Having lived in South Africa, I had the chance to explore the country. Having a great infrastructure, coupled with staggering landscapes, diverse, rich cultures, and unbelievable beauty, South Africa is one of Africa’s most sought-after destinations. Renowned for its breathtaking sceneries, spectacular wildlife, beautiful beaches, and vibrant multicultural cities; South Africa has so many unique sites to discover that you could spend a lifetime exploring.
Nestled at the southern-most part of the African continent and roughly spanning an area two times the size of California, South Africa is Africa’s most iconic wildlife-touring destination. More often, when you think of the Big Five, Kruger National park comes to mind. Not only do you get a chance to see the king of the jungle, but you also get to see the magnificent view of Cape Town while relaxing atop the iconic Table Mountain.
It is relatively easy to move around South Africa with the country’s elaborate transport network. You can explore different places with ease either by car hire, rail or air transportation or you can drive yourself.
Packed with so many places to visit, it is pretty hard to pinpoint which areas to explore and which one to leave for your next visit. Luckily we have compiled the best places you shouldn’t miss while touring this incredible country.
Best Place to Visit in South Africa
1. Experience the Big Five at Kruger National Park
Your vacation to South Africa won’t be complete without a full-day game drive to Kruger National Park. Covering roughly 7,000 square miles of mountain ranges, exotic tropical rainforest, and grassy landscapes, Kruger National Park is an exciting place for an unforgettable Safari experience.
Home to the most diverse wildlife and providing exciting game watching experiences worldwide, Kruger national park is full of award-winning vast landscapes, wild luxury, and exclusive accommodation. It has a reliable and excellent road network and some of Africa’s best trackers ready to take you on the most memorable game drive experience.
This historic conservation is home to a thriving wild animal population; lions, cats, giraffes and wild dogs. Plus, it’s an excellent spot for bird watching.
Kruger is also an exciting place for trekking safaris. If you are up for the challenge, you can replace your game drive experience by venturing out accompanied by an experienced guide, to explore the Park’s intriguing ecosystem.
Where to stay – Camp and Lodging Options
Kruger National Park is the ultimate rough diamond of South African expeditions. The private reserves make up the landscape commonly referred to as “The Greater Kruger,” they are an entirely diverse entity than the National Park. The private reserves are where you find some of the finest game lodges, offering luxurious African accommodations in the bushes.
The Kruger is a vast area, so vast; you cannot visit the entire landscape in a single visit. The massive park stretches over 20,000 square kilometers of thick forests and open plateaus. There is always more flora and fauna to discover.
For those who prefer private safaris, the National Park is not your cup of tea. It is crowded with visitors and self-drivers at animal sightings during peak season. The lodges in Kruger include simple bucolic rondavels, safari tents, to lavish bungalows. You can choose between the self-catering facilities or check-in at any of the exquisite bush rest camps’ restaurants. It is an excellent place that accommodates simple to extravagant budgets.
Places to stay in include:
The Greater Kruger the private reserves of the Sabi Sands
The private Timbavati lodges and camps (Ngala Tent Camps)
These private reserves offer exclusive accommodations and game drives/walks in the vast park with private guides that will drive you around the heart of the reserve, offering you an exclusively relaxed, intimate African Safari experience.
Ulusaba Safari Hotels
Sir Richard Branson’s Ulusaba safari hotels offer various accommodations with medium to extreme budgets of great value. It’s a friendly high-end service and a preference to many return guests to the region.
A contemporary South African choicest lodge with unique safari lodge designs. Singita Lebombo has exceptional services and perfect game viewing landscapes.
Tintswalo Safari Lodge
Perfectly squeezed between the Timbavati Game Reserves and the Sabi Sands, Tintswalo Safari Lodge sits on the Manyeleti Game Reserve – as part of the Greater Kruger Expanse. The lodges offer six deluxe rooms, a presidential suite, and a secluded private Manor House.
2. Cape City
Consistently ranked as one of the best holiday spots in the world for honeymooners, families, groups, and lone travelers, Cape Town is one of the best tourist destinations in South Africa. Sitting on the mountainous peninsula between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, with the symbolic Table Mountain as its backdrop, this Mountainous City sits on some of the world’s most remarkable tourism attractions.
Breathtaking sceneries, intriguing museums, and many bars and restaurants, many of which can be found on the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, make Cape Town a must-see attraction.
Enjoy more scenic landscapes if you take a short drive outside the city. You will be mesmerized by the sandy beaches, rugged mountain ranges, and the small traditional fishing villages.
Cape Town is appealing to practically anyone looking to have fun: honeymooners will appreciate the luxurious accommodations and picturesque views. Families with kids will love sharing the beach with curious penguins. The city’s renowned food and wine experience are as enticing as its legendary and historic landmark: -The Table Mountain, a natural wonders of the world. Adventurers will have fun uncovering the secrets of Table Mountain.
3. The Garden Route
This one tops the list, especially when it comes to South Africa holiday ideas for families, nature lovers, and outdoor fanatics. The Garden Route is a beautiful coastline stretching 200km in the East and West Cape Provinces of South Africa. This world-renowned length of coastline stretches for a couple of hours from Cape Town to the Plettenberg.
Renting a car and driving yourself is the perfect way to enjoy a wonderful mix of picturesque indigenous forests, colorful towns, and rough sandy beaches along the way. The official Garden Route is a fantastic self-drive route from Mossel Bay in the west and stretches to Storms River in the east. Knysna is a strategic stopover town on the Garden Route with reasonable accommodations, all the attractions within easy reach.
