Top 21 Sights in South Africa: Highlights & Interesting Places (Plus Insider Tips)

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Updated on: 6 August, 2021

After eight trips to South Africa, I’ve seen almost the whole country. I’m a big fan of one of the most diverse countries in the world. That’s why I’ve written down the most beautiful places for you with insider tips that not everyone knows.

South Africa offers something for everyone:

  • Exciting and varied landscapes
  • Emerging cities
  • Interesting cultures
  • Fascinating animals
  • and extremely friendly people.

Deciding on the top sights in South Africa is difficult. The highlights, experiences and, above all, encounters are too different. Of course, there are also downsides, which for me are often white lodge owners in national parks or private animal reserves who behave impossibly.

The many corrugated iron huts in townships, which are still numerous, put many off. But I feel at home right here. For me, the people are some of the friendliest in the country. No matter how difficult your life is. You can find out more about this in the articles for Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Here are 21 reasons to travel to South Africa. A list of the places and travel destinations that particularly inspired and touched me.

Table of Contents (Jump Links)

  1. Cape Town (with all the contrasts)
  2. Cape Peninsula in one day
  3. Kruger National Park
  4. Garden Route
  5. See the starry sky in Sutherland (Karoo)
  6. Johannesburg
  7. Soweto
  8. Tsitsikamma National Park
  9. Robberg Nature Reserve
  10. Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Reserve
  11. Blyde River Canyon and Panorama Route
  12. Wine region and Stellenbosch
  13. Robben Island
  14. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
  15. Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve
  16. Augrabies Falls National Park
  17. Namaqualand
  18. Addo Elephant Park
  19. Durban
  20. Upington
  21. West Coast National Park
  22. FAQ: Frequently asked questions

1. Cape Town (with all the contrasts)

For me, Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world . I’ve been here six times. The location by the sea with Table Mountain is unique. This sight makes me long for a city in which I always feel very comfortable.

You have to do this:

  • Climb Table Mountain and enjoy the view while “abseiling”
  • Visit Robben Island, the former prison island
  • Go on a jazz safari and eat at home with the musicians at a jazz session
  • Visit the Bo-Kaap Carnival in January

2. Cape Peninsula in one day

Where is South Africa more beautiful than around the Cape Peninsula ? Cape of Good Hope , Simons Town (Boulder Beach) with the waddling penguins or the markets in Hout Bay or Noordhoek . The colorful beach huts in Muizenberg or the beautiful Chapmans Peak Drive . Dreamlike and never boring.

The penguins at Boulders Beach (Simons Town) are one of the most popular sights in South Africa
Chapman’s Peak Drive is a highlight in itself

3. Kruger National Park

Probably the most famous national park in the world is called Kruger National Park . I have visited this fascinating national park and its animal inhabitants several times.

In adjacent private animal reserves or in the official part with safaris on your own . Both are good, but best of all is walking in the bush . I love this nature.

Great private game reserves that I have visited and border the Kruger Park: Klaserie ,Timbavati ,Pridelands ,Karongwe ,Selati and Sabi Sands (Sabi Sabi) . All in a fantastic location and ideal for animal sightings.

Game drive with a ranger and an elevated seat. 
Perfect for sighting animals. 
The most popular activity in South Africa.

4. Garden Route

A first visit to South Africa brings many visitors from Cape Town along the Garden Route to Port Elizabeth and the Addo Elephant Park.

This route is one of the most beautiful in the world. I call this corner of the country “South Africa light ”. Ideal for beginners who are afraid of the African continent.

5.See the starry sky in Sutherland (Karoo)

Sutherland is the coldest place in South Africa where you can see the starry sky so wonderfully   . Also the location of the SALT (South African Large Telescope) – that is really impressive.

The coldest place in the Karoo is really cold. Especially in winter (July – August) when the night skies are clearest. We missed snow by a day. In return, we had a thick layer of ice on our car every morning.

Sutherland is ideal and particularly popular with astronomers and people who, like us, are in the mood for stars, the Milky Way and planets.

Tip: really pack winter clothes, with us it was temperatures below zero!

6. Johannesburg

The east of South Africa offers an incredible variety. The starting point for this is Johannesburg, affectionately known as Jozi. Often avoided by tourists. I love the city and stay here for at least 1-2 days. The hipster district of Maboneng and the Apartheid Museum are especially worth a visit.

