This list of the best places to see in South Africa will help you prepare a trip through one of the most surprising and diverse countries in Africa. Although we are sure that this country will surprise you, we anticipate that you will discover natural landscapes that will leave you speechless. You will see big cats and all kinds of animals close up, you will enjoy a sizeable multicultural environment in Cape Town or Johannesburg, and you will cry until you say enough when you see whales jumping from the very coast.
All these unique experiences will make South Africa forever engraved in your heart. Check out domesticflights-southafrica.co.za for more info on how to get there.
Although any time is right to travel to South Africa, having pleasant weather would be the best option, so we would recommend you to visit in autumn (between October and November), a time when there are right conditions for observing wildlife and it is also the time when whales can be seen in many areas of the country.
That being said, and although it may not seem relevant for the trip, we advise you to start your route through the country through Cape Town and end it in Johannesburg, something that will allow you to go from less to more, with the Kruger being the icing on this cake.
It is a vast country, and many trips must be made by car and public tourist transport, so the best option is to rent a vehicle to make the majority of trips through the country and some long sections such as that of Port Elizabeth to Durban, do it by plane.
Something you also ask us a lot about is the issue of security in South Africa. Although during our trip we do not feel insecure at any time, we recommend that you inform yourself well of the areas you want to visit, above all use common sense and take precautions such as trying not to drive at night or going with the latches closed.
These little things will make your travel much calmer and the best, enjoy this incredible country most safely.
Based on the experience of our trip to South Africa in 25 days, we have made a selection of what we believe are the 5 essential places to visit in South Africa. Let’s start!
1. The Kruger National Park
The Kruger National Park is the largest wildlife reserve in the country and one of the essential places to see in South Africa. One of the objectives of many travelers is to see the “big five” for the first time. That is a group of animals that are difficult to locate – including lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, buffalo, and Kruger.
Also, many camps offer you all the comforts at incredibly adjusted prices, ranging from approximately 20 euros to 100 euros. Besides, each camp organizes guided tours at different times of the day, including night game drives, for about 20 euros per person, with which you can rest from the car or try to see animals that you have not yet seen.
2. Cape Town
Cape Town is the most beautiful city in the country and one of the most exciting places to visit in South Africa. The most surprising aspect of the town is the spectacular natural environment that surrounds it, in which Table Mountain stands out. It is considered one of the new seven wonders of the world from where you can have the best views of the city and the coast, full of wild beaches of White sand.
In addition to Table Mountain, there are many places to see in Cape Town. Those are the colorful Bo-Kaap neighborhood, going up to Lion’s Head, booking the ferry to reach Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, marvel at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden or you can enjoy the atmosphere in the Long Street venues.
A safe option to save time and not miss a thing is to book the tourist bus that stops at all the essential points of the city or take this offer that also includes the ticket to the Table Mountain funicular.
Something to keep in mind in Cape Town is that despite being considered the safest city in South Africa, you have to take precautions, so going out at night is not advisable, especially if you don’t know where you are going
During our four nights in Cape Town, we stayed at the beautiful apartment, located in the center, which, in addition to an excellent quality/price ratio, has parking and a good restaurant.
3. De Hoop Nature Reserve
De Hoop Nature Reserve, located about a 3-hour drive from Cape Town, was one of the great and pleasant surprises of our trip. The landscape of massive white dunes that bathe this part of the coast is sufficient reason to include it among the essential places to see in South Africa. Furthermore, if you travel in autumn, you will be able to enjoy the jumps of the whales that are found from the shore very comfortable in this part of the ocean, not having much boat traffic.
We recommend arriving early to the reserve if you intend to make any of its magnificent hiking trails that you can program with the brochure that you get at the entrance, which indicates the different options, marked on a map, with different time options.
Also, the reserve has a magnificent restaurant to try some of the typical local dishes and a large variety of fauna, among which the rare mountain zebra stands out.
4. iSimangaliso Wetland Park
The iSimangaliso Wetland Park declared a World Heritage Site and with the largest population of hippos in the entire continent, is another of the places to visit in South Africa. Located around the tourist town of Santa Lucía, this park is also impressive for having the largest estuary in Africa and a great diversity of fauna and flora thanks to its five ecosystems.
If you want to see hippos and crocodiles up close, the best option is to take a ride on a small boat through the inlet, which leaves from the town of St. Lucia.
Keep in mind that it is advisable to book these excursions in advance through your hotel, since they usually sell out very quickly, especially those that depart to see the sunset.
We stayed at the Lake St Lucia Lodge, which we took a great memory of thanks to the friendliness of its owner and the possibility of seeing hippos passing by the hotel during the night.
About 3 kilometers from the park, you also have a reserve where you can see other types of animals such as rhinos, zebras, elephants, or warthogs and if you are fortunate to even lions and leopards. Although we saw two rhinos, we believe that if you visit the Kruger, you may be a little disappointed in this part of the park due to the shortage of large mammals.
At the end of this route is Cape Vidal, where you can enjoy substantial white sand beaches bathed by the Indian Ocean.
5. Garden Route, one of the best places to see in South Africa
The Garden Route is a journey of more than 300 kilometers that you can do by car from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth. During the tour, you will pass through endless white-sand beaches, natural parks with extensive forests, small fishing villages, and above all, landscapes that will leave you with your mouth open.
Among the most popular stops is Cabo de las Agujas, considered the southernmost point in Africa, where you can see even the remains of a stranded ship. Another aspect that we loved about this route was Nature’s Valley, an infinite beach that separates the ocean with a beautiful lake.