Explore These Highlights for Your South African Odyssey

K.C. Dermody

Written by Lockie Kerr

February 2023 (Updated August 2023)

Cape Town is the perfect place to start your South African adventure, with an array of must-see attractions and experiences, as well as acting as the jumping-off point for an expansive selection of tours, from guided tours to self-drive adventures. We know the options can be overwhelming – so we’ve put this blog together to give you the lowdown on the key places for you to include on your dream itinerary.

Yacht in Camps Bay under Twelve Apostles - South Africa Tourism

Cape Town

Fondly referred to by locals as Mother City, and widely regarded as one of the most beautiful cities on earth, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to activities in Cape Town. The first port of call for many travellers is the V&A Waterfront – boasting five shopping districts, restaurants offering delicacies from every corner of the world, a world-class aquarium, the Cape Wheel and year-round festivals and events.

When wanderlust kicks in, Cape Town has you covered too – we guarantee that international icon Table Mountain will surpass your expectations, and the good news: you can pick between a scenic hike or a relaxed ride up via the Aerial Cableway. For something a little unexpected, take in the splendour of Cape Point Nature Reserve, with dramatic views of the False Bay and Atlantic coastlines, and the opportunity to observe baboons, Cape Mountain Zebras, buck and an incredible 250 species of birds who call this home.

Cape Town’s rich and diverse history is brought to life in an impressive list of museums, most notably perhaps at Robben Island. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, take a tour from the V&A Waterfront to learn how the history of this site predates its most famous inhabitant Nelson Mandela. For art buffs, the Cape Town scene has exploded in recent years and both established artists and newcomers alike have found an appreciative home here.

Once you’re ready to explore further afield, take an unforgettable road trip along The Whale Coast – a 300km coastal road from Cape Town to Gansbaai (aka Shark Town). The trip goes through the whale-watching capital, Hermanus. What’s more, this is the best place to spot the Marine Big 5: The South African fur seal, southern right whale, African penguin, great white shark and bottlenose dolphin.

To catch sight of the land-based Big 5, you don’t have to travel far. Several reserves and safari experience can be accessed in a couple hours from Cape Town, and the variety available is staggering. From self-drive, to horseback riding to guided luxury – there’s something for every taste and budget.

Camps Bay Beach - South Africa Tourism

Cape Winelands

The Cape Winelands in is a breathtakingly picturesque region that beckons travellers with its lush vineyards, rolling hills, and rich history. Nestled in the Western Cape Province, this captivating area is renowned for producing some of the world’s finest wines. Stretching from majestic mountains to quaint towns like Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Paarl, the Winelands exude a captivating blend of old-world charm and contemporary elegance. Visitors can indulge in delightful wine tastings at prestigious estates, where centuries-old traditions meet innovative winemaking techniques. Beyond wine, the region offers a feast for the senses with its gourmet restaurants, art galleries, and cultural experiences. Whether exploring the scenic landscapes, strolling through historic streets, or relishing in the exquisite flavours of local cuisine, the Cape Winelands promises an unforgettable and soul-stirring journey through the heart of South Africa’s winemaking heritage.

Group experiencing a vineyard in the Western Cape Winelands - South Africa Tourism

Garden Route

The Garden Route takes in a rich array of landscapes. Lose yourself in ancients forests, relax in spectacular lagoons and discover miles of dramatic coastline – and when you’re tired of that, dive into the legendary SA hospitality and indulge in some seriously great eats. The route runs for 124 miles through the Western Cape between Mossel Bay and Storms River, and is suitable for both road-trip first timers, and seasoned travellers. There’s also a number of offerings for both self-drive and guided tours. The sheer variety of stop-offs and choice of activities makes this the ultimate choose-your-own-adventure – so let’s dive into our highlights.

Plettenberg bay is synonymous for its stunning beaches, surfing spots and whale watching spots. Just to the south is Robberg Nature Reserve where you can enjoy watching the seals hang out while you take in the scenic trail to The Point.

