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South Africa is a big country that can warrant many visits for the average person heading here on a holiday. Thankfully for you I am unemployed and have used my excessive free time to conduct two and a half months of intensive leisure research on this great country. And I did it on a bicycle, for extra specificity. Below are my favorite places I experienced in SA. Also I’ve ordered these in a location based chronological order for those also looking for some itinerary help.
Cape Town (recommended time 4 days)
This one you may have already heard of, since Cape Town is currently a very trendy city. And for good reason. Cape Town is a beautiful mountain/coastal city and a great place for those looking for something a little posh on there Africa vacation. The city has a thriving and diverse food scene where you can enjoy cuisine from around the world. Long Street is a good place to start.
Although I love food (who doesn’t ?) my favorite parts of Cape Town were the activities that required moving around. The city has a really rich and interesting history that is best learned via one of the city’s free walking tours. These are also great for getting a handle on where everything is and giving you ideas for future things to do in the city. Such as hiking table mountain, Cape Town’s most distinctive landmark which looms over the city. This is strenuous undertaking that will be rewarded with amazing views over this beautiful city. For those not looking to get sweaty on their vacation can opt for taking the cable car up or down the mountain. For those looking to get even higher can book a helicopter tour of the city, that I’ve heard is quite spectacular on a sunny day and reasonably priced for a heli tour (not that it’s cheap but less exorbitantly pricey than you might think).
Garden Route (Wine Country) (recommended time 4 days)
South Africa is a big wine producer. And a lot of these delicious wines are much cheaper here than back home (they’re about a forth of the cost of wine in North America). If you’re a wino and want to take a plunge into SA’s wine culture Stellenbosch and neighboring towns are great places for wine tours etc.
The Garden Route is the area between Cape Town and Plettenberg Bay. To best experience this area it’s recommended to rent a car since public transportation is expensive and not great. This area is mostly scenic farmland with lots of little towns and national parks to visit along the way. Some of the highlights include the Tsitsikamma and Robberg National Parks. The latter being one of the best coastal hikes you will ever do.
Lesotho (recommended time 4 days)
Technically this entry shouldn’t be on this list since it’s its own country. But since it’s landlocked within central SA and since the border crossings are super breezy I decided to included. Also I consider a visit to the mountain kingdom a must see in South Africa.
Lesotho is very different from South Africa. While SA is modern and fenced off, Lesotho is old school and completely open. People are friendly and the scenery is stunning. A good example of this is Semonkong. The road here is an event of it’s own (again I recommend hiring your own car). And once you get here can hike to the jaw dropping Maletsunyane Falls which will make you feel very small.
Another scenery highlight is the Sani Pass road. The super steep road in between south eastern Lesotho and Kwazulu-Natal in SA. Be advised this road is not paved (tarred) and can only be completed with 4X4 vehicles with high clearance. And preferable completed by someone with a little experience on rocky roads since it can get narrow and there aren’t any guard rails. There are also companies that will happily drive you up and down the road for money.
Durban (recommended time 2 days)
If you like the beach as well as all the convenience and luxuries of a modern city Durban might be the place for you. Unlike the beaches in Cape Town, the North Coast’s beach have warm water so you can enjoy a dip, surf, fish etc. If you’d like to to stay dry you can go for a stroll or rollerblade on Durban’s beautiful Beachfront Promenade. Do keep your wits about you when walking around the city. Durban is a little gritty and theft is a thing. If you would prefer a quieter beach setting there are lots of smaller beach towns north and south of Durban.
St Lucia (recommended time 2 days)
St Lucia was a lot smaller than I thought it would be. I liked this. Within a few hours of being in town you already know where all the amenities are. So now all you have left to do is explore St Lucia’s wilder side. Keep your eyes open as not to turn a corner and surprise a hippo. After your exploring why not relax on St Lucia’s beautiful beach.
Mpumalanga and Kruger Park (recommended time 3 days)
If you’ve headed my advice and hired a car you’re going to love this next part. Starting right after Nelspruit (towards Sabie) you can begin the panorama route which takes you through the most beautiful parts of the Mpumalanga Province with lots of worthy stops along the way. You’ll see stunning views, waterfalls, gorges, rock formations etc. The Three Rondavels at the Blyde River Canyon is a must see.
When you’re finished in Mpumalanga take a right towards Kruger Park, which is probably South Africa’s best game reserve and where all your African wildlife fantasies might come true.
If you feel like I missed something or would like to share your favorite spots in South Africa you can do so in the YouTube comments for the video below. And below that, I have a video answering the question ”Is South Africa Safe to Travel?” which I recommend you watch before travelling to SA.
Here is the video version of ”Best Places to Visit in South Africa”