Of course also the Neighbourgood Market, if you haven’t visited Cape Town yet. Everyone feels good here!

Did you know that most people think Johannesburg or Cape Town is the capital of South Africa ? Not correct. The capital is Pretoria , north of Johannesburg. I haven’t made it there either. After visiting Johannesburg, I am drawn to the national parks to see the animals and nature.

7. Soweto

 When I travel, I don’t just want to see the “luscious” and pretty corners, I also want to get to know the people and their culture better. Nowhere does it get better than here in Soweto! So uth We stern T ownship of Johannesburg.

Dare to go to Soweto and you will not regret it. Stay overnight at Soweto Backpackers and take a bike tour. Book a tour with Zandile, a local who grew up here.

With her we visit a healer (crazy) and various places where people celebrate, eat and have fun. We really enjoyed it and went to a township pub at the end of the day!

Above all , being able to explore Kliptown with one of her friends. The poorest really live here. Nevertheless, there are also richer people living in this quarter. There is a residential area where Winnie Mandela also lives. Poverty and wealth are very close together here.

8. Tsitsikamma National Park

The Tsitsikamma National Park is located in the heart of the Garden Route. For me, this national park is one of the most beautiful places on the southern cape.

The park has 80 km of rocky coastline with spectacular seaside landscapes, a mountainous region with secluded valleys and fynbos, large forests with yellowwood trees and deep river canyons that lead to the sea.

9. Robberg Nature Reserve

One of the most beautiful spots on the Garden Route is the Robberg Nature Reserve.

For me, the nature reserve offers the most beautiful hiking route on the Garden Route. If you are lucky, you can see sharks, whales or seals (Cape Fur Seal) in the water. The latter are actually always there. Before you see them you will smell them.

10. Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Reserve

The Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Reserve – in short just Hluhluwe National Park (by the way: Schluschluwie) – proudly claims to have brought the rhino population in South Africa back to growth. Rightly so. Nowhere else have I met so many rhinos on my trips to South Africa.

Encountering rhinos on foot is and remains a minor thrill. Especially when the rhinoceros starts to trot towards you, you stand between it and its family with baby, and there is no tree nearby.

… and it doesn’t turn off. 
The wind was unfavorable for us.

11. Blyde River Canyon and Panorama Route

One of the most beautiful roads in South Africa is the Panorama Route, as the name suggests. Mountains, deserts and rainforests are the program here.

Highlights are the Blyde River Canyon , the Three Rondavels, Bourke’s Luck Potholes and God’s Window. With the latter, on a clear day (rarely) you have a wonderful view of the Lowveld on the edge of the Kruger National Park.

12. Wine region and Stellenbosch

You can find the most beautiful wineries in South Africa in Stellenbosch, Franschoek and Paarl. Many of these wineries have been producing top quality wines of the highest quality since the 17th century. They are among the best in the world. Here at the latest, everyone will become a wine lover!

We have been here three times. I have to mention that nowhere is South Africa “whiter” than here.

Great local farmers’ markets take place especially in summer.

13. Robben Island

The former prison island, on which Nelson Mandela was also imprisoned, is one of the places that you should visit for me. Tickets for this are difficult to obtain. Visiting prison island is too popular. Rightly.

Use the tour, which is currently being done by few remaining inmates.

Due to its ideal location only 12 km from Cape Town’s coast, Robben Island was first turned into a prison island by the Dutch in the 16th century. Below the British, the island became a quarantine station for lepers. An old leprosy cemetery still bears witness to this today.

The prison was declared a national memorial and open-air museum as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.

14. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Do you want to see large herds and lots of cats? The alternative to the Kruger National Park is called the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park on the border with Namibia and Botswana.

Unfortunately, I was only in the park once. Far too short for this wonderful place. Hardly noticed by European tourists, no longer an insider tip in South Africa. So my tip: Take a road trip from Cape Town to the Kgalagadi (pronounced Chalachadi) National Park.

I really like to think about this place of longing and I know for sure that I will come back here again!

15. Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve

The Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve is far from civilization. Just stupid that we have a flat tire right there. The tire is totally tattered, a replacement will only be available days later. Adrenaline while riding the spare bike. We don’t have another one.

You can go on quad rides, hikes or mountain bikes here. Mountain zebra, which have become rare, are not often seen. But here we catch glimpses of it!

