10 Best Places to Visit in South Africa
Updated: Nov 4, 2019
Unlike many other countries this is NOT a once in a lifetime experience. I say this as almost all travelers will return more than once!
South Africa is a diverse country offering the ultimate safari, endless beaches, world-class cities, natural open spaces, adventure activities, and so much more.
We at AfriVenture have extensively travelled this beautiful and welcoming country. From our experiences, we have compiled our list of Top 10 Places To Visit in South Africa.
Be Inspired ...
1. The Kruger National Park
Of course, no list would be complete without the well-known Kruger National Park. This National Park is one of the largest in Africa & is rich in the sought after Big 5.
The park is extremely popular and tends to attract many local and foreign travelers. More than 1 million tourists enter Kruger Gates each year. The Kruger is unique in that it is Africa’s easiest self-drive safari; it offers travelers the mix of tar roads and off the beaten track dirt roads. There is everything from fuels stations, local rest camps and picnic spots well allocated throughout this magnificent park.
The park sometimes gets a bad name as overcrowded and a "traffic jam in the bush". However, as this park offers what is unmatched by any other National Park in Africa, we find that comment very short-sighted. The overall park is equal in size to the country of Israel and this huge expanse can be explored in its entirety.
AfriVenture has travelled to nearly every National Park in Southern and East Africa and we guarantee you Kruger will not disappoint. The park allows you the freedom to explore in your own vehicle whilst catering for almost every discerning traveler's needs. Kruger National Park is a great first-time safari and even South Africans travel yearly to this Park and appreciate its size, beauty and diversity.
The Kruger is an easy 4-hour drive from Johannesburg (check out point 4 for a good stopover en-route) and offers everything from campsites, mid-range self-catering bungalows to luxury all-inclusive lodges.
Best Experiences in The Park
Multi Day Walking Safaris (Self-Sufficient or Glamping)
Mountain Biking in Amongst Big 5
Half Day Walking Safaris
Sunset Game Drives – Enjoy a Traditional Sundowner on Safari
Self-Driving in Search of the 147 Mammals & 517 Birds Species
Traditional South African Braai (Barbecue) Under the Stars
Round of Golf with No Fences Between the Big 5 & Yourself
Other Big 5 Parks That Offer Similar Self-Drive Experiences:
Hluhluwe iMfolozi Reserve
Addo Elephant National Park
Keep following us for our upcoming post on - How To Self-Drive Kruger National Park.
2. Cape Town
Cape Town is truly a world class city! It is one of those cities that not only makes you extend your stay but sometimes leaves you not wanting to return home. The city is filled with both bucket list experiences and hidden gems in and around the city.
The city is set at the foot of Table Mountain and is circled by the vast Atlantic Ocean. Imagine towering mountains straddled by endless beaches, wine farms, gastronomy and a unique culture - you essentially will be imagining Cape Town.
3. The Cape Winelands
Cape Town and the surrounds are home to some of the most beautiful winelands in the world. The area can be enjoyed as a full day excursion or as a relaxing stay-over in the winelands. We recommend visiting multiple wine farms in the selected region of choice as all offer something unique in their own right.
Winelands Worth Visiting
Franschhoek (Upmarket Wine Farms - Ideal for Gastronomic Experiences)
Stellenbosch (Vibrant Atmosphere in The Old Cape Dutch University Town)
Route 62 (Longest Wine Route in The World – Off the Beaten Track)
Top Activities in The Winelands
Wine Tasting, Making Friends & Being Merry
Wine Tasting Paired with Biltong, Cheese, Olives & Chocolate
Beer Tasting at CBC Brewery
Franschhoek Tram - An Authentic Wine Farm Experience
Mountain Biking throughout the Mountains & Wine Farms
Visiting the Franschhoek Motor Museum for an Unusual Experience
Enjoying a Hike Along the Many Trails in Jonkershoek
Visiting Babylonstoren for a Walk Through Their Organic Gardens Followed by a Healthy Lunch in The Greenhouse.
Scenic Drive Along Franschhoek Pass or Helshoogte Pass
4. Panorama Route
This gateway to Kruger National Park is the perfect add-on for some scenic and adventure fun! The area is known for its vast landscapes including waterfalls, caves, forests, mountains and canyons.
Top Experiences in The Region
Gorge Swing in Graskop – 68 Meter Drop into The Forested Canyon
Bourke’s Luck Potholes
Blyde River Canyon – Third Largest Canyon in The World & Largest Green Canyon
Enjoy A Hike or Mountain Bike Ride in The Forested Sabie Town
Gods Window – Viewpoint Across the Lowlands Towards Kruger & Mozambique
Enjoy One of The Many Waterfalls: Lisbon, Mac Mac, Lone Creek
Visit the Prehistorically Formed Sudwala Caves
5. Private Game Reserves (Exclusive Safari)
South Africa offers safari experiences in both National Parks & Private Game Reserves.
First lets clear things up, the safari experience is no better if you go to a Private Game Reserve over a National Park. Many people consider the price to be a factor in quality, yes, it does play some part (often times better qualified guides & trackers), but the actual safari aspect can be better in a cheaper alternative. Remember, animals are not predictable, and luck plays a big part in your safari experience.
Do your research and know what you desire.
Below is a comparison of Private Safari Lodges VS National Parks.
Please note: there are anomalies to this, but this is the general norm.
If you are looking for exclusivity and comfort, then a Private Game Reserve is what you are looking for.