Knysna is one of South Africa’s best known travel destinations, and for good reason. The picture-perfect town is tucked away on the banks of a lagoon, where you can happily while away a day exploring the craft shops and markets, and filling up on treats from the many cafes. Knysna is a great base for outdoor pursuits thanks to its close proximity to a natural wonderland of lakes, beaches and indigenous forests.

Tsitsikamma National Park, perched on the South Coast, is a famous stop on the The Garden Route National. Including a marine reserve, dramatic gorges and unique flora and fauna. If stunning hikes are your jam, The Mouth Trail crosses a suspension bridge over Storms River – the views have to be seen to be believed.

South Africa's Garden Route

Eastern Cape

The Eastern Cape combines coast, culture and wildlife – what’s not to love? It also boasts some of the best beaches in South Africa – 800km of unspoilt and dramatic coastline with stunning ocean views justifies that weighty accolade. These beaches are significantly quieter than the those in Cape Town and Durban, meaning it’s a great place for a chilled retreat. We recommend Nahoon Beach and Port Alfred, where dolphins and whales can be spotted from shore. For surfers, Jeffreys Bay must not be missed – home to the Billabong Pro surf competition, and renowned for the finest surf on earth.

Culture vultures are in luck too – the Eastern Cape is host to Port Elizabeth, where the first British settlers landed in SA, the Donkin Heritage trail and the National Arts Festival – there really will be something to pique every interest.

This region features some of the country’s most accessible game viewing within malaria-free private game reserves. For a chance to spot the big five, include Mountain Zebra National Park, the famous Addo Elephant Park and the Eastern Cape Game Reserves in your trip. Mount Cambedoo, a 14,000-hectare reserve starring some of the most jaw-dropping vistas in the country. Originally a private agricultural farm, Mount Cambedoo has been transformed into a world-class game reserve, providing an environment for a dazzling array of wildlife to roam.

Greater kudu, Eastern Cape

Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park, one of Africa’s most iconic and celebrated wildlife reserves, is a sprawling oasis of untamed wilderness located in the northeastern corner of South Africa. Encompassing an area of approximately 20,000 square kilometers, the park stretches across the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga. Established in 1926, Kruger is not only one of the largest game reserves on the continent but also one of the oldest, boasting an exceptional diversity of plant and animal life.

Visitors to Kruger National Park are treated to an extraordinary safari experience, where they can immerse themselves in the heart of the African bush. The park is home to the renowned Big Five – lions, elephants, buffalos, leopards, and rhinos, as well as an abundance of other remarkable species, including cheetahs, wild dogs, giraffes, hippos, and various antelope species. Bird enthusiasts will be enthralled by the incredible array of avian life that graces the skies, with over 500 bird species recorded in the park.

Kruger’s diverse ecosystems, ranging from dense woodlands to open savannas, offer a myriad of opportunities for wildlife viewing, ensuring that each game drive or bush walk is a unique and unforgettable encounter with nature. Experienced rangers and guides lead the safaris, sharing their knowledge and expertise about the park’s inhabitants and the delicate balance of the ecosystem.

Beautiful rhino grazing in Kruger National Park


This coastal province is located in the north-east of South Africa and is home to the Zulu Kingdom. The area is famous for its beaches, mountains and savannahs – home to big game. Visitors can explore the Drakensberg mountains, Battlefields and Midlands as well as one of the greatest safaris in the country.

The province is usually accessed via Durban – SA’s third largest city and a true fusion of cultures. The Indian influence in Durban has extended to local dishes, to mouth-watering effect. When in Durban, don’t miss bunny chow – a hollowed half-loaf of bread filled with curry made using local spices.

The Drakensberg is a dramatic and scenic mountain range, and hosts all manner of adrenaline junkies and outdoors enthusiasts. Whether you’re looking for spectacular hiking trails, zip-lining, canoeing, horse-riding, white-water rafting or climbing – you’ll find it here. For those looking for a more relaxed pace, the area also lends itself to leisurely walks, bird watching and fishing.

