Top 15 places to see in South Africa

September 23, 2019

South Africa is a treasure chest ready to be discovered: between safaris, cosmopolitan cities, beaches, wine and food events you will be spoiled for choice! Find out what to see in South Africa.

View of Drakensberg mountains in South Africa

Are you getting ready for a trip to South Africa? Excellent choice! This nation in the southernmost part of Africa boasts some of the most varied landscapes and ecosystems in the world, as well as unforgettable safari parks, such as Kruger Park.

But limiting oneself to game viewing would be reductive: there are in fact so many interesting cities, such as Cape Town and its beaches, the winelands of Paarl and Stellenbosch for wine tours, the Kalahari savannas and Drakensberg mountains, that you'll be at a loss on where to go first.

Did we intrigue you? Here you can find the top 15 destinations in South Africa.

1 - Kruger National Park

Situated in the north east area of the country, it is probably the most popular attraction in South Africa, offering the chance for unforgettable safaris: it is indeed one of the largest wildlife reserves in Africa. Here you can find all of the Big Five, lion, rhino, leopard, elephant and buffalo, as well as many other animals. Its landscape is varied, ranging from plains to forests: really a must-see stop on a South Africa tour.

Seeing an elephant during a safari at Kruger Park, South Africa
Elephant at Kruger Park.

2 - Table Mountain National Park

Table Mountain is the iconic mountain dominating Cape Town, the capital city, and is included in the protected area with the same name, established in 1998. This park boasts high biodiversity, including fynbos, an endemic plant species which is very peculiar. You will also see the eland, caracal, the South African hedgehog, baboons and Cape foxes.

View of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa
The Table Mountain dominating Cape Town.

3 - Addo Elephant National Park

Addo Elephant National Park is another popular wildlife reserve 70 km from the town of Port Elizabeth in the province of Eastern Cape. As the name suggests, the park is famous for the elephants, but it also includes a marine reserve. It hosts all the Big Seven (elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo, leopard, whale and white shark). The elephants at Addo do not have tusks, since they descend from 11 elephants spared by poachers because of their small tusks!

Elephant group in Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa
Elephants in Addo Elephant National Park.

4 - Tsitsikamma National Park

This magnificent park is located along the southern coast of South Africa and is a must-see stop along the Garden Route, the panoramic road running along the southern coastline of the country. The name Tsitsikamma means "place full of water" in the Khoisan language: it hosts the mouth of the Storms River and the oldest marine reserve in South Africa with whales and dolphins. In the forests along the coast the typical Outeniqua Yellowwood tree grows.

Tsitsikamma National Park route in South Africa
A trekking route in Tsitsikamma National Park.

5 - Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve

The Blyde River Canyon is a canyon in the Mpumalanga province and is the third largest in the world, 26 km long and 800 meters deep. It's situated within the Drakensberg mountain range and is made of sandstone. It was dug over millennia by Olifants and Blyde rivers and today it hosts the spectacular Three Rondavels, three rock formations recalling three huts (this is the meaning of the word "rondavel" in Afrikaans). Another popular site in Blyde River Canyon is God's Window panoramic point.

Blyde River Canyon view in South Africa
A breath-taking view of Blyde River Canyon.

6 - Cape Town

Here we are at picturesque Cape Town, probably the starting point of your tour, located on a peninsula in southern South Africa and dominated by the iconic Table Mountain, whose summit can be reached by cable car, admiring the panorama of the city with the unique City Bowl. Apart from the lively V&A Waterfront, full of restaurants, bars and shops, do not miss the visit to Robben Island with the prison where Mandela was held, and the magnificent Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. For those who wish to get to know the multethnic side of the city, a stop at the colorful Bo Kaap or Cape Malay quarter is recommended: the quarter is inhabited by Asian and Muslim minorities. Natural attractions include, besides the beautiful beaches, Lion's Head, Devil's Peak and Signal Hill.

Cape Town view in South Africa
Cape Town.

