Dramatic Landscapes

From the Cape’s mix of coastline and mountains to expanses such as Namakwa, the Kalahari and Karoo, South Africa features some of Africa’s most impressive landscapes.

Drakensberg The Dragon Mountains bristle with awesome peaks and formations such as the Amphitheatre.

Cape Peninsula A spine of mountains runs down the peninsula from Table Mountain to Cape Point.

Wild Coast Green hills dotted with pastel rondavels (round, conical-roofed huts), rugged cliffs and empty beaches.

Augrabies Falls National Park The world’s sixth-tallest waterfall, created by the Orange River thundering into a ravine.

Blyde River Canyon Breathtaking viewpoints overlook waterfalls and rock formations where the Drakensberg Escarpment and lowveld meet.

Wildlife

Diverse, accessible and swarming with animals, these parks and reserves are some of Southern Africa's best destinations to spot wildlife, including the Big Five (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino) in most cases.

Kruger National Park South Africa’s famous park has more than 13,000 elephants alone, in landscapes from woodland to savannah.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park Deep in the Kalahari, this is an unbeatable place to spot big cats, including black-maned lions.

Elephant Coast KwaZulu-Natal’s ecotourism destination offers sightings in tropical settings; highlights include Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park.

Madikwe Game Reserve This exclusive reserve hosts the Big Five in bushveld, savannah grassland and riverine forest.

Addo Elephant National Park South Africa’s third-largest national park offers some of the world’s best elephant viewing.

Open Spaces

Whether you head inland or along the coast, the largely rural countryside offers an invigorating sense of freedom.

Namakwa The rocky hills and plains covering the country’s western quarters fill with spring wildflowers.

Free State Discover golden sunflower and corn fields and, in Golden Gate Highlands Natural Park, simmering grasslands with a mountain backdrop.

Karoo The semi-arid plateau experiences blazing summers and icy winters, as well as stunning sunsets and starscapes.

Beaches Quiet beaches are common on South Africa’s 2500km-plus coastline, from Cape Point upwards.

Kalahari Red dunes ripple away to the horizon, with added greenery by the Orange River.

Art

Artworks reflecting South Africa’s dramatic landscapes and social issues can be seen in galleries old and new, with vibrant cultural scenes in Jo’burg and Cape Town.

Zeitz MOCAA Museum This contemporary African art gallery is inside a repurposed grain silo at Cape Town's V&A Waterfront.

Eastern Karoo Refined Graaff-Reinet has well-preserved architecture, and concrete sculptures populate Nieu Bethesda’s Owl House.

Clarens South Africa’s foremost art town, this Free State gem has a dozen galleries.

Ecoshrine This ecological Stonehenge overlooks the Amathole Mountains in alternative, environmental Hogsback.

Jo’burg Cultural districts such as the Maboneng precinct have galleries, street art and walking tours.

Venda region Down red tracks in Limpopo’s former homeland, studios produce woodcarvings, pottery, batiks and textiles.

William Humphreys Art Gallery Artists in Kimberley’s gallery range from locals to Dutch and Flemish old masters.

History

Numerous sights remember South Africa’s tumultuous history, and a strong sense of the past lingers in rural areas such as the Winelands and Karoo.

Cape Town Walking tours cover sights from the Castle of Good Hope to the District Six Museum.

Kimberley A Victorian diamond-mining settlement, historic pubs, ghost tours and Cecil Rhodes’ club.

Liberation trail Spots from Jo'burg’s Constitution Hill to Robben Island celebrate the anti-apartheid struggle.

Apartheid Museum Entered through racial classification gates, Jo’burg’s museum evokes the era of segregation.

Mapungubwe National Park The Unesco World Heritage site was home to a significant Iron Age civilisation.

Oudtshoorn Mansions built by ostrich-farming ‘feather barons’, and pioneering engineer Thomas Bain’s Swartberg Pass (1886).

Cape Dutch Gabled museum houses in South Africa’s oldest settlements: Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Swellendam and Graaff-Reinet.

Cultural Experiences

Escaping the comfortable, Westernised bubble of South Africa’s tourist industry, and having hands-on experiences of the region’s diverse traditions and beliefs, is hugely rewarding.

Townships From Soweto to Khayelitsha, take an interactive, themed tour or spend the night in a homestay.

Wild Coast The former Xhosa homeland’s community-run lodges such as Bulungula offer accommodation, activities and volunteering opportunities.

!Xaus Lodge Learn Khomani San tracking skills at one of a few locations offering culture alongside wildlife.

Venda region Meet the former homeland’s artists and explore a sacred forest above Lake Fundudzi.

Zululand Learn about South Africa’s largest ethnic group on visits to villages and ceremonies.

Food & Drink

From Cape Dutch wine estates to braais (barbecues) smoking away on township corners, sampling South Africa’s lekker (tasty) produce is the best way to this agricultural country’s heart.

Cooking safari Make Cape Malay curries in Cape Town’s Bo-Kaap, and Xhosa dishes in the townships.

Food markets Try farm-fresh goodies at Cape Town and Jo’burg’s Neighbourgoods Markets and other weekly events.

Wine tour Toast three centuries of local viticulture on stunning estates in Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and beyond.

Beer cruise Sample South Africa’s burgeoning beer scene in microbreweries and bars such as Long St’s Beerhouse.

Bunny chow Regional specialities include this creation from Durban: a hollow bread loaf filled with curry.

Wine on the River Quaff by the Breede River, Robertson; one of the Western Cape’s many wine festivals.

Potluck Boskombuis Near Mpumalanga's Blyde River Canyon, this electricity-free riverside 'bush kitchen' is a classic hidden gem.

Activities & Adventures

Whether you want to cross vast wildernesses, search for predators in the bushveld or just lounge on the beach, South Africa has it covered.

Garden Route The holiday strip offers surfing, canoeing, diving, kloofing (canyoning), horse riding, hiking and more.

Bloukrans Bridge Bungee The world’s third-highest bungee jump is one of many thrills in the Tsitsikamma forests.

Multi-day hikes Carry your equipment or take the easy ‘slackpacking’ option and have your bags transported.

Kalahari The semidesert makes use of the Orange River for rafting, canoeing and wine tasting.

Canopy tours Stroll Kirstenbosch’s 'Boomslang' walkway, and zip line in the Drakensberg, the Mpumalanga lowveld and beyond.

Lion’s Head paragliding Take a tandem flight from Cape Town’s sphinx-like mountain down to the beach.

Abseiling Shimmy 112m down Table Mountain.

Cheetah tracking Get within 15m of Mountain Zebra National Park’s collared but wild big cats.

Eccentric Corners

Isolated from the outside world while under apartheid, South Africa’s country towns and villages, by turns quirky and refined, have been preserved in all their idiosyncratic glory.

Matjiesfontein The Karoo railway village has a Victorian hotel and three museums on its single street.

Hogsback High in the Amathole Mountains, gardens, forests and waterfalls surround this green village.

Haenertsburg A mountain village in Limpopo’s Letaba Valley, with pine plantations and congenial pubs.

Wild Coast Community-run backpacker hostels mix friendly Xhosa locals with surfers, travellers, sandy beaches and hammocks.

Cape Peninsula The ‘republic of Hout Bay’ and nearby hippyish seaside villages are nicknamed ‘the lentil curtain’.

Barberton Mpumalanga’s gold-rush town is rich in history, geology and characterful accommodation.