This area offers so much – including a tantalising taste of local heritage and history, and a chance to absorb culture in a sustainable way, and comes highly recommended from us.

Enjoying the Drakensberg views - South Africa Tourism


This dynamic, vibrant city combines fascinating history and culture, and that famous Jo-burg hospitality. Start your visit at UNESCO World Heritage Site The Cradle of Mankind – home to fossils of the earliest known life forms on Earth. Foodies are well catered for, from hipster hangouts, international delicacies, celebrations of African cuisine and more cocktail bars than you can shake a stick at.

To get to know the city even better, take a bike tour around Soweto to discover its history and head to the Apartheid Museum for an eye-opening view into South Africa’s past. Nelson Mandela National Museum gives great insight into his life and work, and is where he lived from ’46-’62. On Sundays, head to Market on Main in Maboneng – home to artists, boutiques, galleries and an amazing food scene.

Another must when you’re in Johannesburg is a safari trip. Take your pick from a number of excellent safari parks and game reserves near Johannesburg, most within a four-hour drive of the city.

Johannesburg skyline

Recommended Tour Itineraries That Are Perfect To Start Discovering South Africa

We’ve delved into the holiday portfolio from a number of our favourite Africa travel experts and found what we believe are the best trips you can book to introduce you to what this incredible nation has to offer those new to exploring South Africa.

Spotting whales in Hermanus, South Africa

14-Day Garden Route Adventure

Small Group Adventure Tour
Follow the coastal trail to Cape Town on an adventurous 14-day adventure along the Garden Route and Wild Coast of South Africa. This itinerary is perfect for those on a budget – who want to cram in as many highlights as they possibly can within a two-week trip while travelling with a group of like-minded individuals.

Why we love this trip…
Search for gentle giants on a game drive through Addo Elephant National Park
Go hiking amongst the antelope in Bontebok National Park
Embark on a half-day guided walk in the mighty Drakensburg Range
Explore the magnificent Tsitsikamma National Park
Enjoy a stroll along Grotto Beach in Hermanus – home to incredible whale watching
Journey the classic R320 route – stopping by a couple of wineries for local tastings
ABTA & ATOL protected

** SAVE up to £474pp **

From £1,106pp
Price includes 8 nights camping accommodation (with facilities), 3 nights dormitory, 2 nights lodge, 13 breakfasts, 3 lunch, 12 dinners, activities as detailed in the itinerary, local guides and overland vehicle

Operated by Intrepid Travel

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Cheetahs - South African Tourism

14-Day Classic Garden Route & Safari

Self-Drive Holiday
From iconic Table Mountain to the coastal Garden Route and on to the plains of the Eastern Cape game reserves, discover South Africa’s most popular fly drive route. This holiday is great for those seeking independence on their travels.

Why we love this trip…
Take a cable car to the top of Table Mountain
Check out the restaurants and bars of Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront
Spend time at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Visit the renowned wine estates in Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Paarl in the Cape Winelands
Discover the Garden Route’s beautiful beaches and the lagoon in Knysna
See the Big Five (lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino, and leopard) found in the Eastern Cape Reserves
ATOL protected

** 3 FREE Nights – Saving Over £700 Per Couple **

From £1,999pp
Price includes 11 nights 4* to 4*+ hotel accommodation on a bed & breakfast basis, 3 nights 4* all-inclusive game lodge, 6 game drives, 11 days fully-inclusive car hire and return flights

Operated by Trailfinders

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Robberg Peninsula near Plettenberg Bay

12-Day Cape Town, Garden Route & Big Five Safari

Escorted Tour
Experience the perfect introduction to South Africa, one of the world’s most beautiful countries, on an extraordinary-value tour crammed with unforgettable highlights. This tour provides the perfect mix of experiences for you to enjoy alongside your travel companions.

