Introducing South Africa
Every country in the world displays some diversity, but South Africa, stretching from the hippos in the Limpopo River to the penguins waddling on the Cape, takes some beating. It befits its position at the southern end of the world’s most epic continent, with more types of terrain than photographers can shake their zoom lens at. There’s the deserted Kalahari, Namakwa’s springtime symphony of wildflowers, iconic Table Mountain and Cape Point, Kruger National Park’s wildlife-stalked savannah (scene of the famous lion-buffalo-crocodile battle watched more than 40 million times on YouTube) and, running through the east of the country and into Lesotho, the Drakensberg. KwaZulu-Natal’s iSimangaliso Wetland Park alone has five distinct ecosystems, attracting both zebras and dolphins.
If you’re interested in another kind of wildlife, hit the nightclubs on Cape Town’s jumping Long St or sample African homebrew in a township shebeen (unlicensed bar). When it’s time to reflect on it all, do it over seafood on the Garden Route, curry in Durban’s Indian Area, a sizzling Cape Malay dish, or a braai (barbecue) in the wilderness – accompanied by a bottle of pinotage produced by the oldest wine industry outside Europe.
Of course, it's impossible for travellers to South Africa to remain oblivious to the fact that, despite the rise of ‘black diamonds’ (middle-class black folk), racial inequality persists here. Black and coloured townships face problems such as a horrific HIV/AIDS rate and xenophobic tensions caused by economic refugees from nearby countries.
Nonetheless, South Africans are some of the most upbeat, welcoming and humorous folk you’ll encounter anywhere, from farmers in the rural north who tell you to drive safely on those dirt roads, to Khayelitsha kids who wish you molo (‘good morning’ in Xhosa).
Ready to go?
These tours & activities make it easy:
Best places to stay in South Africa
South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland travel guide
Africa’s southernmost trio offers adventure, beach-bumming and everything in between, with lions roaring in the bushveld, vineyards climbing mountainsides, diverse African cultures and open roads through sublime scenery.
These adventures will keep kids and grown-ups smiling while exploring the world. This article is adapted from Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Adventures. Step into a fairy tale in Prague, Czech Republic Prague Castle. Image by Fandrade / Flickr / Getty Images.
South Africa's top safaris
South Africa's top cultural experiences
South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland - Plan your trip (Chapter)
Your journey to South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland starts here. You’ll find the tools to plan your adventure: where to go and when, how much to budget, plus indepth info on the diverse wildlife and habitat this region has to offer.
The Mother City, home to soaring Table Mountain, golden beaches and bountiful vineyards, is an old pro at capturing people’s hearts.
Ten of the world's best city hikes
Stretch your legs over hours or days, without leaving some of the world’s biggest cities. This article is adapted from Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Adventures. Tijuca Forest, Rio de Janeiro Aerial shot of Rio de Janeiro surrounded by the Tijuca Forest. Image by Paddy Eckersley / Digital Vision / Getty Images.
South Africa's World Heritage sites
South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland - Understand South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland & Survival Guide (Chapter)
All the info you need on everything from history, music and the environment to flights, public transport, climate, money, the internet...you name it. Get hints on the gay and lesbian scene and tips for women travellers, kids and travellers with disabilities, as well as a handy language guide and glossary.
Southern Africa Explorer
A classic overland journey through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe
African Wilderness in Comfort
A diverse accommodated overland traverse through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe (Victoria Falls)
Revamped: 10 neighbourhoods that have had incredible makeovers
Some neighbourhoods are effortlessly charming while others bring new meaning to the phrase 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder'. From gritty to glossy, these 10 neighbourhoods around the world have been completely revamped into coveted places to live, work and play. Grünerløkka cafe.
Africa - South Africa (Chapter)
South Africa’s blend of cultures is evident, but its diversity stretches far beyond its people. Sleep under the stars in the deserts, hike to snowcapped peaks or surf and sunbathe in Cape Town. Bucolic Zululand and the Wild Coast provide an antidote to gritty Johannesburg and Durban, and wildlife ranges from safari walks to penguin encounters.