27 Fabulous Places To Visit In South Africa

There are so many incredible places to visit in South Africa, that you may with to spend a lifetime exploring it.   

It’s no secret that South Africa is one of my favorite countries. Often called “the world in one country,” it has so much to offer, and there are many beautiful places to visit in South Africa. Beautiful cities; gorgeous beaches; the African bush and all its wildlife; the rugged coastline; the mountains and the forests; the vineyards, the canyons: there really is something for everyone.

Add to the fact that it is truly great value for money, and it’s easy to see why it’s becoming an increasingly popular holiday destination.

If you are considering a trip to South Africa, you are probably looking for information on the best places to see.

You have come to the right place as I have been there many times! Here, I will share the best places to visit in South Africa. Keep in mind that this list is by no means exhaustive! At the end of this post, you will also find some useful planning tips for your trip.

places to visit in South Africa
My sister, posing for a photo on Table Mountain

The Best Places To Visit In South Africa

Cape Town

If you only have time to visit one place in South Africa, it has to be Cape Town. Known as the Mother City, this is the oldest city in the country (it was founded in 1652) and easily one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Cape Town has some of the best tourist attractions in South Africa. Make sure to go up Table Mountain (its highest peak is Maclear’s Beacon) to enjoy the views of the city from there. I recommend getting up there a couple of hours before sunset and lingering on enough to admire what really is one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world.

However, you can’t just go up Table Mountain whenever you want. The weather in Cape Town is truly unpredictable. At times, it is sunny in the city but Table Mountain and Lion’s Head are covered by clouds.

If you can see Table Mountain from town, and if the cable car to the top is open, that’s a good sign: go there, and don’t postpone it to a different day as you never know the weather! On the other hand, if you can’t see Table Mountain, chances are you won’t be able to see the city from there, so it’s not worth going.

You can get your cable car tickets to Table Mountain here.

Table Mountain is also accessible via a multitude of hiking trails, but for safety reasons you should not hike alone.

You can join a guided hike such as this one via Platteklip Gorge or this one via India Venster.

For views of Table Mountain (and the city) you can hike Devil’s Peak or Lion’s Head. Again, don’t attempt the hike if you can’t see the peaks from the city, as visibility will be limited and it’s easy to get lost!

You can opt for this Lion’s Head sunrise hike or alternatively, sign up for this Lion’s Head sunset hike.

Other places to visit in Cape Town include the colorful Bo-Kaap, formally known as the Malay Quarter; the V&A Waterfront, home of a fabulous food court, a crafts market and several other attractions; Kirstenbosch Gardens, one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the world; Groot Constantia, where the first vineyards in the country were established; Signal Hill and Two Oceans Aquarium.

Plan to spend a minimum of 5 days in Cape Town – there is a lot to see in the city itself and it is an excellent starting point to visit all the neighboring smaller towns and natural sites. 

To make the most of the city, you may want to buy a city pass or join a guided tour. You can do that here.

Make sure to read my posts The Best Things To Do In Cape Town, Where To Stay In Cape Town: A First Timers’ Guide and The Best Airbnbs In Cape Town.

places to visit in South Africa
Robben Island is one of the unmissable places to visit in South Africa

Robben Island

Robben Island is quite simply a must see. This is where the high security prison where political leaders such as Nelson Mandela were held until the end of Apartheid.

You can easily get there on day trips from Cape Town – the ferry takes about 45 minutes (depending on sea conditions) and leaves from the harbor right by the V&A Waterfront. 

One you get there, you’ll be met with one of the local guides at the prison – oftentimes the guide is actually a former inmate, so the experience of visiting can be very emotional. Then, you’ll explore the island on a guided bus tour that makes several stops along the way.

Purchase your ferry tickets in advance, and opt for the earliest one as sea conditions becomes rougher throughout the day. You can book a tour of Robben Island including the ferry ride here.

best places to visit in South Africa
Muizenberg is one of the most charming places in South Africa

Muizenberg and Kalk Bay

Muizenberg is a lovely coastal town close to Cape Town, about 30 minutes drive, and easy to visit on a day trip. It’s one of the loveliest places to visit in South Africa. Its main attraction is the beautiful white sandy beach, lined with colorful beach huts that are fun to photograph. It’s also one of the best surfing spots in the country.

A short drive from Muizenberg, Kalk Bay is the kind of place you may stop at for a quick coffee when driving around the peninsula, and end up spending a couple of hours browsing through the antique and vintage shops. It’s lovely!

I recommend stopping at Olympia Café and Bakery. We picked it rather randomly but we quickly determined it’s one of the best restaurants in town, judging by the delicious food and the crowds of locals there.

Check out my posts 10 The Best Day Trips From Cape Town and The Best Beaches In South Africa.

places to visit in South Africa
Boulders’ Beach Penguin Colony is a gorgeous place!

Cape Peninsula and Table Mountain National Park

No trip to South Africa is complete without a road trip around Cape Peninsula, part of the Cape Floral Region – so famous for its biodiversity that in 2004 it was inscribed in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The drive around Cape Peninsula along the 12 Apostles Coastline and connecting Camps Bay to Hout Bay is among the most scenic ones in the world.

The latter is a lovely suburb of Cape Town which has a beautiful sandy beach and a nice harbor from where you can go on a boat tour to Duiker Island (typically referred to as Hout Bay Seal Island) to admire marine life (mostly seals).

You can book your tour to Duiker Island here.

Chapman’s Peak, around 15 minutes drive from Hout Bay and connecting it with Noordhoek, is another must. Once in Noordhoek, the road splits into two roads that go in opposite directions.

Driving east, it reaches Fish Hoek and then continues to Simon’s Town (home of Boulders Beach Penguin Colony, where more than 20,000 penguins live) and further to the gate of Table Mountain National Park, which was once actually known as Cape Peninsula National Park.

Going west, the road takes you through Kommetjie and then follows the coast until entering the National Park area.

My sister and I have driven both roads and they are both beautiful. The first one stops in small cities and is perfect if you want to visit Cape Point Peninsula and the penguin colony in Boulders Beach on the same day.

The second one is significantly less trafficked, and there are some stunning coastal views along the way.

The main attractions inside the national park are the Cape of Good Hope – which, despite being one of the most famous places to visit in South Africa, actually isn’t the southernmost point in Africa (that’s Cape Agulhas, around 230 km – 143 miles – from Cape Town); Cape Point Lighthouse (the two are connected by the Cape of Good Hope trail); and Diaz Beach. 

As in many other places in South Africa, baboons are an issue in Cape Point Peninsula: they are vicious and known to bite humans for food. Don’t carry any food in your bags or pockets once you get out of the car.

Unless you have a car, the best way to tour Cape Point Peninsula is on a guided tour. For information on guided tours of Cape Point Peninsula, click here or here.

hotels in Stellenbosch
Stellenbosch is where to go for wine tasting

The Wine Region – Stellenbosch and Franshhoek

The wine region – comprising Stellenbosch, Franshhoek and Paarl – is one of the nicest places to visit in South Africa.

Famous for the incredible wines, Stellenbosch is actually packed with history and small interesting museums and art galleries. The vineyards are obviously where you should go for wine tasting.

They all have something special – some have a strong focus on conservation and environmental protection; others are truly historical and vintage; there even are some where you can blend your own wine!

Stellenbosch is close enough to Cape Town that you can easily visit on a day trip. However, it’s such a pleasant place that I recommend staying a bit longer.

If you do, make it a point to also go to Franshhoek – which is a bit smaller, but totally charming; and Kayamandi Township, whose name means “sweet home,” and which was founded in the 1950s during the Apartheid regime.