Why we love this tour…
Head out on three game drives in search of the Big Five
Spend two nights in the privately owned Garden Route Game Lodge
Visit the whale-watching town of Hermanus
Enjoy wine-tasting on a Franschhoek wine estate
Tour Stellenbosch with included bubbly and a nougat experience
Ride Table Mountain’s rotating cable car
Take a cruise on Knysna Lagoon
ABTA  & ATOL protected

** SAVE up to £416pp **

From £2,363pp
Price includes 9 nights hotel accommodation on a bed & breakfast basis, 3 lunches, 4 dinners, 3 game drives, air-conditioned coach travel, experienced tour manager, transfers and return flights

Operated by Newmarket Holidays

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Boulder Beach penguins - South African Tourism

12-Day Boutique Self-Drive With Kruger Safari

Self-Drive Holiday
Experience the highlights of South Africa on this 12 day self-drive adventure that gives you the chance to see the best of Cape Town, the wine region, Garden Route and experience a safari at Motswari Game Reserve. This fly drive is ideal for travellers who love smaller, more intimate accommodation stays.

Why we love this trip…
Witness the famed penguins of Boulders Beach
Explore the art galleries and cafes of the quirky town of Stellenbosch
Set up a base in Outdshoorn to go and visit the Cango Caves and Klein Karoo
Admire the breathtaking scenery of the Garden Route en Route to Plettenberg Bay
Enjoy game drives and lodge accommodation in the private Motswari Game Reserve
ATOL protected & award-winning tour operator

** Lovely Boutique Hotel & Lodge Stays **

From £3,799pp
Price includes 11 nights accommodation, daily breakfast, all meals & game drives at Motswari Game Reserve, car hire, internal flight and return flights

Operated by Travelbag

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Garonga Safari Camp

13-Day Cape Town, Safari & Mozambique Beach

Independent Multi-Centre Holiday
A good one for friends, family clans or honeymooners alike, this stylish two-week itinerary allows you to explore or relax with enough options at your fingertips to keep you thoroughly entertained. If you’re looking to unwind with a luxury beach stay at the end of your safari adventure, this trip is for you.

Why we love this trip…
Stay at Cape Town’s Pepperclub Hotel & Spa and unwind by the rooftop pool
Enjoy tented luxury at Garonga Safari Camp
Spend a night under the stars on Garonga Lodge’s sleep out deck
Experience a slow safari, spotting wildlife at an easy-going pace
Spot dolphins and whales from your Machangulo Beach Lodge in Mozambique
Spot exotic fish while snorkelling in the Indian Ocean
ABTA & ATOL protected

** Glorious Accommodation Choices **

From £5,180pp
Price includes 4 nights Cape Town hotel accommodation, 3 nights luxury camp, 5 nights beach hotel, internal flights and return flights

Operated by Kuoni

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Couple enjoying the views during a picnic over Blyde River Canyon - South African Tourism

25-Day The Very Best of South Africa Tour

Escorted Tour
Over 25 unforgettable days, explore lively cities, head out on safari in search of the Big Five, travel through stunning scenery and take one of the world’s most luxurious train journeys. If you’re wanting to see everything South Africa has to offer – all in one extensive holiday, this trip ticks all the right boxes.

Why we love this trip…
Ride aboard the luxury Blue Train
Visit Kimberley’s ‘Big Hole’ diamond mine
Take a short cruise from Hout Bay to Duiker Island to witness the seals
Follow the scenic Helshoogte Pass in the Winelands
Explore the Panorama Route with sensational views at the Three Rondavels
Enjoy a 4×4 game drives in Kruger National Park
Spend time at leisure in Cape Town, Umhlanga, Knysna and Pretoria
ATOL protected & award-winning tour operator

** Once-in-a-Lifetime, Bucket List Adventure **

From £6,195pp
Price includes 4* to 5* hotel accommodation on a bed & breakfast basis, 10 lunches, 1 high tea, 6 dinners, 2 nights aboard the Blue Train with all meals on-board and selected beverages, activities as detailed in the itinerary, experienced tour manager, modern air-conditioned coaches, internal flight and return flights

Operated by Distant Journeys

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Couple enjoying the views during a picnic over Blyde River Canyon - South African Tourism

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