Below are ten top things to do and places to visit in South Africa.
1. Hike up Lion’s Head At Full Moon
This hike is a firm favorite of many travelers and locals who make the hour-long walk to the top of Cape Town’s iconic mountain peak. A full moon hike is one of the most popular ways to revel in the view and energy of Cape Town’s bustling cityscape. Situated between Table Mountain and Lion’s Head, the walk is easygoing and well worth the trip at any time of day, although nighttime offers the most romantic view of the sea of lights below.
Lions Head, Signal Hill
Other suggestions: Cape Town is home to many incredible hikes. Explore the rugged terrain of Silvermine or one of the many paths along Table Mountain.
2. Live Safari in the Bush
The Majingilane coalition opposite Varty Camp – Photo by James Tyrrell
3. Walk in the Kruger National Park
South Africa’s flagship park offers a number of walking trails where guides take visitors into the heart of the wild. Set aside five days and four nights to explore the Mphongolo and Lonely Bull backpack trails, two of Kruger National Park‘s most recently opened trails. You’ll immerse yourself in a true wilderness experience, sleeping in a tent and carrying your own provisions. You’re also bound to encounter some of Africa’s most famous animals along the hike and learn about birds, trees, and wildlife from knowledgeable guides.
A walk in the wild in the Kruger National Park. Photograph by Elsa Young.
Warning: Not recommended for anyone who isn’t willing to rough it for a few days.
4. Capture West Coast Wildflowers
Carpets of striking orange and white in the West Coast National Park. Photograph by Kate Collins
South Africa’s West Coast puts on a special show in the spring months of August and September. Masses of flowers in every shade—from fire orange to canary yellow, amethyst purple, and snow-white—carpet the area from the West Coast National Park to Namaqualand. Namaqualand’s famous bright orange daisies signal the beginning of spring in nature’s most beautiful way.
Remember: Check the weather report before making a day trip to these areas. The flowers shut up tight on days when it’s overcast and rainy. The best months for flower spotting are during August and September.
5. Drink Wine & Head to the Vineyards
No trip to South Africa is complete without visiting one of the Cape’s famous vineyards. The Waterford Estate, situated in Stellenbosch, is a personal favorite. This family-run wine estate produces some of the finest wines that the Cape has to offer, along with a wine experience that is hard to match. For a unique taste sensation, try the chocolate and wine pairing. While you’re in the neighborhood, hop on a safari Land Rover for the two-hour drive along the slopes of the Helderberg mountain range.
Other suggestions: Delaire Graff Estate, Constantia Uitsig, Steenberg,Beaumont Wines, and Vergelegen are also fabulous wineries worth a look and a sip.
6. Experience Great White Sharks
Great white shark cage diving
It’s the top experience of South Africa’s most popular adventures—the chance to meet one of nature’s most feared apex predators: the great white shark. Cape Town is known as the “shark capital of the world,” and here you have the opportunity to experience shark cave diving with a number of professional operators. This adrenaline-fueled experience is one to add to your bucket list.
For more adrenaline activities: Try the world’s highest commercial bungee jump off the Bloukrans Bridge along the Garden Route, or descend Table Mountain by abseil—what locals call rappelling—at 1,000 meters above sea level with Abseil Africa.
7. Explore Blyde River Canyon
The famous Blyde River Canyon. Photograph by Rich Laburn
South Africa has an impressive record for being host to some of the highest and largest natural wonders. One of these is the Blyde (Dutch for “happy”) River Canyon, located in Mpumalanga, which forms part of the northern Drakensberg escarpment. It’s not only one of the largest canyons in the world, but also one of the greenest. Among Blyde River Canyon‘s verdant landscape and unearthly rock formations you’ll find antelope, hippos, monkeys, bush babies, and even crocodiles. Its falcons and eagles are a birdwatcher’s dream.
Other attractions near the canyon: God’s Window, Bourke’s Luck Potholes and the Pinnacle.
8. Visit Cape Town, the Mother City
Cape Town is unarguably one of South Africa’s most beautiful cities. It’s the “city with the mountain” (Table Mountain), blue-flag beaches, a world-renowned harbor, fabulous Relais & Châteaux hotels, and some of the best restaurants around.
Every part of this city wows, from the historic District Six Museum to the night and day markets, the electric-vibe nightclubs on Long and Bree streets, and celebrity spotting in Camps Bay. There’s Chapman’s Peak Drive, the big surf spots of Muizenberg and Dunes, and the small seaside towns of Simon’s Town and Fish Hoek that each hold their own attraction. This is a city with a buzz.
Cape Town, Table Mountain
9. Robben Island – Head to the place where Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison.
10. Head to the V & A Waterfront, the penguin colony at Boulders Beach, Cape Point, Simon’s Town, Camps Bay, Lion’s Head, Table Mountain Cableway, and Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.
Boyd Varty was born in South Africa on the Londolozi Game Reserve.