The Best Places to Visit in South Africa

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Written by
Tor Saner

Published on: June 18th, 2024

Last modified: June 18th, 2024

South Africa is among the most majestic and diverse destinations on earth. Covering over 1.2 million square kilometres (more than 470,000 square miles), it’s positively packed with places to go. There are bustling cities, magnificent beaches, rugged mountains and, of course, plenty of national parks and game reserves for the classic safari experience.

Our travel designers consider this country to be one of the top places to visit in Africa – and there are plenty of reasons why. Here are their picks for the best places to visit in South Africa, from Cape Town and the Kruger to the Whale Coast and the Winelands .

Cape Town - Kruger National Park - Johannesburg - Sabi Sands - The Kalahari - The Whale Coast - Madikwe - Durban- The Winelands

Cape Town Waterfront with Table Mountain in the background

Cape Town

 

There are so many stunning places to travel in South Africa that it can be hard to know where to begin, but Cape Town is a fantastic starting point. The country’s legislative capital and oldest city, it’s a vibrant metropolis with the imposing Table Mountain on one side and the waters of the Atlantic and Indian oceans on the other. 

Need to know: Take the ferry from Cape Town to Robben Island for a fascinating – if solemn – historical tour; this is where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years during Apartheid.

 

 

Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park

 

It’s difficult to imagine a more iconic place for a Big Five safari than Kruger National Park. Encompassing four million hectares in the northeastern corner of the country, this is one of the biggest, oldest and most renowned wildlife reserves on earth. It’s also among the most beautiful places in South Africa, with enormous expanses of wilderness, waterfalls, forests and plains.

Need to know: The Kruger is famous for its focus on conservation. Tanda Tula Safari Camp embodies this philosophy by directly contributing to wildlife research projects and community empowerment initiatives.

 

 

Power Station Cooling Tower in Soweto Townships, Johannesburg

Johannesburg

 

Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa, with a wealth of cultural heritage and history to match its size. Located in the country’s interior, its main attractions are museums, markets, street art and historical sites. Can’t-miss spots include Constitution Hill, the Apartheid Museum and the Soweto township, where both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu once lived.

Need to know: Johannesburg isn’t far from the Limpopo province, an area known for its dramatic scenery, agricultural production and wide variety of outdoor adventures.

 

 

leopard in sabi sands

Sabi Sands

 

Located right next to Kruger National Park, Sabi Sands is a significantly smaller and more exclusive alternative to its legendary neighbour. Animals can move freely between the two areas, so you’re likely to see the same species in both. Sabi Sands is one of the best private game reserves in Africa and is only open to travellers who are staying at the lodges within it.

Need to know: For an exceptional combination of modern luxury and wildlife sightings, stay at Lion Sands River Lodge. The lodge works with local foundations to protect endangered species and support nearby communities.

 

 

meerkat in Kalahari South Africa

The Kalahari

 

Commonly known as the Kalahari Desert, this vast plain is actually a semi-arid savanna that’s home to black rhinos, Kalahari lions and many other incredible species. Most of the Kalahari is part of Botswana, but it also extends into Namibia and the northern edge of South Africa. It’s a fantastic year-round destination, with striking seasonal changes transforming the terrain.

Need to know: Tswalu Kalahari Reserve is the place to be in the South African section of the Kalahari. Stay at the intimate Motse Camp or Tarkuni Private House for an entirely bespoke experience.

 

 

whale coast, south africa

The Whale Coast

 

This section of South Africa’s Western Cape is known as the Whale Coast thanks to its abundant marine life, including southern right whales and humpback whales as well as dolphins and sharks. Whale watching and shark diving are undoubtedly some of the best things to do in South Africa, but this area also boasts gorgeous beaches, bays, valleys and villages to explore.

Need to know: Grootbos Private Nature Reserve occupies a privileged position on the headlands above Walker Bay. Beyond spectacular views, it’s also known for its commitment to existing in harmony with the environment and its decades-long dedication to conservation.

 

 

Elephants in Madikwe, South Africa

Madikwe

 

If you’re travelling with kids, one of the best places to visit on a family trip to South Africa is Madikwe. Located near the Kalahari in the northwestern part of the country, this game reserve is remote, massive and malaria-free – making it especially ideal for younger family members. Here you can see not only the Big Five, but also cheetahs, wild dogs and hundreds of bird species. 

Need to know: Some of the best safari lodges for families are located in South Africa, including Morukuru Family: a set of three private houses in Madikwe that are specially designed for groups.

 

 

Duban Beach Surfers, South Africa

Durban

 

Set on the country’s eastern coast, Durban is defined by an eclectic mix of cultural influences and surrounded by some of the most beautiful sites in South Africa. The city itself is well worth a visit, but it’s also a great jumping-off point for trips to Phinda Private Game Reserve, which is known for its varied habitats and trailblazing approach to land management and conservation.

Need to know: Just north of Phinda (and about three and a half hours from Durban), you’ll find the Elephant Coast, where brilliant beaches sit side-by-side with the world-class game reserves of the KwaZulu-Natal province.

Winelands of South Africa

The Winelands

 

Most of the top wine regions in South Africa are located in the part of the Western Cape known as the Winelands. Situated just outside of Cape Town, this area blooms with bountiful vineyards, lush valleys and historic towns, many of them visibly influenced by Dutch and French settlers. The region is also a culinary hotspot, so food and wine lovers certainly shouldn’t miss it.

Need to know: The Winelands offer plenty of phenomenal hotels, guesthouses and villas, but we’re especially enamoured with Delaire Graff Estate – which also happens to be one of the world’s best art hotels.

 

 

Whatever you want from your adventure in South Africa, our travel designers are ready to help

Trip Inspiration

Get inspired with our South Africa example trips and then get in touch to plan your adventure

Where to Stay

There are many incredible places to stay in South Africa. Here are some of our favourites, handpicked by our travel designers: