There are so many must-see places in South Africa, that the country is the perfect destination for any traveler. It is full of experiences not to miss in one’s lifetime.
See wild lions, catch a wave on a surfboard, relax in a 7-star lodge, jump off the highest bridge bungee bridge in the world, snap a selfie with penguins, or get up close and personal with whales.
We just spent two months touring the beautiful country and here’s our list of must-see places in South Africa.
Must See Places in South Africa
The Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park in South Africa is one of the largest game reserves in Africa and with such a dense animal population it makes for one of the best places to take a safari. The national park is roughly the size of Israel, so it almost feels like its own country. The animal and plant diversity here is staggering with 404 woody plants and 224 kinds of grass, 53 fish, 34 amphibians, 118 reptiles, 517 birds and 147 mammals. So grab a guidebook and start checking off your sightings because you will lose count. For more info check out the national parks site.
Located on the Southwestern tip of South Africa, Cape Town is a must-see for the world. It is Africa’s most visited tourist destination and has one of the best backdrops in the world with the iconic Table Mountain. The city enjoys the mild year-round weather and is surrounded by natural beauty. The surrounding cape area is gorgeous offering beautiful beaches, wine lands, and mountains. You can see wild penguins, shop at a wonderful craft market, climb a mountain, and dine at a hip restaurant all in one day in Cape Town. It’s not hard to see why so many people flock here.
The Drakensberg Mountains
The Drakensberg Mountains were a must see place in South Africa for us as I have a passion for a good hike. The Drakensberg region offers some of Africa’s best hiking, and maybe even some of the best in the world. You have great mountain lodges, dramatic mountains, snowboarding, culture, the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, and the best small town in South Africa here. It all culminates in the one of the most impressive natural formations on the planet, The Drakensberg Amphitheater. Don’t forget to visit the mountain country surrounded by South Africa, Lesotho. We stayed at a number of charming places, but the highlight was the Montusi Mountain Lodge.
Cape Wine Lands
Do you like to drink wine? Because the wine lands around the Cape of South Africa produce some of the best wines. You can choose from Paarl, Stellenbosch, and Franschhoek for a great wine tour or all of them. We visited Stellenbosch, the largest, and sampled some of their fine wines. They make excellent Sav Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Shiraz, Cabernet, and their own specialty Pinotage. The whole region is stunning with plenty to offer, such as fine dining restaurants and boutique hotels. Our two favorite places to stay were Oude Werf and Rozendal cottages.
This fishing town is home to whale-watching. And it’s proximity to the Southernmost point of Africa makes for a great day trip. The real draw here is the ability to see whales, seals, manta rays, and sharks in the wild. And for those brave enough you have a chance to see great white sharks up close and personal from the water from the nearby town of Gansbaai. Yes, we even got in the water and took a dive with them! The sharks are massive, beautiful, and terrifying. In Hermanus, you come to respect the majestic marine life in our oceans and understand just how important it is to protect.
One of the Many Townships
A major reason to travel to South Africa is the culture. It’s not in the fine restaurants, art galleries, or national parks. The culture of South Africa stems from the brimming townships. They are an important aspect of South African history. A living testament to the damage inflicted by Apartheid and a harsh reminder of the poverty that afflicts Africa. It is also a source of vibrant culture. The streets are filled with street art, colorful houses, and smiling faces. Don’t listen to the bad rap they often receive, with the right tour guide they are safe and welcoming. One must simply know where to go.
The Garden Route
The Garden route is right along with Cape Town for being one of the most trafficked tourist destinations in South Africa. This beautiful stretch of road along the coast extends from Mossel Bay to Storms River. The name comes from the unique vegetation that can be found here with quaint towns and cities dotting the coastline. It’s also home to one of our favorite game reserves offering visitors to explore the Fynbos. Towns like Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, and George are sure to the amuse those looking for something more relaxed, like day walking along the beach followed by a fresh seafood dinner along the water. Or you can throw yourself off the world’s highest bridge bungee instead!
There is plenty more to South Africa!
This is really only the tip of the iceberg of must-see places in South Africa. It’s a big country filled with hundreds of interesting sites. We could spend several months exploring South Africa and still not feel we’ve seen it all. However, if you’re pressed for time checking one or all of them off the list are sure to not disappoint any visitor to South Africa.
Plan Your Trip to South Africa
We rely on a few trusted websites that help save us money and time when booking hotels, flights, and car rentals. Check out some of our preferred partners below:
- Flights to South Africa: Compare airlines, dates, and prices all in one place with Skyscanner.
- Tours in South Africa: If you would rather tour around South Africa check out some of these South African tours.
- Travel Insurance: We never travel without travel insurance with World Nomads. We ALWAYS travel with travel insurance. Natasha is a bit of a worry wart and would rather stay safe than sorry. World Nomads offers incredible flexible and great plans!
- Water: We found the water in South Africa fine to drink, if you want extra assurance then we love traveling with our Lifestraw Go Waterbottle
- Guide Book: Sometimes it’s nice just to have a real book in your hands when traveling. We recommend picking up a Lonely Planet to get you through the wireless nights.
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