Best Places To Visit In South Africa: Most Beautiful Destinations
As can be told from its name, South Africa is a beautiful country situated south of the African Continent. It is known for its diverse landscapes and abundant natural wonders.
This country also possesses a rich cultural heritage and impressive touristic spots that will surely make a lasting impression on you.
But how do you know where the finest places to visit in South Africa are? Well, hang on there. Keep scrolling and check out expert-approved tourist attractions in South Africa that draw in hordes of visitors worldwide each year.
First up on the list is Cape Town, also one of the world's most beautiful cities. Tourists and locals often regard this as “the fairest of them all” among top-notch holiday destinations in South Africa. Once you set foot here, you’ll understand why.
Highlights of this beautiful region include Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, Two Oceans Aquarium and Kirstenbosch. You may also visit the charming Cape Wineland wine region or Cape Town’s iconic Table Mountain, one of the oldest mountains in the world.
There are many activities for you to try out, from mountain hiking and picnicking to more adventurous options such as abseiling down the high peaks.
It’s no exaggeration to regard Cape Town as one of the best places to visit in South Africa. Image by Sharaan Muruvan on Unsplash
Natural wonders aside, this city also features a variety of five-star restaurants, trendy food markets and design-savvy arcades in local regions such as Woodstock and the Waterfront's Silo District.
If you’re into art, check out The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, the world's largest museum dedicated to modern and contemporary African art.
Johannesburg, also known as Jo’burg or Jozi, is a vibrant city in the heart of the country. To be honest, there’s not an abundance of places to see in this region compared to other famous places of South Africa. However, this ever-changing metropolitan area is steadily progressing toward a triumphant future.
If you’re curious about the history of South Africa, Joburg offers plenty of museums for visitors to have a deeper insight into the continent's past. Apartheid Museum or The Hector Pieterson Museum are a few great examples of such.
Bird-watching is a great thing to experience during your tour in Joburg. Just an hour’s drive from the city is the Marievale Bird Sanctuary, which seems to be under the radar of most South African tourists. You can visit this sanctuary free of charge and get the chance to observe more than 230 bird species.
Take a walk around and enjoy the pleasant atmosphere in Joburg. Image by Ingo Stiller on Unsplash
Another iconic landmark of the rainbow nation is the city of Durban, Africa's busiest harbour. It ranks third in the list of the best places to visit in South Africa, trailing only Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Highlights of Durban include uShaka Marine World, Suncoast Casino, Moses Mabhida Stadium and the Valley of a Thousand Hills. Each of these has its own charm, but they all guarantee the most memorable trip you will have in Durban.
While visiting the Durban area, plan a trip to Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park. Although seemingly outshined by other famous national parks, it offers a delightful travel experience with stunning and fantastic wildlife watching.
Another worthwhile nearby destination is Lesotho, which borders Durban by the Sani pass. Here’s a fun fact: South Africa is one of the only countries with international flights to this kingdom.
The picture-perfect beaches of the Golden Mile under the blazing sun are also indeed a feast for the senses. Just take a walk along the stretch to take in the tranquil atmosphere and cool yourself in the azure Indian Ocean.
Indulge your senses in the mesmerising scenery of the beaches along the Golden Mile. Image by Tatenda Mapigoti on Unsplash
Pretoria features some of the finest South African tourist places if you want something exploratory. The city of Pretoria is up next. It is also referred to as "Jacaranda City".
At the end of September and through the middle of November, Jacaranda trees dot Pretoria‘s cityscape with a blanket of purple. You can see where the moniker is coined from.
With its prominent Voortrekker Monument and various museums and galleries, such as the Pioneer and Melrose House, this city is a history buff's paradise.
For nature lovers, check out the Pretoria Botanical Gardens, a substantial botanical garden among the most beautiful places in South Africa. You will find different kinds of gardens, from succulent and medicinal to cycad ones, with a wide range of fauna and flora.
The National Zoological Gardens of South Africa is also a great choice. As the largest zoo in the country, it features a diverse collection of animals from almost 700 different species.
Visit Pretoria at the right time, and you will get a chance to marvel at the colour bliss of the place. Photo by Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels
Among the most beautiful places in South Africa, Knysna is perhaps the most picturesque of them all. Situated on the banks of a breathtakingly pretty lagoon, Knysna earns its nickname as the “jewel of the Garden Route''.
This city showcases an astonishing array of landscapes, from shimmering lagoons, indigenous forests, and tranquil lakes to golden beaches. For the vast majority of South African tourists, the main attractions are Thesen Islands, Pezula, the castles of Noetzie and Buffels Bay.
Adjacent to Knysna, in the Tsitsikamma National Park, lies a romantic getaway called Garden of Eden.
