Updated on: 6 August, 2021
South Africa is such a beautiful, diverse and culturally rich country like no other on earth. There are countless South Africa sights, landscapes and places to discover. So that you get a better overview of the highlights of the country, we have put together a list of the best South Africa sights for you.
1. CAPE TOWN – “THE MOTHER OF CITIES”
The first destination on our list of South Africa sights is Cape Town, the lively and colorful city by the sea, which has been world-famous since the 2010 Soccer World Cup at the latest. Located between the thundering waves of the sea and the steep slopes of Table Mountain, every visit to Cape Town is an adventure.
THE BEST VIEW OVER CAPE TOWN
To get an overview of the city, we recommend climbing the 1,085 meter high symbol of the city, Table Mountain. From here you have a great view that extends far beyond the city.
And when we talk about hikes: a climb to “ Lions Head” , Cape Town’s second city mountain, is definitely worth it. On a clear day you can look from here to Robben Island and enjoy a second time a wonderful view over the city.
If the two mountains are too touristy for you, then rather hike to Signal Hill instead . Very popular with the locals, this 350 meter high mountain is a romantic destination, especially at sunset. From here you can watch the sun sink fiery red into the ocean every evening. In addition, the paragliders start their flight over the city here.
And if you want a view like the one in our photo , you can’t avoid a unique helicopter flight . There is hardly any other place where such a sightseeing flight is more worthwhile than here, right?
COLORFUL, MORE COLORFUL, BO-KAAP
Of course, there are also countless South Africa attractions to discover in Cape Town. The Bo-Kaap district is particularly charming and photogenic, with brightly colored houses nestling against the steep mountain wall.
The architecture here, like the residents, is a colorful mix of international influences and on a walking tour through the district you will learn a lot about the history of Cape Town and South Africa.
THE NIGHT LIFE IN CAPE TOWN
If you are thirsty for a delicious cocktail after a long day of discovery in Cape Town, you should head to Longstreet . Here you will find a chic bar, a noisy dancehall club and a posh restaurant, and it will be difficult for you to make up your mind.
KIRSTENBOSCH BOTANICAL GARDENS – TOP SOUTH AFRICA ATTRACTIONS
You can relax from the hustle and bustle of the city in the Kirstenbosch Gardens, Cape Town’s botanical garden and one of the most beautiful in the world. The flora native to South Africa has been presented here since 1913 and there is probably no more beautiful place in Cape Town for a walk in the country.
Of course, there is a lot more to discover in Cape Town, from quaint markets to cute cafes and hidden shops to art galleries and museums. Cape Town is truly a city for explorers.
2. A TRIP TO THE CAPE PENINSULA
We leave Cape Town towards the southwest and reach our next South Africa highlight for you, the Cape Peninsula. This headland, which protrudes 35 kilometers into the ocean and at first glance seems a bit barren, has an incredible amount to offer. She definitely has some South Africa attractions ready for you.
THE VIEW FROM CAPE POINT
You have a wonderful view of the whole thing from Cape Point, the highest point of which you can reach after about 20 minutes of walking from the parking lot. You can also go for a hike on the Lighthouse Keepers Trail.
We could have spent hours here just watching the birds doing their daring maneuvers along the cliffs and hearing the sea roar at the foot of the cliffs. A priceless experience!
THE CAPE OF GOOD HOPE
An absolute must-see for you on Cape Island is of course the Cape of Good Hope, the most south-westerly point of Africa. And that certainly includes the obligatory photo on the well-known sign.
It used to be the place where the seafarers and explorers drove from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean and also a dreaded and mystical reef. The rocks of the steep coast extend hundreds of meters into the sea even under the water.
THE SOUTHERNMOST POINT OF AFRICA
The Cape of Good Hope is rough, playful and beautiful at the same time. If you want, you can also take a great photo here with the equator monument, one of the most photographed places in the whole country. However, you will probably have to stand in line to do this. I thought it was pretty ridiculous but Martin didn’t give up and so we took such a photo.
A DRIVE ON CHAPMAN’S PEAK DRIVE – SOUTH AFRICA SIGHTS
If you are going on your trip with a rental car, then you should definitely drive down Chapman’s Peak Drive. After all, it is one of the most beautiful coastal roads in the whole world!
