South Africa

This guide divides South Africa into 11 colour-coded sightseeing areas, as shown on the map here. Find out more about each area on the following pages.

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DISCOVER Getting to Know South Africa

Cape Town

Scenically sandwiched between the sparkling blue waters of Table Bay and the imperious heights of Table Mountain, Cape Town is one of the world’s most beautiful cities. Its central streets are steeped in history, lined with centuries-old landmarks and illuminating museums dedicated to every aspect of the city’s past. The vibe here is laid-back coastal chic, with an abundance of cosmopolitan restaurants, lively bars, pan-African crafts markets and quirky shops centred around the bright V&A Waterfront and more down-to-earth Long Street.

Best for Museums, shopping, eating out, families

Home to District Six Museum, the V&A Waterfront, Table Mountain, Robben Island

Experience Ascending from the city bowl to the summit of Table Mountain on the sensational revolving cable car

Go To: Cape Town i

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t Colourful houses in Cape Town’s Bo-Kaap neighbourhood

DISCOVER Getting to Know South Africa

Cape Peninsula

A flinty mountainous spine that extends 50 km (30 miles) south from Cape Town, the Cape Peninsula is flanked to the west by the tempestuous Atlantic Ocean and to the east by the calmer waters of False Bay. Lined with scenic swimming beaches, its changing coastline offers great opportunities for whale-watching, sea kayaking and surfing, and also provides supplies for the area’s fine seafood restaurants. On terra firma, wine lovers flock to the venerable estates of Constantia, while outdoor enthusiasts enjoy spectacular hikes and the delightful Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden.

Best for Suburban beaches, marine wildlife, scenic seaside walks

Home to Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, Groot Constantia, Cape of Good Hope, Boulders Penguin Colony

Experience The windswept end-of-the-continent aura that permeates the wave-battered cliffs of the Cape of Good Hope

Go To: Cape Peninsula i

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t Hout Bay, viewed from Table Mountain National Park

DISCOVER Getting to Know South Africa

The Cape Winelands and West Coast

This is the scenic heart of the country’s wine industry, with verdant, vine-covered valleys overlooked by striking sandstone mountains. The appealing town of Stellenbosch has an old-world feel, with its distinctive architecture, while nearby Franschhoek is a foodie’s paradise. You’ll also find plenty of natural delights here, in the sweeping marine landscapes, rich birdlife and seasonal flowers of the West Coast National Park.

Best for Wine tasting, fine dining, marine birds

Home to Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, West Coast National Park

Experience A picnic lunch on the lawns of Boschendal with a bottle of the estate’s world-class bubbly

Go To: The Cape Winelands and West Coast i

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t The vineyards of the Warwick Wine Estate in Stellenbosch

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The Arid Northwest

Nature reigns supreme in this thinly populated region, where the ground is carpeted in an abundance of diverse flora. It’s best explored from August to October when the spring wildflowers are in bloom, but there are plenty of perennial highlights, too. Augrabies Falls is an awe-inspiring demonstration of the power of Mother Earth, Kimberley’s “Big Hole” provides an insight into the country’s diamond mining industry, and on the remote dunefields of Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, a fascinating array of intrepid wildlife can be found.

Best for Wide open spaces, spring wildflowers, arid-country wildlife

Home to Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Kimberley

Experience The incredible force of Augrabies Falls as it explodes into the world’s largest granite gorge

Go To: The Arid Northwest i

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t A southern right whale off the coast of Hermanus

DISCOVER Getting to Know South Africa

Hermanus and the Overberg

This quiet corner of the Western Cape is often bypassed by visitors, most of whom tend to congregate around the quaint seaside town of Hermanus. Set atop magnificent rocky cliffs, the town offers the world’s best land-based whale-watching from July to November. Elsewhere, the Overberg harbours an array of lesser-known treasures that include Cape Agulhas (the most southerly point in Africa), several top notch wineries and a clutch of fine pedestrian-friendly nature reserves.

Best for Whale watching, fynbos-associated wildlife

Home to Hermanus

Experience A gull’s-eye view of southern right whales and their newborn calves from the cliffs of Walker Bay

Go To: Hermanus and the Overberg i

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t Wildflowers in bloom in Namaqualand

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The Garden Route

Gentler in feel than the Atlantic coastline to its west, the aptly named Garden Route follows the Indian Ocean coastline for 200 km (125 miles) between Mossel Bay and Tsitsikamma. Partially protected within the Garden Route National Park, its natural mosaic of pretty swimming beaches, tranquil lakes, sheltered lagoons and forested mountain slopes supports a kaleidoscopic variety of birdlife and marine fauna. You’ll find a warm welcome at the region’s string of small seaside towns, where individuality trumps chains and franchises.

Best for Coastal scenery, forest hikes, adventure activities, ostrich farms

Home to Cango Caves, Tsitsikamma

Experience Plunging over the Bloukrans Bridge on the world’s tallest commercial bungee jump

Go To: The Garden Route i

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t Colourful beach huts in Mossel Bay

DISCOVER Getting to Know South Africa

Eastern Cape

It might not boast the big-name attractions of other regions, but the unassuming Eastern Cape is an underrated treasure trove of stellar sights. The rugged Wild Coast is no less scenic than the more feted and touristy Garden Route, while Addo Elephant National Park and its neighbouring private reserves offer some of the best Big Five viewing in the country. Off-the-beaten-track historical sites include Nelson Mandela’s birthplace at Qunu and the time-warped Victoriana of Grahamstown.

Best for Elephant encounters, the Mandela legacy

Home to Addo Elephant National Park, the Wild Coast, Graaff-Reinet

Experience Being immersed in contemporary culture at Grahamstown’s annual National Arts Festival

Go To: Eastern Cape i

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t Elephants in Addo Elephant National Park

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The most biodiverse of South Africa’s nine provinces, KwaZulu-Natal has a spectacular landscape that ranges from the towering peaks of uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park to the pristine coastal wetlands of iSimangaliso. Sun-seekers are drawn to the subtropical beach resorts that flank the likeable seaside city of Durban, while wildlife lovers are delighted by the province’s excellent game reserves. This is also a great place to delve into indigenous culture, with vibrant Zulu dances at Shakaland and an impressive concentration of ancient rock art across the Drakensberg.

Best for Zulu culture, prehistoric rock art, mountain hikes, subtropical beaches

Home to Durban, uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve, iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Experience A face-to-face encounter with a wild rhino on a guided walk in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi

Go To: Kwazulu-Natal i

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t A colourful stall in Durban’s Victoria Street Market

DISCOVER Getting to Know South Africa

Johannesburg and Gauteng

Founded on the world’s richest gold seams, the sprawling economic powerhouse of Gauteng encompasses the country’s largest city (Johannesburg), the national capital (Pretoria) and the most populous and well-known of the townships established under apartheid (Soweto). Urban attractions abound, but their brash modernity is placed in perspective by the Cradle of Humankind, with its wealth of early hominin fossils, and the wild game reserves of Madikwe and Pilanesberg.

Best for City life, museums, safaris, paleontological sites

Home to Apartheid Museum, Gold Reef City, Soweto, Cradle of Humankind, Pilanesberg Game Reserve and Sun City, Madikwe Game Reserve

Experience Visiting the restored Soweto home where Nelson Mandela once lived

Go To: Johannesburg and Gauteng i

DISCOVER Getting to Know South Africa

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t Train carriages at Johannesburg’s Park Station

DISCOVER Getting to Know South Africa

Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Kruger

This wild region is prime safari country, with large numbers of the Big Five roaming the vast Kruger National Park. Kruger is hugely popular with self-drivers and those on a tight budget, thanks to its excellent amenities, but you can also safari in style at the cluster of legendary private reserves that border the park. Elsewhere, you’ll find yet more natural wonders in the form of the more westerly escarpment and the breathtaking Blyde River Canyon.

Best for Self-drive safaris, five-star luxury safaris, birding, escaping the winter chill

Home to Kruger National Park, Pilgrim’s Rest

Experience Self-driving at your leisure through Kruger, a protected wilderness the size of Wales

Go To: Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Kruger i

DISCOVER Getting to Know South Africa

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t A Burchell’s zebra in Kruger National Park

DISCOVER Getting to Know South Africa


Bordered by South Africa on three sides, the diminutive country of eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) is Africa’s only remaining autonomous kingdom. Most visitors simply pass through here on their way between Kruger and KwaZulu-Natal, but it’s well deserving of a more extended stay. There’s plenty of scope for game viewing, as well as trying your hand at adventure activities such as white-water rafting or rock climbing. For full immersion in Swazi tradition, time your visit to coincide with the annual Umhlanga Reed Dance.

Best for Traditional African culture, rafting

Home to Sibebe Rock, Malolotja Nature Reserve

Experience Seeing 40,000 traditionally attired Swazi women paying tribute to the Queen Mother at the Umhlanga Reed Dance

Go To: Eswatini i

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t Traditional painted masks from eSwatini

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