If you like wine, then there are the vineyards of the Cape Region. Got an appetite? Then tuck into its “rainbow cuisine” with iconic dishes such as bobotie and bunny chow.
If mountains are your thing, then there is the dramatic spectacle of the Drakensberg and, of course, Table Mountain. If you prefer sand between your toes, then there are the rippling dunes of the Kalahari. Beach bums and surfers will be kept happy by the sandy stretches and wavy waters to be found along its 3000km coastline, such as those at Durban and along the Indian Ocean coastline, or the slightly chillier waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
Flower lovers will be drawn to the wildflowers that virtually flood areas such as the Postberg Peninsula and the Springbok Region come the spring. And for those who like animals, well this vast country is synonymous with the word safari. South Africa boasts some of the world’s most well-known game reserves, such as the Kruger National Park, along with other types of wildlife areas like the iSimangaliso Wetland Park in KwaZulu-Natal.
Night owls will relish the after dark scene in vibrant Cape Town, or if you’re out in the townships, a local bar called a shebeen is where the action happens. Don’t overlook Johannesburg either. Although its reputation has been tarnished over the years, the city is filled with important historical sites and points of cultural interest.
Unique Things to See and Do in South Africa
- Sip the wines of the Cape Region
- View the Big Five in one of the many splendid game reserves
- Learn about the history of apartheid in Johannesburg
- Hike the spectacular Maloti-Drankensburg National Park
- Spot whales and dolphins along the coast off Port Elizabeth
In the Footsteps of Mandela
The passing of Nelson Mandela, a key figure in the demise of the abhorrent apartheid regime, was mourned around the world. And now tourists are heading to South Africa to retrace the footsteps of this great man with a range of “Madiba-inspired” tourism sites found around the country.
Spread across the four main provinces that featured in Mandela’s life – the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape – these places of interest include Robben Island, where Mandela was famously imprisoned for 27 years, and his house in Soweto. Other sites include Kilptown Open-Air Museum, which is also located in Soweto, as well as the Nelson Mandela Youth and Heritage Centre in Qunu.
Visitors can also head to the Apartheid Museum in Ormonde, Johannesburg to gain a better idea of what South Africa was like under the oppressive regime which segregated the country from 1948 to 1994.
Exploring the country’s struggle against this political and social system is an important way to add depth to any visit to South Africa – to understand its history and also get a grasp on its present and future.
Getting Around South Africa
Your mode of travel in South Africa depends on the distances you are planning to cover.
Flying between the major cities is a good option if time is of the essence, and many of the high end safari lodges will also run charter flights for their guests.
Otherwise, there are plentiful bus and train routes which can offer a more scenic way of getting around this spectacular country.
But renting your own set of wheels is also a good option and one that can work out to be the most economical especially if you are travelling with other people.
Did you know…?
South Africa has three capitals: Cape Town (legislative), Pretoria (administrative) and Bloemfontein (judicial).
Did you ALSO know…?
South Africa is bordered in the north by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and also encloses two independent countries, the kingdoms of Lesotho and Swaziland.
Best Time of Year to Travel to South Africa
South Africa has a year round temperate climate, but its winter months of June to August have the least rainfall, with the exception of the Western Cape. As a result, this is the best time for game viewing as the animals seek out watering holes and have less coverage from foliage – making them easier to find. But September and October are the best time to catch a glimpse of newborn animals.
The summer months are a popular time to visit the beaches of Cape Town and the Western Cape, although the wineries of this area are also very pleasant during winter. The beaches around Durban in KwaZulu-Natal are popular year round thanks to the warm temperatures. Drakensberg hiking adventures are also popular at all times of the year, but if you’re planning to venture to the Northern Cape, then summer months can be too intense for some.
Ready to plan your visit to South Africa? Check out these popular guides and trips.