It’s best to do the tour at sunset. Find out here in advance whether the road is open. Due to its exposed location, it is often closed in bad weather. You have to pay a toll to use it, the different tariffs can also be found on the website.
From Chapman’s Peak Drive you can then go directly to Cape Point Vineyards . Here you can try your way through the rich wine landscape of South Africa, taste delicious food and experience a magnificent sunset.
PENGUINS ON BOULDERS BEACH
During your visit, you should definitely not miss Boulders Beach with its penguin colony. However, you should come here really early because it gets crowded. And how some people behave here is really questionable. Be respectful to the penguins and keep your distance!
The granite rocks here, the “boulders” are reminiscent of those from the Seychelles and are definitely a South Africa attraction!
THE GROOT CONSTANTIA WINERY
It definitely belongs on your list of South Africa sights! It is a picturesque winery with a museum and tasting room, incidentally even the oldest in South Africa. You can take your lunch break here and try a delicious local dish on the terrace.
3. THE WINELANDS NEAR CAPE TOWN
For the next destination on our list of South Africa attractions, we are now moving from Cape Town to the northeast, into the inland Winelands. As the name suggests, everything here revolves around the grapes. The region is really picturesque – dotted with some centuries-old wineries in a great landscape.
PAARL – A CITY STEEPED IN HISTORY
The town of Paarl at the foot of the 700 meter high Paarl Mountain is particularly beautiful. A little more than 110,000 people live here and the city is full of history. The city is considered the cradle of the South African language, Afrikaans, and the famous human rights activist and father of the nation, Nelson Mandela, had to spend his last years in prison here.
STELLENBOSCH, THE SECOND OLDEST CITY IN SOUTH AFRICA
If you’re looking for some colorful nightlife in the Winelands region, head to Stellenbosch. This university city is bursting with youthful energy and there are tons of trendy bars and cafes.
It’s hard to believe that this is the second oldest city in South Africa. Along the main street Dorp Street you will find numerous well-preserved buildings from the last centuries.
4. ROAD TRIP ALONG THE GARDEN ROUTE – TOP SOUTH AFRICA ATTRACTIONS
The Garden Route, our next travel tip for you in South Africa, is perfect for a road trip. It leads through beautiful nature, past rough coasts, picturesque sandy beaches and the deep blue sea. The route is around 800 kilometers long and is full of sights and surprises.
WHALE WATCHING IN HERMANUS
Our first recommendation here for you is Hermanus Bay , about 3 hours from Cape Town. This bay has been named one of the best whale watching spots in the world by UNESCO.
You just have to be here at the right time of year to see one of the giant marine mammals. From July to October you can even watch the whales from the mainland. Unfortunately, we were unlucky on our visit – the whales had moved on two days earlier.
HIKING IN THE TSITSIKAMMA NATIONAL PARK
Another must see along the Garden Route is the Tsitsikamma National Park. Hikers and nature lovers in particular get their money’s worth here.
There is not only breathtaking nature to see here, but also hundreds of kilometers of hiking trails of various degrees of difficulty.
And if you don’t feel like hiking, you can discover the region by kayak.
PLETTENBERG BAY AND THE ROBBERG NATURE RESERVE – SOUTH AFRICA LANDMARKS
If we now follow the Garden Route a little further, we come to Plettenberg Bay and the Robberg Nature Reserve. This bathing bay is protected from the waves by a peninsula protruding about 3.5 kilometers into the sea and offers the perfect opportunity to cool off in the sea.
The fur seals, who colonize the Robberg Nature Reserve on the protected side, also use this protection. You can see them very well from a vantage point about 100 meters away.
THRILL AT BLOUKRANS BRIDGE
About 40 kilometers east of Plettenberg Bay you pass the Bloukrans Bridge over the river of the same name. The bridge construction is imposing and a popular photo motif. And for all adrenaline junkies: Here you can plunge 216 meters into the depths while bungee jumping!
PICTURESQUE SEASIDE TOWN OF KNYSNA
Soon afterwards you will reach the picturesque coastal town of Knysna, which may not offer world-famous sights, but all the more charm and style. A stroll along the harbor promenade at sunset is particularly romantic.
Not far from Knysna is the Goukamma Nature Reserve, an impressive dune and beach landscape where you can discover tidal pools, mussels and sea birds.