Follow the paths into the dense woods, and you'll see towering trees, lovely streams sparkling with sunlight, and abundant fauna and flora. There are numerous resting spots along the path, such as benches and picnic tables, in case you get tired of walking.
Knysna has a long list of unique outdoor activities you shouldn't miss out on. From surfing, snorkelling, and kayaking to mountain bike and bungee jumping, there is something for everyone.
Or, give it a go with the Knysna Yacht Club, a sailing club perched over the waters of the Knysna Lagoon on the Indian Ocean coast of South Africa.
Swarms of boats moored to the dock in Knysna during the day. Image by Shreekar Lathiya on Unsplash
Tourists lovingly regarded Port Elizabeth, one of the most popular places to visit In South Africa, as the “Friendly City”. The second-oldest city in the nation is home to the friendliest and kindest people on Earth.
This region is also called Nelson Mandela Bay to honour Nelson Mandela, a humanitarian, freedom fighter and world icon of peace. As the fifth-largest in South Africa, its ace card to success is undoubtedly its abundant pristine beaches and fantastic wildlife attractions.
It has over 40 km (24 miles) of coastal path wrapping around mostly soft sand beaches. Therefore, Port Elizabeth has thousands of tourists worldwide who flock to this region yearly.
Popular hotspots include Cape Cepe, Sardinia Bay Beach, Kwantu Private Game Reserve, Route 67 and Lady's Slipper Trail. For the best outdoor activities, we recommend you try out adventure biking, surfing, beach horse riding, canoeing and taking a boat tour.
Explore the penitentiary that formerly held Nelson Mandela on Robben Island, savours the delicious cuisine in Stellenbosch, or drive along Cape Point, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Whatever you pick, this city has no shortage of exciting things to do!
From Port Elizabeth, make your journey to the Addo Elephant National Park, a fantastic destination for families. Its name pretty much gives itself away, doesn't it?
Large herds of wild elephants, over 600 of which, can be found in this park. On arrival, South Africa tourists can go on a self-guided safari or book a guided tour to maximise their time.
Compared to other attractions, the mystical beaches of Port Elizabeth are just something else. Image by Shreekar Lathiya on Unsplash
Situated on the Garden Route, Mossel Bay is a coastal village in the Western Cape. This small village is favoured by both locals and internationals, and it is often regarded as a must-see destination in South Africa.
Aside from the rich sea life and pristine golden beaches, Mossel Bay also scores top points for its array of natural, cultural, and historical attractions.
For those who are looking for a nice beach day with child-friendly waves, Santos Beach is the place to be. When you're done swimming or lounging, go to the Santos Express train restaurant 20 metres away for an ice cream or, better still, a delicious meal.
Or, if you’re into something a bit more historical, check out the Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex and get a glimpse of what the early seafarers' lives entailed.
Are you looking for something more challenging? The adrenaline-pumping excitement of cage diving with the Great White Sharks in Mossel Bay is the thrill of a lifetime.
Luminous aquamarine waters splashing against the shore in Mossel Bay. Image by MW van der Walt on Unsplash
This region is better known for being one of the best two worldwide destinations for whale watching. Though not topping the list of best places to visit In South Africa, you may find tourists visiting Hermanus’s beautiful coastal walking path annually.
Hermanus's primary draw is its abundance of whale - and dolphin-watching tours. Holidaymakers travel to the bay near Hermanus to get an up-close view of the majestic animals.
You can take the boat tour or simply walk along the coastline in Hermanus to view the dolphins and whales from the shore.
Additionally, beaches in Hermanus are a perennial favourite with beach enthusiasts, especially those opting for something different from other crowded South Africa attractions. Some lovely beaches include Voëlklip Beach and the broad Grotto Beach, overlooking Walker Bay.
The scenic view of the calm sea during golden hour. Image by Jean van der Meulenon Pexels
Searching for a spectacular and unblemished beach to sunbathe on? As one of the top South Africa attractions, Plettenberg Bay is a perfect place for your approaching journey. The town has everything you want: exciting outdoor activities, breathtaking scenery, and mouthwatering cuisine.
Just a short drive from Plettenberg Bay is the famous Robberg Nature Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage.
This nature reserve offers stunning landscapes and unique geological history and is also home to various fauna and flora. You can take advantage of the tranquil setting on the peninsula by hiking one of the many trails that wind through the region.
Check out Lookout Beach, Central Beach, and Robberg Beach, three of the bay's most visited sites. Which one you choose to visit will depend on your preferred beach vacation style.
If visiting sunny beaches is not your thing, there are also other notable tourist attractions for you to get up close with wildlife, such as Monkeyland, Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary, Birds of Eden and the Elephant Sanctuary.
