From the snow-capped amphitheatre mountains of the Northern Drakensberg to the 7km stretch of coastline on Noordhoek Beach, there are endless reasons to visit South Africa and we’re here to share some of the best with you. Whether you’re looking for an adventure-fuelled road trip across the N2 or a luxury five-star safari retreat, rest assured a visit to South Africa has exactly what you need.
Visit South Africa For:
It goes without saying that travellers from all over the world visit South Africa for its abundant wildlife; most specifically, The Big Five. On top of its infamous Big Five, South Africa is home to Cape Town’s penguins and Hermanus’ whales, which are both so worth the visit. Active conservation practices across most of South Africa’s game reserves have ensured its wildlife stay as protected as possible. Naturally, the Kruger National Park is the one to visit but remain open to other reserves and provinces to experience their local wildlife, too. The best part? South Africa is malaria-free. This makes it one of the few African countries you won’t need to worry about contracting it whilst travelling.
Worth a mention: Located in the heart of the Eastern Cape’s Sunshine Coast, Kariega Game Reserve is a private game reserve and home to the Big Five. One rhino, in particular, has caught international attention over the years as she is one of the only white rhino’s that has survived a poaching attack. Be sure to visit and look out for Thandi and her two calves – she’s truly an inspiration.
When it comes down to getting to know a country, there’s no better way than through its local people. South Africa is home to some of the most incredible people and cultures and continues to celebrate its differences in unity, despite its dark past. The Spirit of Ubuntu is a South African proverb, loosely translating to “We are human only through the humanity of other humans.” In essence, meaning that when humanity comes together, it is best for all. This spirit is felt throughout the cities and villages of South Africa alike, and you’ll rarely struggle to make friends in this beautiful country – especially if you’re invited to a lekker braai to watch the rugby!
Worth a mention: If you’re looking to experience rural life when you visit South Africa, whilst meeting some incredibly wholesome people, head down to Coffee Bay in the Wild Coast; also known as the Transkei. Considered one of the last vast pieces of land owned by a traditional Xhosa chief, this is an area of outstanding natural beauty. Hike down to the Hole in the Wall to witness one of South Africa’s most impressive natural occurrences.
Much like its people, South Africa’s culture is a melting pot of linguistic and ethnic diversity and something truly unique to experience; often referred to as the Rainbow Nation. Since the day Nelson Mandela freed South Africa from the extremist Apartheid regime the country was under in 1994, South Africa has grown from strength to strength. The country now recognises 11 official languages such as English, isiXhosa, isiZulu and Afrikaans, amongst others, including a far larger part of South Africa’s indigenous dialects and cultures. Beyond its past, there is a very bright future for South Africans and the generations to come.
Worth a mention: To gain further understanding of South Africa’s history and diverse culture, visit Robben Island; the place where Nelson Mandela was jailed for 27 years of his life. While it’s an emotional experience, it’s a brilliant way to gain insight into what he fought for and ultimately, the result of it in today’s climate. He was a man of huge influence across South Africans and his legacy lives on today.
Nothing says South African food like a braai – and for good reason, too! South Africans take their barbequing to another level, and will often allocate a Braai Master to ensure their meat is cooked to perfection. Traditionally, men would make the fire and braai the meat where women would make the salads and drinks for guests, but in recent years, these roles have dissolved considerably and a braai is pretty much a free-for-all – except for the Braai Master – or Mistress, of course! In addition to the classic shisa nyama, various parts of South Africa are proud of their city’s dish, such as Durban’s bunny chow, or Cape Town’s gatsby… You’ll have to try it to believe it!
Worth a mention: When you make your way to Cape Town (let’s be honest, you will!), be sure to set aside a day to visit Khayelitsha’s most upmarket braai spot, Rands. Here you’ll choose the meat and drinks you’d like and the staff will do the rest. Soaking up the sun to some South African house music while your meat is braaied for you is the ultimate way to spend a weekend. And, of course, you’ll get to experience an authentically South African shisa nyama.
South Africa’s wine… Need we say anymore? Naturally, South Africa’s vineyards get visited all year round and there’s no question why. The wineries are renowned for producing top-quality wines due to the Meditteranean climate of the Cape. A visit to the wine region is an incredible experience – and reason to visit South Africa! – where you’ll taste an abundance of delicious wines, amongst the iconic Pinotage; a smooth, red wine with an origin in Stellenbosch.
Worth a mention: Although Stellenbosch is the traveller’s favourite (for many great reasons!), be sure to pay a visit to Franschhoek Wine Valley. There’s still a wide range of vineyards to visit, but the beauty itself is just mindblowing. In recent years, Babylonstoren has become a state-of-the-art winery to experience and their wine tours are definitely something to write home about!
While the majority of the country has access to a coastline – sorry Northern Cape! – some beaches just stand out a little more than others. From the chicer-than-chic Camps Bay Beach in Cape Town to surfing supertubes in Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa has a beach to offer every kind of traveller. If you’re on the Indian Ocean side of South Africa, you’ll experience a warm sea temperature and climate surrounding you year-round. However, the Atlantic Ocean can be pretty freezing in comparison – but hey, that’s what a wetsuit is for! Across the shores of South Africa, you’ll witness endless horizons along with your beachy adventures.
Worth a mention: Something of a phenomenon, the story of where the two oceans meet is one told by a small town known as Cape Agulhas. It is said that where the two oceans meet, you can visibly see a line between them as you look out onto their surface. The Cape of Good Hope also claims you can see it from their viewpoint, so either way, be sure to see it for yourself!
Often, the deciding factor of why anyone wants to visit South Africa is due to its plethora of nature. It’s absolutely everywhere! From endless mountain ranges to epic hiking routes countrywide, there’s just so much natural beauty to see and experience. South Africa’s national flower, the Protea, is indigenous; along with Rooibos (red bush) which is made into a tea, now internationally enjoyed. Cape Town’s landmark, Table Mountain, is one of the seven wonders of the world and it’s no wonder! At its majestic height of 3565 ft and impressive age of approximately 600 million years old, this mountain is one for the bucket list.
Worth a mention: Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens is one of 10 botanical gardens in South Africa. It’s home to 7000 species of plants from Southern Africa – and is hikeable from Table Mountain’s Platteklip Gorge route. The gardens feature a Cycad Amphitheatre, which protects these endangered plants amongst some life-like dinosaur sculptures! Pack a picnic and enjoy a tasty lunch surrounded by nature. Or join one of the daily tours to learn more about the flora and fauna of this magical place.
So, there’s really no question as to whether or not you should visit South Africa. The question is, when are you coming?
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The Seven Best is an online guide featuring curated lists of must-sees, must-dos and more as you plan your journey around South Africa.