5. SAFARI IN THE KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
The Kruger National Park is one of the largest nature reserves in South Africa and one of the most popular South African highlights . It is located in the very north-east of the country, on the border with Zimbabwe. In the Kruger National Park you have the unique chance to experience the wildlife of Africa up close.
Almost 50 species of mammals live in the nature reserve, including the famous “Big Five” of the African wilderness – elephants, rhinos, buffalo, lions and leopards, as well as over 500 species of birds and 120 reptile species.
Within the park there are various hotels, camps and lodges where you can stay overnight. You also have different options to explore the park and its inhabitants:
SELFDRIVING SAFARI IN THE KRUGER NATIONAL PARK – SOUTH AFRICA HIGHLIGHT!
For example, you can go on a self driving safari, where you sit behind the wheel and discover nature. This is a little cheaper than the other safaris, but you will be distracted from the road and not be able to enjoy the wildlife around you that much.
It is also not that easy to spot the animals and you will be pretty exhausted in the evening! Even the huge elephants are well camouflaged in the bush. So it happened to us that we first drove past an elephant bull that was literally standing on the side of the road!
But it’s also an incredible feeling when you suddenly see two giant rhinos grazing all by yourself.
Our tip: You will always find up-to-date notices of the last animal sightings at the rest areas and camping sites. You can use this as a guide on your safari.
And very important! Do not get out of the car under any circumstances, never and never !!! Even if it seems harmless and peaceful – you are in the middle of wild animals! Disembarking is only permitted at the rest areas and camping sites.
GUIDED SAFARI IN THE KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
The second option is that you go on a guided safari in a jeep. Here you will be driven through the park by an experienced driver and guide.
The guides know the national park like the back of their hand and can lead you to the animals with confidence. On top of that there is exciting information about the animals and their habitat.
WALKING SAFARI IN THE KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
If you would like to be active yourself during the safari, you can also book a walking safari. Two guides with rather large rifles accompany a small group on foot through the national park for several days.
So you really get close to nature! For us, the Nyalaland Trail in the far north was really an absolute South Africa highlight. We were lucky that our group only consisted of four people plus guides. Our permanent camp was beautifully on a river, at night we heard lions and hyenas roar.
Really an unforgettable experience! So that you can enjoy such a tour, you should book in advance with Sanparks!
6. BLYDE RIVER CANYON AND THE PANORAMA ROUTE
The Blyde River Canyon and the Panorama Route are among the most beautiful destinations in all of South Africa. They are also very popular with the local population looking for a vacation in the countryside.
Living up to its name, you can enjoy great views from the Panorama Route to the edge of the Kruger National Park. The most beautiful section of the route leads through the area of the Blyde River Canyon.
Several highlights await you here on a short distance: For example the Gods Window, from which you have a magnificent view of the Lowveld, as well as the rushing Berlin Falls, plunging 90 meters below the ground.
The Blyde River Canyon itself begins at Bourke’s Luck Pottholes , an impressive rock formation near the town of Graskop. The end of the canyon is at the three rondavels , also called the three sisters. These mountain formations are a popular sight in South Africa because of their distinctive shape.
You should plan a little more time for the Panorama Route, because there is something new to discover around every corner and countless vantage points that invite you to linger.
7. MIDLANDS PANORAMA ROUTE
The Panorama Route Midlands joins the Panorama Route through the Drakensberg and its foothills. The mountains that await you here now have a height of up to 1,000 meters and so the climate is also a little milder.
The landscape is still shaped by the mountains, but glows in a lush green and is criss-crossed by rivers and watercourses. The Natal Midlands are a popular destination for the residents of the city of Johannesburg, which is only 4 hours away, to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
One of the most beautiful places in the entire region can be found at Howick Falls, a 100 meter high waterfall near the small town of the same name. A little further, on the Lions River, you can also find the Mandela Monument.
It stands at the place where the iconic freedom fighter was arrested in 1962. Here you will also find a small exhibition about him and his life.
8. HIKING IN THE DRAKENSBERG
The next stop on our list of South Africa highlights are the Drakensberg, or in German: Dragon Mountains. This mountain range, up to 3,400 meters high, is located in eastern South Africa on the border with Lesotho. It is littered with imposing mountain walls, rushing waterfalls, blooming mountain meadows and exotic birds. The Drakensberg are definitely one of our top South Africa highlights!