Sandy white beaches are one of the primary reasons why tourists flock to Plettenberg Bay every year. Photo by Boris - stock.adobe.com
iSimangaliso Wetland Park
Sounds like a mouthful, isn’t it? FYI, iSimangaliso means "miracle" or "wonder" in Zulu. iSimangaliso Wetland Park is designated as UNESCO World Heritage.
Located between the Indian Ocean and a series of lakes, this destination encompasses some famous South Africa attractions, including Hluhluwe Game Reserve, Umkhuze Game Reserve, Crocodile Farm and Lake St Lucia.
When you visit South Africa, you don’t want to miss this park's wide range of stunning landscapes. No two places are alike, from unblemished beaches, offshore reefs, and coastal forests to lakes, wetlands and woodlands.
Wildlife drives, kayak safaris, and cruise-guided tours are all enjoyable ways to spend the day. And once you're there, specifically on a St. Lucia Estuary trip, you'll be treated to sightings of incredible species in their natural habitat.
Fun fact: Did you know that iSimangaliso Wetland Park is South Africa's first UNESCO World Heritage Site? Photo by Roger de la Harpe - stock.adobe.com
Kruger National Park
South Africa is home to dozens of national parks and countless more, yet Kruger National Park is a real standout. Being one of the largest National Parks in the country, this South Africa tourist place is proudly listed as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
There are a few must-see landmarks for history buffs among the holiday destinations in South Africa. Travellers may learn about the park's fascinating historical background at the Albasini Ruins.
Alternatively, enjoying great cultural significance at the nearby Masorini Ruins is also a great idea. Surrounded by impressive stone walls, the attraction once was where Portuguese colonists and Ba-Phalaborwa ethnic groups conducted trading.
Also, you should not miss out on the Letaba Elephant Museum - the only museum in the nation devoted to elephants. While visiting here, you will see a whole skeleton and a heart model from a real elephant.
Guided bush walks, mountain biking, game drives, wilderness trails, and 4x4 eco trails are some must-have experiences in this mighty national park to enjoy Africa's great wilderness.
If you’re unsure where to start, you can book a guided tour to save some time planning your visit there and enjoy the trip to the fullest. Kruger is one of the best South Africa tourist places to see the wildlife habitats and biodiversity.
Kruger National Park is where you want to go if exploring wildlife and crude landscape is your priority. Photo by Entropy1963 on Wikimedia Commons
The Garden Route is the next stop on the exciting journey to visit South Africa. Locals and international travellers favour it as an ideal destination for road trips.
Stretching approximately 200 km (124 miles) long, it offers a variety of hotspots for South African tourists. These include Storms River, Tsitsikamma National Park, Victoria Bay and more.
From dense forests and serene lakes to slivers of gleaming white-sand beaches, a Garden Route tour guarantees an adventure worth every penny.
Moreover, a trip to the village of Wilderness will sear itself in your memory with all its stunning rivers, lagoons, lakes, beaches, forests and mountains. Imagine yourself driving along the canyon’s edge and stopping at certain viewpoints gazing in awe and wonderment. A one-of-a-kind experience, isn’t it?
You can also enhance your experience on the Garden Route by partaking in outdoor activities such as hiking, surfing, and canoeing. After that, you'll want to take some time to relax and enjoy some fresh country cuisine at the Timberlake Organic Village.
Beautiful clouds reflected on a lake near the Garden Route. Image by Lex Faure on Unsplash.
Blyde River Canyon
Blyde River Canyon, the third-largest canyon in the world, is among the most famous places in South Africa in its own right. Centred around the Blyde River Canyon is the scenic Panorama Route, a renowned road connecting several cultural and natural points of interest.
For fresh mountain scenery and panoramic views, visit the northern areas, such as the Pinnacle, God’s Window and Wonder View. In addition to the stunning natural beauty, this 25,000-ha reserve also offers an abundance of unusual flora and fauna affected by the extreme climate.
Not to be missed is the famous geological phenomenon Bourke’s Luck Potholes. It is the converging point of the Blyde River (river of joy) and the Treur River (river of sorrow).
The two rivers plunge into each other, creating a one-of-a-kind natural phenomenon: cylindrical potholes on the sandstone bedrock formed from thousands of years of water swirling.
Looking for a fun experience? Put on your hiking gear and head to the Hippo Trail, the Blyderivierspoort Hiking Trail, or try out the helicopter flight over Blyde River Canyon.
The sun shining through the trees in the Blyde River Canyon rainforest. Image by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash.
If you’re looking for something a bit off the beaten track, the World Heritage-listed Drakensberg Region is the perfect place. Majestic, stunning and mysterious. Those are the words often used to talk about this region. Truly the South Africa attraction you have to visit at least once.