If you are planning to go wine tasting when visiting Stellenbosch from Cape Town, don’t drink and drive! Instead, join a guided tour. You can book your guided tour to Stellenbosch here, here or here.

Make sure to read my posts 7 Amazing Estates To Do Wine Tasting In Stellenbosch, 17 Cool Things To Do In Stellenbosch and Stellenbosch Accommodation: 12 Hotels In Stellenbosch For Any Budget.

Kgalagadi (Kalahari) Transfrontier Park, Northern Cape
Kgalagadi offers great chances of spotting animals

West Coast National Park

One hour North of Cape Town, West Coast National Park is definitely worth mentioning among the best places to visit in South Africa.

Part of the UNESCO Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve, and stretching along the Atlantic Coast, you can go there to make the most of the breathtaking landscape, the many hiking trails, the flowers (especially colorful in spring, between August and September) and the tranquility.

If this is not enough to make you want to go, think about the incredible wildlife! Expect to see penguins, ostriches, mountain zebras, caracals and various species of birds.

There aren’t many facilities, so you may need to bring whatever you need for the day.

There are several West Coast National Park day trips departing from Cape Town. This e-bike tour is all inclusive, and completely hassle free.

You can also opt for this tour that departs from Stellenbosch.

For more national parks, you may want to check out Namaqua National Park, close to the border with Namibia and at more than 5 hours drive from Cape Town, is one of the lesser known places to visit in South Africa. It’s more of a desert area, but if you visit in the spring month the landscape is absolutely breathtaking.

You should also read my post 16 Best National Parks In South Africa.

Kgalagadi

Kgalagadi (Kalahari) Transfrontier Park

This transfrontier park was established in 2000 and merges Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa (and more precisely in the Northern Cape Province), and Gemsbok National Park in Botswana – in fact, most of the park is in Botswana.

The beautiful landscape of the Kalahari Desert, with red sand dunes and drive river beds, and the abundance of wildlife make it a top photography destination and one of the best places to visit in South Africa. 

Animals you may be able to spot include the black-maned Kalahari lion; leopards; hyenas; cheetahs, gemsboks and meerkats. It’s also a fantastic place to see the migration of the wildebeest, and to observe the many species of birds that live here.

places to visit in South Africa
A Southern Right Whale off the coast of Hermanus

Hermanus

About 1 and a half hour drive from Cape Town, in the Western Cape Province, Hermanus is a fabulous whale watching destination. Several boat tours depart daily from the harbor, and if you are lucky you can even spot southern right whales from the shore (there are various whale-watching points along the waterfront).

Hermanus is also packed with gorgeous beaches, and it is overall a nice small town to explore, with a relaxed vibe.

The best time to see whales in Hermanus is between the end of June and November. Before departing, guides will warn you that you may or may not see whales – it really isn’t up to the guides, and it is just as it should be. We so many, and it was a fantastic experience!

Make sure to book your whale watching tour in advance and to check online reviews for companies that run tours in a responsible way. You can book your tour departing from Cape Town here.

About half way between Cape Town and Hermanus, Pringle Bay is another place that has a nice beach and is a relaxing place to stop for a day or just a few hours. 

Cape Town daytrips

Gansbaai

Another place in South Africa that is great for whale watching is Gansbaai, which is significantly lesser visited than Hermanus but just as stunning. It’s a bit further away from Cape Town and famous as a destination where you can do the “Big 5 Marine Safari” during which you have a chance to spot whales, great white sharks, dolphins, penguins and seals.

Another thing people like doing in Gansbaai is cage-diving with sharks. If you want to do it, make sure to check the company you are booking with is fully ethical. Things such as baiting the sharks with fish are not ethical.

This is a great tour for cage diving in Gansbaai.

Alternatively, you can also go on a Marine Big Five boat trip such as this.

