweto, Johannesburg and Desmond Tutu still has a house there. Soweto is an important historical area as it where the 1976 Soweto Uprisings took place which attracted the world’s attention the horrors of the Apartheid government. So besides laying claim to this incredibly unique distinction, it’s well worth a visit to learn more about the country’s history.
To experience these special highlights that you may not have heard of, talk to one of our specialist consultants about tailor-making a custom tour for you that will include the ones you are most interested in. But if you prefer a more well-rounded tour, here are our top 4 Private Guided Trips for your convenience: World in One Country, Wonders of the Garden Route, Cape Town Experience, and Cape Town and Kruger Experience.