7 - Durban

Durban is another city to be included in your itinerary: located along the coast in the province of KwaZulu-Natal in the east, it combines colonial, African and Indian atmospheres. Durban is a lively city, popular for its beaches, uShaka Marine World (aquarium and theme park), Durban Botanical Gardens and the beautiful Golden Mile seafront. Its beaches are appreciated by professional and amateur surfers alike.

Durban city center in South Africa
Durban city center.

8 - Knysna

Here we are in Knysna, an elegant seaside town in the Western Cape province, another interesting stop along the Garden Route. Knysna is famous for the oysters, served in delicious dishes in the restaurants overlooking the Indian Ocean. The city lies on a picturesque lagoon, encompassed by two hills, Knysna Heads, where Knysna River flows into the ocean.

Knysna Head in South Africa
Knysna Head, overlooking the sea.

9 - Pretoria

Pretoria is the administrative capital of South Africa, about 50 km from Johannesburg. It is believed to be one of the sunniest capital cities in the world: it probably snows once every century! Pretoria is a green city, home to the University of South Africa and the University of Pretoria. Its major attractions include Transvaal Museum and Voortrekker monument dedicated to the pioneers who conquered Natal.

Jacaranda in Pretoria, South Africa
Jacaranda in full bloom in Pretoria.

10 - Hermanus

Hermanus is the town of whale watching! Located in the Western Cape province, it is reached traveling along the Garden Route mainly with the aim to spot whales and other cetaceans from the austral winter to the austral spring in Walker Bay.

Hermanus coast in South Africa
Hermanus coast.

11 - Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch is a university city in the Cape Winelands, famous for wine production and an interesting stop for wine tours together with Franschhoek, to taste world-famous South African wines. It's situated 50 km off Cape Town and it is the second oldest city founded by Europeans in the Western Cape after the Mother City.

Vineyards of Stellenbosch, South Africa
Vineyards in Stellenbosch.

12 - Johannesburg

Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa, main city of the Gauteng province. It is a huge metropolis today, often dangerous. In the Soweto district it hosts Mandela house museum, the Apartheid Museum and the former prison of Constitution Hill. You can also visit Johannesburg Zoo, Herman Eckstein Park and Johannesburg Art Gallery.

Johannesburg aerial view, South Africa
Johannesburg aerial view.

13 - Oudtshoorn

Welcome to the ostrich capital of the world! Oudtshoorn is a coastal city in southern South Africa, along the Garden Route in Little Karoo. Once inhabited by San people, who left many rock paintings and graffiti in the sorrounding areas, it later became a Dutch settlement, named after baron Pieter van Rheede van Oudtshoorn, Governor of the Colony of the Cape in 1772. After a period of recession, the city went back to its former splendour at the end of the 19th century thanks to ostrich breeding, The feathers were in fact used as hat ornaments. Today tourism is growing in Oudtshoorn, thanks to its proximity to interesting sites such as Cango Caves and Swartberg Pass, but also for the oppotunity to visit ostrich farms and to set off along the Route 62 to take wine tours in the hinterland winelands.

Ostrich farm in Oudtshoorn, in South Africa
Ostrich farm in Oudtshoorn.

14 - Drakensberg

The Drakensberg mountains are the highest mountains in southern Africa and they occupy part of South Africa and Lesotho. Several rivers flow from these mountains, including Orange, Vaal and Tugela. The highest peaks are Thabana Ntlenyana in Lesotho and Njesuthi in South Africa. This mountain range is a challenge for mountain climbers from all over the world. The mountains are made of basalt in the upper layers and sandstone in the lower parts. The caves of the Drakensberg mountains host graffiti and rock paintings made by the Bushmen. These mountains are becoming interesting tourist attractions, thanks to the natural gems of the area, such as Tugela and Angel Falls.

Drakensberg mountain landscape in South Africa
Drakensberg mountain landscape.

15 - Pilanesberg National Park

Pilanesberg Alkaline Ring Complex is a reserve within the crater of an extinct volcano, located between Kalahari and Lowveld. The reserve hosts all the Big Five in a malaria -free area, with many kinds of accommodations available, only three hours from Johannesburg by car.

Wildebeest in Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa
Wildebeest in Pilanesberg National Park.

Feel like leaving immediately now, do you?

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