Cape Agulhas
The stunning landscape in Cape Agulhas

Cape Agulhas

Although you will hear over and over again that Cape of Good Hope is the southernmost tip of Africa, that’s actually wrong. The tip of Africa is in Cape Agulhas, and that’s where the two oceans meet!

This really is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the country, a bit far off from everything else and as such not getting nearly as many visitors. 

Cape Agulhas can be seen on the way to the Garden Route. It’s about 2 hours drive from Hermanus, and it’s a further 3 to Mossel Bay. When we visited, we spent the night in Hermanus to break the trip, and drove there early in the morning before making our way to the Garden Route.

best places to visit in South Africa
The Kingfisher Trail in Wilderness leads to a nice waterfall

The Garden Route: Wilderness

Wilderness is small town in the Western Cape Province and one of the stops along South Africa’s Garden Route, a stretch of more than 200 km that goes from Mossel Bay to Stormsrivier.

The area is packed with beautiful, long, sandy beaches. It’s also home to the Map of Africa, a stunning lookout point with views of the Indian Ocean, of the Outeniqua Mountains and the Kaaimans River.

Wilderness Natural Park is a perfect place to hike: the Giant Kingfisher Trail (also known as the Waterfall Trail) is an easy walk that goes to some beautiful waterfalls.

It will take you no more than three hours to walk the entire trail, with plenty of stops, but you should wear hiking boots for that.

places to visit in South Africa
Knysna Heads

The Garden Route: Knysna

Along the Garden Route Knysna is one of my favorite places to visit in South Africa. This small town is perfect for nature, wildlife and adventure lovers, and it has a nice, easygoing and holiday vibe that makes it a wonderful place to stop for a few days.

The most famous attraction is the Knysna Heads, two sandstone cliffs that separate Knysna Lagoon from the ocean.

This is actually the world’s most dangerous ocean mouth. You can see Knysna Heads from the lagoon, on a boat trip and from the hills facing the ocean. It’s also nice to go all the way to the viewpoints to admire the ocean below (some beaches are truly stunning).

Plan to spend a few days in Knysna, especially if you are interested in going on a boat tour around the lagoon. The wind can be quite strong and oftentimes tours are cancelled or postponed till the day after, so give yourself plenty of time to increase your chances of good weather and calm waters.

You can book your boat tour of Knysna Lagoon here or here. For a sunset cruise, click here.

Make sure to read my posts A Guide To The Things To Do In Knysna And On The Garden Route and Six Areas Where To Find Accommodation In Knysna.

places to visit in South Africa
Plettenberg Bay beach is gorgeous!

Garden Route: Plettenberg Bay and Tsitsikamma

Plettenberg Bay is one of the last stops along the Garden Route, and one of the top places to visit in South Africa.

It has some gorgeous beaches, a fun vibe and offers easy access to the nearby Tsitsikamma National Park and Nature’s Valley, where there are plenty of hiking trails (the most famous one is the Tsitsikamma Mountain Trail, a fantastic 6-day hike).

Plettenberg is also an excellent place to admire wildlife (whale watching and dolphin watching are quite popular here).

Finally, Plettenberg is also close to Bloukrans Bridge, where the 216 meters (708 feet) high bridge is a famous spot for bungee jumping. And if bungee jumping is not your thing, but still want some adrenaline, you can go zip lining in Tsitsikamma instead.

You can book a safari in Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve here.

places to visit in South Africa
A lemur at Monkeyland

Jukani and Monkeyland Sanctuary and Birds of Eden

Unfortunately, some places in South Africa still offer animal encounters that are anything but responsible – think of lion walks or “elephant experiences.”

If you are keen on getting close to animals in a responsible way, Jukani and Monkeyland are two of best places to visit in South Africa. These animal sanctuaries, which won the World Responsible Tourism Award, are easily reached from Plettenberg Bay, on the Garden Route.

Jukani, located around 14 km (8.7 miles) from Plettenberg Bay, houses around 70 carnivores from Africa and beyond, all injured, orphaned or rescued from zoos or from people that kept them as pets (obviously illegally). They are now kept in large enclosures mimicking their natural environment as much as possible.

At Jukani animals aren’t bred (in fact, they are closely monitored so as not to reproduce, as this would jeopardize the already delicate ecosystem they live in) and there is no such thing as interaction or walks with animals. All tours are guided, and guides will monitor visitors’ behavior closely.

A further 7 km (4.3 miles) up the road there is Monkeyland, a sanctuary for primates rescued from zoos or kept as pets. You can spot squirrel monkeys as well as vervet monkeys; gibbons; lemurs and much more. Guided tours here last around one hour and provide plenty of chances to take photos.

Next to it, Birds of Eden is a bird sanctuary and the world’s largest free-flying aviary. It’s divided into various ecosystems, so there is a wetland as well as a misty forest inside, and birds are rehabilitated before being released inside. 

You can get tickets to Jukani, Monkeyland and Birds of Eden here.

Addo Elephant National Park
Addo Elephant National Park is one of the best places in South Africa to spot wildlife

Addo Elephant National Park

Not far from Port Elizabeth (the “Friendly City” at the very end of the Garden Route famous for its beautiful beaches) in the Eastern Cape and a few hours from the Garden Route, this is South Africa’s third largest national park and a great spot to admire wildlife.

As the name suggests, this is a place to see wild elephants. In fact, Addo was first opened in 1931 to help preserve the very few remaining elephants in the area. It was so successful that today there are more than 600.

Other animals you can spot in Addo Elephant National Park are zebras, black rhinos, lions, spotted hyenas, and Cape buffalo. There’s also a lot of bird life, and marine life too with white sharks and southern right whales to spot.

The park is easy enough to visit independently if you have your own car, but for better chances of spotting animals, I recommend joining a guided tour such as this one.

best places to visit in South Africa
The beach in Umhlanga

Durban and surroundings

Durban, the main city in Kwazulu Natal, lacks the dramatic beauty of Cape Town, but it has a laidback vibe and amazing beaches with truly warm waters where you can swim year round.

I have been a couple of times, and each time I truly enjoyed it. Some of its best attractions are the Golden Mile, the UShaka Marine World and Durban Botanic Gardens. 

Not far from Durban, Umhlanga is an upscale suburb with a beautiful beach perfect for an early morning walk, a lighthouse and a jetty for perfect views.

Less than one hour drive in the Natal Midlands, Pietermaritzburg is a lovely Victorian city packed with nice museums. A student town, it has a very easy going vibe.

Make sure to read my post 20 Fun Things To Do In Durban.

places to visit in South Africa
Without a doubt, Phinda is one of the best places to visit in South Africa

Phinda Private Game Reserve

Many places to visit in South Africa offer incredible safari experiences.

Phinda, a private game reserve managed by And Beyond about 3 hours drive from Durban, has the perfect combination of excellent, luxury lodging with the best wildlife experiences you may hope for. You will be able to spot the Big Five, but also zebras, hippos, giraffes and a lot of cheetahs and hyenas.

The reserve is huge, and the landscape changes from one area to the other, which implies that different animal species will be more easily spotted in some areas. 

I recommend a minimum of 3 nights in Phinda Game Reserve to make the most of it. We stayed four and wished we could have stayed longer!

For a more complete post about Phinda, click here.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park

iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Home to the largest estuarine system in Africa and a World Heritage Area, iSimangaliso is located north of Phinda, in Kwazulu Natal. Its name means “miracle and wonder.”

The area, which has a whopping eight ecosystems, is a fantastic place to admire wildlife. You will be able to spot hippos and crocodiles, an incredible variety of birds, troop baboons, wildebeest, elephants, leopards and rhinos.

As it is on the coast, you will also see stunning sand dunes and a coral reef. It’s a great place to visit in South Africa for a safari and for activities such as diving, snorkeling, kayaking and fishing.