Visit the beautiful beaches within these vast landscapes, scenic lagoons, indigenous forest, and coves. Offshore see the friendly African penguins, dolphins, whales, and great white sharks.
Mossel Bay has superb beaches, a museum showcasing the Portuguese explorer Bartholomew Diaz’s life, who discovered the Famous Garden Route.
Explore the bordering mountains; a trip to Oudtshoorn, the South African Ostrich industry with farms producing Ostrich feathers for extravagant hats and gigantic eggs is not to be missed.
While outdoor activities are the main attractions on Garden Route (home to South Africa’s best golf courses), delicious South Africa cuisine is never far away. Enjoy fresh oysters, and sunset boat rides at the famous Knysna Waterfront or a fast food place with a beach view in the neighboring Plettenberg Bay.
4. Cape Winelands
Flanked by sub-splashing vineyards and rocky mountain peaks, the breathtaking valleys of Cape Winelands is best known for the great historic estates, beautiful little villages, five-star resorts, and the wine. The beauty of these Wineland’s valleys surrounded by scenic mountain views is a real treat for to experience.
Though the Winelands is an ideal option for romantic getaways and honeymooners, children enjoy the Winelands as well.
There are roughly about 20 vineyards in Cape Winelands. However, the term refers to the three main vineyards in the region: – Stellen Bosch, Paarl, and Franschhoek, all located in mountainous countryside with stunning Alpine-style views.
You can start our day testing different wineries while feasting on a home-style farm-to-table delicacy or stroll through the oak-lined sidewalks to local art galleries while taking in the breathtaking scenery.
Despite being only one hour’s drive from Cape Town, a few nights in this quaint mishmash of vineyards and mountains will wash away any lingering city stress.
It is truly one of the fascinating places to visit in South Africa.
5. Pilanesberg National Park
Sitting at the heart of an ancient volcano and positioned next to a vast hippo-filled lake, the Pilanesberg National park is one of the top tourist attractions in South Africa, i.e. if you don’t want to wander far from Johannesburg. Just a few hours from Johannesburg and right in front of the world-famous Sun City resort, this readily accessible park gives tourists an authentic safari experience.
Home to some of the most fantastic wildlife, a game drive to Pilanesberg National park is frequently marked by incredible sightings of elephants, lions, brown hyenas, and a beautiful collection of birds. You can spend your day game – viewing, and if you are lucky enough, you will get to watch up-close as lions hunt.
If you have seen enough animals, take to the sky riding in a hot air balloon for some picture-perfect views. The spectacular landscape and the lush greenery make for excellent photography, and since the park is outside the malarial belt, you won’t need anti-malarial medication.
6. Sun City
To be honest, Sun City is not one of my favorite places in South Africa, but travelers seem to love it. It is like Las Vegas and I would much rather be in nature. Sun City began as a “sin city,” where gambling was allowed during the apartheid era, but ironically it was illegal elsewhere. The Sun City complex is located in Rustenburg, less than three hours’ drive from Johannesburg. It sits on Pilanesberg National Park’s brink in an extinct volcano crater, which erupted millions of years ago. Sun City was constructed in the heart of this quiescent volcano crater.
If you are looking for pure hedonism and endless entertainment, Sun City, also known as “the Kingdom of Pleasure,” is the place to be. It is no exaggeration to say that Sun City offers the most vibrant range of South African holiday activities.
Start your day playing golf in one of the famous golf courses. Then spend the afternoon relaxing at the slide-filled water theme park (Valley of the Waves) or go searching for the big five in the great Pilanesberg National Park, which is right next door.
But don’t assume the fun stops there; at night Sun City turns into a flashy hub of eateries, wine bars, casinos, and dazzling live shows. You will never want to leave Sun City.
The world within a city resort complex includes four deluxe hotels, The Palace of the Lost City, two expansive golf courses, the Waterpark Valley of the Waves, a Grand casino, South Africa’s finest concert and sports venues, and so much more. Most of the resort’s activities are family oriented.
7. KwaZulu Natal
It’s often stated that the locals know the best places to explore. When most South Africans go for a holiday, they often choose KwaZulu Natal as their vacation spot.
KwaZulu Natal is home to brimming extensive five wildlife reserves, historical battlegrounds, soaring mountain peaks, and pristine waters of the Indian Ocean. If you are an independent – mind traveler, then KwaZulu Natal has some of the finest South Africa holiday spots for a bush and beach safari.
Unlike the more sedate Garden Route, a KwaZulu Natal tour has other activities like scuba diving, battlefield excursions, and horseback riding in the scenic Drakenberg Mountain. For an authentic African experience, explore the northern part of KwaZulu Natal coupled with stunning beaches, excellent game reserves, and typical Zulu villages nestled together on sloppy hillsides near the historical battlefields.
As you head further south, the terrain softens as the tropical winds pass through the countryside grasslands of the Natal highlands and down to Durban’s colorful city.
Our Final Word
Nothing compares to the breathtaking and spellbinding sights that South Africa has to offer. This incredible country will impact you like on others. From the flourishing urban cities of Cape Town and Johannesburg to the vibrant indigenous Ba Kaap villages and the sun-kissed coasts, South Africa has it all in fashionable culture and history. As you explore South Africa, you will experience countless magical moments in every city mentioned in this article. I loved living there and having a chance to explore such a wonderful country.