Verified & trusted operators Best prices & exclusive deals No fees Expert advice
Country Guide: South Africa
Country guide: South Africa
There's so much to see of the Rainbow Nation, but we suggest you might start your planning by taking a look at these great experiences and itineraries.
The Mother City not only has stretches of golden sand (and plenty of cocktail bars), but its landmark, Table Mountain beckons to be climbed. It is also a city filled with history – take a ferry to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was jailed during the apartheid era.
The Garden Route
A picturesque stretch of coastline from Mossel Bay to Storms River Mouth is where you can spot whales, enjoy seaside villages, and bungee off Bloukrans River Bridge – the highest jump in the world.
Kruger National Park
The biggest and arguably the best game reserve to spot the Big Five, hear the fish eagle’s call and admire an African sunset.
From Durban, head north along the coast for great surf, dive, swim and tan spots or journey south for more of the same.
Jozi may seem like any other big city, but it’s a vibrant hub with plenty to do. Tour Soweto – a township on the up, visit the Apartheid Museum and Constitution Hill, and jive the night away to Afro-beats in Newtown.
Discover great hiking trails, waterfalls and Bushman rock art in this majestic mountain range.
The vineyards in and around Stellenbosch and Franschhoek boast some of the best wine in the country.
This part of the Eastern Cape’s coastline is spectacularly rugged and largely unpopulated by tourists. Trek on an organised coastal walk, stopping off at old-fashioned hotels, deserted beaches and rural communities.
Go off the beaten track and discover dusty wide open spaces, historical small towns, and lots of ostriches in this arid yet unique landscape.
You'll need plenty of time to make the most of what South Africa has to offer but if time isn’t on your side, we’ve got that covered off too.
South Africa in 2-3 days
There's no way you'll see much in such a short time, but if there's one place in this beautiful country you can't miss it's Cape Town. Base yourself in Long Street – backpacker haven – or near the Waterfront – more sophisticated hotels – and from there your few days are up to you.
If you're after history, the city centre has plenty of museums. Take a tour through the colourful streets of Bo-Kaap and learn about the Cape Malay culture or go back in time to vibrant District Six.
Robben Island is a ferry ride away. If you're after stunning sea views and sunsets over the ocean, then a drive on Cape Town's Atlantic seaboard may be an option. Make your way from Green Point, past sandy beaches like Clifton till you reach the far-flung village of Scarborough.
Alternatively, spot whales on the False Bay coast and then take a sojourn to laid-back Simon's Town – a naval base and one of SA's oldest settlements.
If you're wanting high thrills make your way up Table Mountain by either hiking its trails or taking the easier route of the cable car. The Cape Winelands are just an hour's drive away from the city and with such limited time choose one area to explore, picnic at, and taste a good drop or three.
Of course, there's plenty of shopping to be done and don't leave without tasting snoek and slap chips eaten while overlooking the ocean.
South Africa in 7-9 days
Fly in to Johannesburg and spend a night soaking up the atmosphere at one of the city’s hip hangouts such as in Melville or Newtown.
Leave early in the morning for the Kruger National Park. You’ll need at least three days in this wildlife haven and if driving it yourself, you have to book accommodation at the park's camps in advance. Make your way back to Johannesburg and catch a flight to Cape Town, spending the reminder of your time following the suggestions in the 2-3 day itinerary.
South Africa in two weeks+
You ideally need a few weeks to explore the best of South Africa. Follow the first part of the 7-9 day itinerary, starting your trip in Johannesburg, with a few days in the Kruger. Make your way back to Johannesburg and fly to Durban. From there hire a car and head to the hills, literally.
Spend a few days in the Drakensberg hiking, swimming in mountain streams and enjoying the dramatic landscape. Alternatively hire a car from Johannesburg and take the N3 to Durban stopping off in the Drakensberg en route.
Spend a few days on the KZN coast in Durban itself or up north – Umhlanga and Balito are great seaside resorts – even travelling further to St Lucia Wetland Park.
From Durban make your way to the Wild Coast. There are many organised walking trails that take in the best of this rugged coast and include porters and accommodation and meals.
After your trek, take the long road trip to Cape Town, including the Garden Route and the Karoo. From Port Elizabeth follow the N2 along the 200km stretch known as South Africa’s paradise.
The main road bypasses a lot of the sights and coastal towns, so make time in your itinerary to spend a night or two in picturesque Plettenberg Bay, Knysna or Wilderness. National parks en route include the Tsitsikamma National Park, which has forests, beaches and a rapid river for adrenaline thrills.
Along the Garden Route there are a number of possibilities to journey inland up mountain passes into the Little Karoo, and onto Cape Town. R62 is the famous route taking you through historical towns such as Calitzdorp and ostrich-loving Oudtshoorn.
Once you’ve reached Cape Town follow the 2-3 day itinerary suggestions.
International flights land at OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg, Cape Town International Airport and Durban International Airport.
The best advice is to hire a car as public transport in some cities in South Africa is not as organised or reliable as many other countries.
If you are travelling between cities and want to save time, there are a number of low-cost carrier airlines from which to choose.
Travellers are usually warned about crime in South Africa, but if you are sensible – don’t walk alone at night or in secluded spots, keep car windows up and doors locked, and seek local advice – you can avoid being a target.
Food and drink
Biltong, braai and bobotie are typical Saffa fare, but there’s plenty to choose on the menu, from speciality seafood like snoek to a hot Durban curry. For the braai (barbie) boerewors (spicy coarse sausage) is a favourite, served with pap (maize porridge) and sous (spicy sauce made from tomatoes and onions).
Durban’s famous curries are fiery. And why not try bunny chow – hollowed out loaf of bread stuffed with curry or hot chips?
And no road trip is complete without a packet of biltong (dried salted meat) to snack on.
South Africans love their beer and there's a good selection produced locally. If you’re feeling brave try a local brew at a shebeen (township drinking joint). Drink too much and you’re guaranteed babbelaas (a hangover).
There are plenty of excellent South African wines to choose from too.