Not far from St. Lucia, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park is another great place to spot wildlife that is not nearly as known as Kruger and other national parks, yet it is home to the Big 5. You can go there on a day trip from Durban such as this one.

places to visit in South Africa
Mrs. Zikhali poses with her students at Nkomo Primary School

Nkomo Village

If you care to visit a rural community and get a better idea of the every day struggles of rural South Africa, make sure to add Nkomo Village to your South Africa itinerary. We visited as part of a half-day trip from Phinda, on an Africa Foundation tour.

Africa Foundation is an NGO that serves to empower local rural communities living nearby core conservation areas in Africa, with the idea that furthering education and empowerment they will recognize the importance of preserving the environment and its wildlife and contribute in the effort.

A guided tour usually includes a visit to Nkomo Primary School, the kindergarten and the local crafts market, where women can sell their work in a safe environment; and finally a stop at the local clinic, which does both prevention work as well as administering cures for the most common illnesses.

best tourist attractions in South Africa
Drakensberg is a favorite tourist destination for locals and foreigners

Drakensberg

Drakensberg, which means “Dragon Mountains,” is located in KwaZulu-Natal and is one of the best tourist attractions in South Africa, home to the highest peaks in the country. This is where you will find the World Heritage-listed uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, as well as the Royal Natal National Park.

The landscape in Drakensberg varies with the season. Visit in the summer and you’ll find lush forests, waterfalls and flowing rivers. Go in the winter, and it will be very cold and even covered in snow at times!

You may visit Drakensberg on a day trip from Durban such as this one, but if you want to make the most of all that it has to offer (hiking, rock climbing, rafting, biking and more) you should spend at least a couple of days there.

3 hours from Durban in the Drakensberg Mountains, and on the way to Lesotho, Sani Pass is another truly unique place. Getting there is not the easiest thing to do, and you do need a 4×4 vehicle, so consider joining a guided tour such as this one

best places to visit in South Africa

Golden Gate Highlands National Park

For more impressive landscape and lots of hiking opportunities, you may want to head to Golden Gate Highlands National Park, which you’ll find in the Free State Province, on the border with Lesotho.

This is a land of sandstone rocks whose colors vary depending on the time of day and the light. It’s a good place to spot wildlife too. The most famous rock formation here is Brandwag Buttress, which juts out from the lush green landscape.

The area is also packed with caves, some of them home of incredibly well preserved cave paintings that were done by the San people.

Finally, Golden Gate Highlands National Park is a great place to spot wildlife. Among animals you should be able to spot there are zebras, wildebeests, springboks, chacma baboons, and elands.

Kruger National Park
Kruger is a prime wildlife destination

Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park is one of the most famous places to visit in South Africa. It’s huge, and the landscape changes from one place to the other, with mountains, bush plains and even tropical forests.

This is one of the largest game reserves in Africa and an incredible place to see animals – including the Big Five and wild dogs (Africa’s most endangered carnivore) – in their natural environment. 

The good thing about Kruger is that it is easily accessible. Much like Etosha, in Namibia, you can self drive (though it takes quite a trained eye to spot wildlife!) and there is a variety of accommodation options that go from camping sites to luxury lodges, so it is really suitable for all budgets. 

You can book your safari in Kruger National Park here.

Not far from Kruger National Park, Tshukudu Game Reserve and Sabi Sands Game Reserve are both excellent places for a safari.

Blyde River Canyon
The breathtaking landscape of Blyde River Canyon

Blyde River Canyon and Panorama Route

Blyde River Canyon, in the Mpumalanga province, is one of the most popular places to visit in South Africa, also among locals. This is the second largest canyon in Africa and the third largest in the world.

Located on the Panorama Route, on the way from Johannesburg to Kruger National Park, it’s the perfect place for a road trip if you are thinking of actually driving to Kruger, so you really have no excuse to miss it!