Recommended Private Game Reserves for A Fine Safari Experience
Madikwe (Malaria Free & 3 Hours from Johannesburg)
Sabi Sands (Highly Recognised With No Fences to Kruger)
Nambiti (3.5 Hours from Johannesburg & Close to The Drakensberg)
Phinda (Diverse Game Reserve with Unique Sightings)
Pilanesberg (Good Value, 2 Hours from Johannesburg Offering Self-Drive Options)
Shamwari (Malaria Free & Well Managed Reserve in The Eastern Cape)
Tswalu (Off the Beaten Track & Biggest Private Game Reserve in Africa)
Makalali (Good Value, Lacking Exclusivity but Great Safari & Facilities)
6. iSimangaliso Wetland Park
A lesser travelled but nonetheless an ultimate beach and safari experience! This was South Africa’s first World Heritage Site, purely for its natural beauty and biodiversity. The area is perfect to explore and enjoy at your own leisure. The Park is home to both marine and land experiences that are less crowded than the other areas of South Africa.
Things to Do In & Around the Park
St Lucia Safari Boat Cruise (Viewing of Hippos, Crocodiles & Birds)
Kosi Bay Snorkeling & Kayaking (Discover the Locally Made Fish Traps & Dive Underwater to Enjoy the Sea Life Of The Bay)
Scuba Dive in Sodwana Bay (Southern Africa’s Premier Scuba Spots)
4X4 Along Sand Dunes & Through Coastal Forests
Umkhuze Game Reserve (Off the Beaten Track Safari)
7. uKhahlamba Drakensberg Mountains
The escarpment of South Africa is impressively formed where both adventure and nature lovers meet!
The extensive mountain range is home to the great Amphitheatre and the Tugela Falls (2nd highest waterfall in the world). One of the more popular activities in this region is the Sentinel Trail. The short, steep and rewarding hike involves fine single track and a short scramble up some exciting African chain ladders. Once at the summit, you will be treated to views across the Amphitheatre staring down from the top of The Tugela Falls (a sheer 948 meter drop).
Other regional activities include hiking, mountain biking, horse riding, rock climbing and other outdoor activities along the Southern, Central and Northern Drakensberg.
8. The Garden Route
The Garden Route is a lush section of the South African Coastline that highlights some amazing geographical features including mountains, coastal dunes, forests, rivers, canyons and endless beaches.
The area is well known by both local and foreign tourists and is a very diverse area to navigate and explore. It has a mixture of both bucket list & off the beaten track experiences.
Things to Do & Experience in The Garden Route
Hiking the Robberg Peninsula (Enjoy Nature at Its Finest)
Bungee Jumping Off Bloukrans Bridge (216 Meters)
Tsitsikamma National Park – A Must Visit! Enjoy the Suspension Bridge, Beautiful Hiking Trails & the Ocean Views Along this Jagged Coastline
Kayaking Down the Touwsriver in Wilderness
Mountain Biking in The Harkerville Forest
Enjoying the Remote Beaches of Natures Valley
Paragliding in Sedgefield
Storms River Town (Vibey Town with Many Adventure Activities)
9. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
There are not many places in the world that offer true freedom. The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is one of these places. Enjoy a self-drive safari in the Kalahari Desert where you drive in amongst rolling red sand dunes whilst searching for the unique black-maned lions and the elusive leopard and cheetah. Sleep under the starlit nights whilst hearing Africa’s nocturnal animals come to life. Be prepared to be refreshed and restored.
NB, This is an off the beaten track National Park and compared to the above-mentioned Parks (in point 1), it requires some a fair amount of preparation and research. A 4X4 is recommended to fully enjoy the experience.
Also known as the City of Gold. Johannesburg is still to this day home to the richest gold field ever discovered. The City despite being somewhat of a concrete jungle is also known to be the largest man-made forest in the world. The Greater Johannesburg has a population of over 10 million inhabitants, and although it is the biggest city in South Africa, it is still not officially one of its Capitals.
Johannesburg has the busiest and biggest airport in Africa and serves as a massive business hub and tourism gateway.
From its rich history, cultural and vibrant atmosphere, there is a lot to see and do in this African City!
Keep following us for an upcoming post on - Top things to enjoy in Johannesburg.
11. Wild Coast (Otherwise known as the Transkei)
I know this was supposed to be just 10 points, but this list wouldn’t be complete without a final true African Experience.
The area is known for its unspoilt beaches, local rondavel villages, rolling green hills, friendly locals and impressive landscapes. You will be rewarded by a laid-back getaway in amongst the less touristy region of South Africa, where most beaches are only inhabited by cows and sunsets are enjoyed by only you and your friends.
Best Experiences In & Around the Wild Coast
Visit the Impressive Hole in The Wall
Catch the Sardine Run & The Oceanic Frenzy That Ensues
Learn A New Culture in Amongst the Local Xhosa People
Multi Day Hikes Along the Coast (Camping & Glamping Options)
Enjoy A Sundowner Along the Rolling Hills & Endless Beaches
Stay in A Local Backpackers – Coffee Shack, Udumbe or Bulungula
Help A Local Community/Volunteer
Visit Waterfall Bluff (1 of 19 Waterfalls in The World Cascading Directly into The Ocean)
With many more points I could add, I will save this for a future post and conclude the World in One Country.
As you can see, South Africa offers a bit of everything. It is a large and diverse country offering a variety of things to do and see. The country has both on and off the beaten track places.
There is actually so much to see and do that we recommend not trying to fit too much into one itinerary! The country is best appreciated by allowing time to immerse yourself in its true authenticity.