As the name Drakensberg is Afrikaans for "Dragon Mountains", this region covers various ranges of beautiful mountains and foothills worth visiting. What’s more, the place is the tallest mountain range in all of Southern Africa.
Just a few hour's drive from Durban is the peaceful scenery of Drakensberg. There are incredible peaks, countless waterfalls, mountain streams and rock pools.
Additionally, you won't have to worry about finding excellent accommodations or eateries in Drakensberg, as this region has plenty of them. Champagne Sports Resort, situated in the picturesque Champagne Valley in Central Drakensberg, is a great option.
For those who like the mountains and wilderness, head to Bushman's Nek or the aha Alpine Heath Resort, which offers "Alpine Village"-style accommodations in the form of cabins.
Spend a couple of days in the Drakensberg and get involved in enjoyable outdoor activities such as hiking, golfing or simply enjoying the atmosphere while wandering around.
Visit the tranquil Southern Drakensberg by climbing to one of its summits. Image by Arthur Hickinbotham on Unsplash.
Your next must-see destination in South Africa is the beautiful city of Arniston. Once a fishing community, Arniston has become an unmissable choice for anyone seeking photography spots and unique rich history. It’s the hidden gem of unspoiled South Africa attraction.
Spend a couple of days in this small coastal town of Arniston and witness its immense biodiversity. One popular attraction for tourists here is the World-heritage-listed Kassiesbaai.
Situated on the outskirts of Arniston, Kassiesbaai is a little fishing village on the outskirts of Arniston. It welcomes all South Africa tourists with an immediate feeling of familiarity and comfort.
During your tour in this picturesque little village, you can have a good time climbing to the top of L’Agulhas Lighthouse for an expansive ocean view, paddling along the curving coastline of Cape Agulhas, or hiking through the unspoilt De Mond Nature Reserve.
With its unspoiled lime-washed thatched houses, the Arniston region is the perfect place for history buffs and adventurous travellers. Whale-watching, snorkelling, caving, and fishing are all the must-dos when exploring this South Africa’s premier beach destination.
Aerial photography of a stunning tropical beach with turquoise water and white concrete fisherman's shacks in the distance. Image by Jean van der Meulen on Pexels
Fill your days in Cape Peninsula by paddling around the spectacular Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point or visiting the 12 Apostles mountain range. It is home to the most beautiful national parks in South Africa, where tourists can enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and breathtaking scenery. If you haven’t visited Cape Peninsula, you haven’t experienced what an authentic South Africa attraction is like at all.
Book a guided tour of the Cape Peninsula region, and you may get a sense of what it's like to be a true South African. Image by Mikell Darling on Unsplash
Another highlight to add to your South Africa bucket list is Groot Constantia, a perfect place for wine lovers. With its status as the oldest wine estate in South Africa, Groot Constantia is famous for delivering some of the most exceptional-quality wines in the world.
Also, head down to Simon’s Town to enjoy the pristine beaches, especially Boulders Beach and Foxy Beach, where you will be amazed to find many penguin residents. For the best time here, we recommend going in late autumn or early spring to avoid the cold weather.
If you want to see more spectacles in the Africa continent, we recommend booking a trip to the most famous places in Egypt. Another great choice is exploring Morocco, a site closer to most people (a 3 hours flight from the UK).
Bordered by the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape is one of the amazing holiday destinations in South Africa. The Eastern Cape's stunning coastline is the primary draw for holidaymakers, featuring miles of gorgeous beaches, tranquil lagoons, and rocky coves and cliffs.
Natural beauty aside, the Eastern Cape is also renowned for its long stretches of the coastal path along the sandy beaches, spanning over 800 km (about 490 miles). Some of the best beaches here include Nahoon Beach, Paradise Beach, and Sardinia Bay Beach.
A day or two at Wild Coast, stretching along the Eastern Cape’s northern coastline, is time well spent for any visitor. Book a professionally guided tour there, and you will get the chance to spot an untamed wilderness. Other highlights include Shamwari Private Game Reserve, Valley of Desolation, Coffee Bay, and Nelson Mandela Bay.
Looking for a shot of adrenaline for your journey? Some of Eastern Cape's most exciting activities include abseiling, adventure biking, sand sledging, beach horse rides, kite surfing and a few more.
A couple of days in the Wild Coast is time well spent. Image by Joshua Gaunt on Unsplash
A vacation to South Africa will imprint awe-inspiring memories on your mind as you bear witness to its splendour. During your stay, South Africa tourists can see some of the world's most breathtaking scenery and cultural heritage in this beautiful land.
There is also a wide range of exciting activities for tourists to try their hand at, like relaxing on the sands of a golden beach, exploring a national park, hiking along a nature trail, or pedalling along the coastline.
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