It is characterized by diverse wildlife (you can spot hippos, crocodiles as well as primates) and an environment that comprises waterfalls, rivers and beautiful rock formations. 

The best stops along the Panorama Route include Pinnacle, God’s Window, Wonder View, Lisbon Falls and Berlin Falls and Three Rondavels Viewpoint.

To make the most of the area, you may want to go whitewater rafting.

You should also read my post The Best Road Trips In South Africa.

Pilanesberg National Park
Pilanesberg National Park is one of the best places to visit in South Africa for wildlife

Pilanesberg National Park

Just 2.5 hours from Johannesburg, and close to Sun City (South Africa’s nature immersed version of Las Vegas) Pilanesberg National Park is an easy to reach place if you want to see wildlife – and since it is much smaller than Kruger, it’s also infinitely easier to explore (not to mention, the chances of spotting wildlife are higher).

I visited during my first trip to South Africa (what seems like a lifetime ago) as a day trip from Johannesburg, and loved it!

The park – which is malaria free – is located in an extinct volcano crater, between the Kalahari Desert and a wetter kind of environment, which means that the wildlife is very varied there. Other than the Big Five, you should be able to spot zebra, giraffes, antelopes and even wild dogs.

For a day trip that departs from Johannesburg, you may want to check this tour.

If you want to visit from Sun City, you can opt for this tour.

Make sure to also read my post The Best Day Trips From Johannesburg.

places to visit in South Africa
The Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg is one of the places to visit in South Africa

Johannesburg and Soweto

Johannesburg may not be as beautiful as Cape Town, but it still is one of the most interesting places to visit in South Africa. The main international (airport) hub in Southern Africa, Jozi, as locals affectionately call it, has a lot more to offer than meets the eye.

South Africa’s largest city has a few superb museums; the street art scene is rocking; and it’s culturally lively.

The best tourist attractions in Johannesburg include the Apartheid Museum, where you can learn more about the difficult past of the country; and Maboneng, the best part of the city to admire street art.

If you have enough time to get out of the city, the Cradle of Humankind and the Sterkfontein Caves are other also interesting places to visit.

You should also make it a point to go to Soweto, a massive township (the largest in the country, with 1.3 million people living there) that became famous during the Apartheid regime, as it was where protests and civil unrest started.

Vilakazi street, in Soweto, is where Nelson Mandela and his family used to live. Nowadays the house is a small but very interesting museum.

To make the most of Johannesburg and Soweto, consider joining a guided tour. You can book it here.

Head over to my post The Best Things To Do In Johannesburg.

Pretoria
Pretoria is one of the lesser visited places in the country

Pretoria

Once the heart of the Apartheid Regime, Pretoria is less than one hour drive from Johannesburg but a million miles away in terms of vibe. If you visit in the late spring, the colors of the jacaranda will be quite a sight.

The administrative capital of South Africa has many parks and gardens, and is home to the Voortrekker Monument and Heritage Site and Freedom Park.

Other interesting places to visit

Cities like Bloemfontein – known as the “City of Roses” and one of South Africa’s three capitals; or Kimberley – in the diamonds field region, are generally out of the main tourist route, but also very interesting to visit.

Bloemfontein is home to several good museums, such as Oliewenhuis Art Museum, the National Museum and the Anglo Boer War Museum.

In Kimberley, a guided tour to the ghost town will give you insights into its mining past.

best places to visit in South Africa
The rugged coastline makes driving one of the coolest things to do in South Africa. This is the view from Knysna Heads

What You Need To Know Before Visiting South Africa

When to visit South Africa

Any time is good to visit South Africa. I have visited three times: in August (so, winter proper), June (early winter) and between the end of October and November (late spring), and enjoyed it every time.

Some of the places mentioned in this post are better enjoyed in the spring and summer months. If you plan to go hiking, keep in mind that winter can be quite rainy in the Western Cape, but summer may be too hot.

