The splendours of the Western Cape lie not only in its world-class vineyards, stunning beaches and mountains, but also in lesser-known regions, such as the wide-open spaces of the Karoo, the nature reserves and the wilderness areas. Make sure you get out into these wild, less-visited areas for birdwatching and wildlife adventure as well as pure relaxation under vast skies.
If you're in search of urban vibes, Gauteng will enthrall you. This small province is the throbbing heart of the South African nation and the economic engine of Africa. Its epicentre is Johannesburg (Jo'burg), the country's largest city. And what a city! Its centre is undergoing an astonishing rebirth and its cultural life has never been so dynamic.
From lush tropical forests to uninhabited desert expanses, from easygoing hammock time to adrenaline-pumping adventures, the Eastern Cape offers a wide range of topography and experiences. Compared with the wealthier and more developed Western Cape, it can feel like a different country and provides opportunities to learn about Xhosa culture.
Johannesburg, more commonly known as Jo’burg or Jozi, is a rapidly changing city and the vibrant heart of South Africa. After almost 20 years of decline and decay, the city is now looking optimistically towards the future. Its centre is smartening up and new loft apartments and office developments are being constructed at a rapid pace.
The Sunshine Coast covers a significant chunk of the Eastern Cape coastline, including Port Elizabeth, the seaside towns of Jeffrey's Bay and Port Alfred, and numerous sandy beaches. In the hinterland are the best wildlife-watching areas within easy reach of the coastline between Cape Town and Durban: Addo Elephant National Park and the nearby private reserves.
High on the must-see lists of most visitors to South Africa is the Garden Route, and with good reason: you can’t help but be seduced by the glorious natural beauty. The distance from Mossel Bay in the west to just beyond Plettenberg Bay in the east is under 300km, yet the range of topography, vegetation, wildlife and outdoor activities is remarkable.
With just a million people inhabiting its 373,000 sq km, the Northern Cape is South Africa’s last great frontier. Its scattered towns are hundreds of kilometres apart, connected by empty roads across the wildernesses of Namakwa, the Kalahari and Upper Karoo. In these sublime, surreal expanses, reality disappears faster than a meerkat into its burrow.
The hot and dry Eastern Lowveld is mostly used as a staging post on the way into and out of Kruger National Park. You can learn about the history of the gold rush in the feel-good town of Barberton or get your big-city fix in Nelspruit, and there are plenty of country lodges to whet your appetite for mighty Kruger National Park.
Beautiful, culturally rich, safe, affordable and easily accessible from Durban and Johannesburg, mountainous Lesotho (le-soo-too) is a vastly underrated travel destination. The contrast with South Africa could not be more striking, with the Basotho people's distinct personality and the altitudinous terrain's topographical extremes.