The Drakensberg are a very popular tourist destination and the Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You get to know the region particularly well on a hike, for example on the Tugela Gorge Trail , which takes you 7 kilometers into the picturesque mountain landscape. You only have to overcome a few meters of altitude, which is an advantage in the sometimes very hot temperatures.
Another hiking trail that we recommend is the Sphinx Trail. You can even travel on it for several days if you want.
A very special highlight of the Drakensberg is the so-called amphitheater, an arched, almost 3,000 meter high mountain flank, from the top of which you have an incredible view.
Last but not least, you should n’t miss a visit to the Monks Cowl Nature Reserve in the Drakensberg. Here you will find untouched nature, raging waterfalls and lots of tourist-free hiking trails.
9. A VISIT TO THE TOWN OF SWELLENDAM
Our last South Africa travel tip for you is the region around the city of Swellendam. Almost 20,000 people live in the tranquil village itself and it is surrounded by wonderful nature with imposing mountains. In the town itself you can feast and relax wonderfully.
In the immediate vicinity you will also find the Bontebok National Park . This was founded to protect the Bontebok Gazelle, which only lives here. The Marloth nature reserve is also located here and you can end your South Africa trip with a hike through the picturesque green of the region.
GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE DESTINATION SOUTH AFRICA
As the name suggests, South Africa is located in the very south of the continent. You fly about 12 hours from Germany and have to set your watch forward one hour after landing. It’s really nice that you don’t have to fight jet lag despite the long journey.
South Africa is the most developed country in Africa and home to almost 57 million people. The country’s seat of government is in Pretoria , but the cultural and economic capital is Johannesburg. Since English is an official language alongside Afrikaans, you shouldn’t have any problems communicating.
Some South Africans have a heavy accent, but most of them are very helpful and hospitable and will help you if you have any problems. The currency in South Africa is the so-called South African Rand.
The infrastructure and security, especially in places frequented by tourists, is similar to what you know from Germany. Outside of these locations, however, the standard is not always maintained and extreme caution or even discouragement is required from visiting the suburbs and back streets of large cities.
After dark, it’s generally better to take a taxi. Please also always make sure that there is left-hand traffic in South Africa. If you are traveling with a rental car, it is better not to drive after dark. There are too many people and animals on the streets.
BEST TRAVEL TIME FOR SOUTH AFRICA
The climate that prevails here is as diverse and varied as South Africa itself. The country at the southern tip of Africa has everything to offer, from a pleasant Mediterranean climate to a desert climate and subtropical conditions.
The former predominates in the region around Cape Town. Since South Africa is located in the southern hemisphere, the seasons here are exactly the opposite of ours and so the best time to travel to Cape Town is from December to February, for example .
For a trip on the Garden Route, it is best to plan your vacation between October and February , as it can get very hot here in summer. Perfect for cooling off on a hidden beach or sheltered cove.
If you come to South Africa for a safari in the Kruger National Park, you should try to plan your trip in the months from June to October , when it is winter in South Africa. Then it is dry season in the reserves and you have a good chance of seeing more animals, for example at the watering holes.
ON SITE: THE MEANS OF TRANSPORT IN SOUTH AFRICA
There are many ways you can explore South Africa. The most individual way is certainly with a rental car. You have unlimited freedom to go to the places that interest you, make stops when you want and discover everything on your own.
To be able to drive a car in South Africa, you have to have an international driver’s license issued in Germany. Please note that the road network is not as well maintained everywhere as in Europe and, especially at dusk, often larger animals cross the road.
You don’t have to worry about such things when you are traveling by coach. In the case of organized trips, the organizers have already picked out all the highlights for you and all you have to do is sit back and enjoy South Africa.
This works particularly well with the bazbus, a hop-on-hop-off bus that is specially tailored to backpackers.
ANNUAL EVENTS IN SOUTH AFRICA
These include, for example, the Coon Festival, which takes place every January in Cape Town. At this street carnival there are parades, concerts, dancing and delicious food and it is a great way to experience the joy of life of the Cape Town people.
On the last weekend in March, Durban hosts the great harbor festival, which is celebrated with barbecues on the beach, dancing and singing.
You can also experience a special highlight every year in October in Pretoria at the Jacaranda Festival . Then the city shines in the soft purple of the thousands and thousands of Jacaranda trees and the streets are celebrated with music and markets.