How long to spend in South Africa

With so many places to visit, you need a minimum of three weeks in the country. If you have a week to ten days, you can focus on the Cape Town and Stellenbosch area and explore a bit of the West Coast National Park too, and perhaps try to go on a day trip to Hermanus.

Traveling around South Africa

One of the most fun ways to experience South Africa is on a road trip – it’s what my sister and I did when we visited together.

In order to rent a car in South Africa you’ll need a valid driving license and a credit card. A deposit will be blocked from your card when you pick it up, but will be released a week after you return it.

You can check out the prices of car rental in South Africa here.

Make sure to read my posts What You Must Know About Driving In South Africa and A Guide To Renting A Car In South Africa.

Sun City South Africa

Safety in South Africa

South Africa has the reputation of being an unsafe place. Cape Town certainly has some dodgy areas that you are better off avoiding. Keep your eyes open and follow the advice of locals when it comes to safety. If a hotel receptionist advises you not to walk around alone at night, there must be a good reason for that!

A good thing to do is getting a local sim card with enough data for the duration of your trip, so that you can easily access Google Maps to find your way home, or Uber if you need transportation. There is a Vodacom shop right outside the terminal in Cape Town airport.

Remember to always get a good travel insurance. You can find a good one here.

Make sure to also read my posts Is Cape Town Safe For Tourists? and What To Wear In South Africa.

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8 thoughts on “27 Fabulous Places To Visit In South Africa”

  1. If you liked Boulders Beach and are on the road to Hermanus, you should check out the Stony Point penguins. They seem to get a lot less visitors than the ones at Boulders Beach and it feels a lot more rugged and natural

  2. Hi! I’ve seen that you went there many times and you’re an expert! Together with my partner we plan to visit South Africa in November-December. Our idea was to stay at Cape Town around 12 days and then fly back to Johannesburg and spend 4 days approximately. What do you think? We’d like to see the authentic vibe of South Africa so our idea was to rent a car around Cape Town and go around. Is it better to stay a little far from Cape Town for a few days?

    Regarding game parks, which one do you recommend? I’ve read that Kruger in Summer is full of Malaria and it’s better to go to a game reserve near Cape.

    What advice would you give us and what would you love to see if you had 16 days total? We mainyl love nature.

    Thanks!!

  3. Hi Anna, thank you for commenting. First of all, I am sure you will love South Africa. I think your idea of renting a car is excellent. If I were you, I’d plan to spend a couple of days in Stellenbosch for wine tasting (if you are into that, obviously!). I don’t know of good game reserves near Cape Town – I haven’t been. I went to Phinda and loved it, but that is in Kwazulu Natal. It’s a very expensive place though, so perhaps Kruger is a better alternative. If you are concerned about malaria, just make sure to protect yourself from it: take malaria medications and/or make sure to apply DEET on any part of the body that is exposed; wear long sleeves and pants. Hope this helps!

  4. Pilanseberg national park, next to Sun City, in the North West is well worth a visit. Not overcrowded and some great lodges we stayed at Kwa Maritane, fantastic place.
    Went from there across to Margate, just south of Durban, then travelled down the east coast staying in Jeffrey’s Bay, Sedgefield and on to Cape Town.
    Fantastic country, friendly people and amazing scenery.
    Going again next year, Victoria Falls first, Kwa Maritane, Port Elizabeth, Sedgefield and finish in Mossel Bay.
    If you are thinking about going, just book it, you will not regret it.

  5. Thank you so much for the tip! I visited Sun City in 1997 on my first trip to South Africa (yes, that long ago!) and already then I thought the area was gorgeous. Definitely keen on going again 🙂

  6. cheers Claudi – a great list to help me prepare my trip in south africa.
    However, it is definitely not a Southern Righ whale and 100% an Orca on your photo 🙂

  7. Oh wow. Then the 5 guides on board of the boat who have been taking people around the sea to find whales are wrong!

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