Even if the Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve is not a safari destination, a lot of animals live here. We saw only a few of them. Which was certainly also due to the fact that it was winter and cold.

There are among others: Aardvark, Aardwolf, African Wildcat, Jackal, Wildebeest, Zebras, Oryx, Eland, Duiker, Porcupines, Springbok and Ibex. With a lot of luck you can spot a leopard.

16. Augrabies Falls National Park

Another beautiful place is Augrabies Falls National Park on the Northern Cape. Kayaking or rafting on the Orange River near Khamikirri on the border with Namibia is just one of the highlights.

Another is staying in the rest of the camp in the national park. Go on a game drive on your own, and one at night with a ranger. Giraffes, oryx, springbok, kudu and ibex are the animal sightings.

The third attraction is the Augrabies Falls. This is what the national park is actually known for and that is why it is called like the waterfalls. Here the Oranje River has dug deep into the rock and forms a long gorge. During the rainy season (or flooding), the river falls almost 60 meters at a width of 135 m. Wow!

17. Namaqualand

Namaqualand  is special for its  wildflower bloom  . This change in nature, which otherwise looks so dry and barren, is really worth a trip in the South African winter. We have never seen these intensely glowing flower meadows anywhere else.

Ideal travel time for the wildflowers: July – August.

18. Addo Elephant Park

You travel to Cape Town and drive along the Garden Route. But don’t have time for the Kruger National Park? Then is the Addo Elephant Park near Port Elizabeth is ideal for self-drive. You will hardly see as many elephants as there are here anywhere else in South Africa. The number is estimated at more than 600 pachyderms. Ascending trend.

Unfortunately, the (5?) Lions living here are rarely seen. There are also buffalo, warthogs, zebras, ostriches, leopards and many antelopes. Smaller animals like Pill Rollers and Leopard Tortoise (turtle).

More than 600 elephants live in the Addo Elephant Park

19. Durban

The metropolis with a subtropical climate is particularly popular with South African tourists. The Indian influences are particularly noticeable here. “The hottest place to be” – that’s the advertising slogan of the hottest city in South Africa. We had: rain!

20. Upington

Did you know that besides the Winelands around Stellenbosch there is another region for wine and brandy in South Africa? Upington on the Northern Cape is the ideal place for this.

We taste wines and brandy at the Bezalel Estate. Ideally, you combine your visit with the Kalahari Desert and a road trip to the Northern Cape. 

21. West Coast National Park

The Western Cape National Park is just 80 km outside Cape Town. It’s hard to believe that here you sometimes feel like you’re in the Caribbean. The Langebaan Lagoon near Kraalbaai is one of those places.

Route 27 along the west coast takes you along the Atlantic west coast of South Africa. Few tourists, idyllic fishing villages, a grandiose nature with sand dunes and excellent seafood await you here.

Our insider tip for seafood, flamingos and Caribbean flair.

What are your favorite South Africa sights and insider tips?

Leave us a comment at the end of the article. Of course, the Wild Coast and the Drakensberg are among the places that you should visit. For me the time of year was never right for it or I spontaneously went back to the bush to see the animals.

FAQ: Frequently asked questions

The main attractions in South Africa

Cape Town with Table Mountain, Lionshead, Waterfront and Robben Island. Cape of Good Hope and Cape Peninsula with Boulder’s Beach (penguins) & Chapman’s Peak Drive. Johannesburg with Soweto and Apartheid Museum. Kruger National Park and the Big Five. Most beautiful route: Garden Route and Panorama Route with Blyde River Canyon.
Insider tip: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park & ​​Northern Cape and Namaquland flower blossom, West Coast National Park.

How long for the sights in South Africa?

3 weeks are ideal, even better 4 weeks. With 2 weeks you should concentrate on one region. You’re coming back anyway.

Is South Africa Safe?

was already 8 times maintain in South Africa and that South Africa is safe. Note the following tips: Do not leave valuables open in the car, do not wear expensive jewelry, do not walk in certain places in the dark and do not actually drive a car. I feel safe around Cape Town and drive myself in the dark (UBER trips are very cheap, however).

Best travel time for South Africa

You can visit South Africa all year round. In German summer is winter. That means it’s cooler and there are fewer tourists here. What do you want to do? September – November are suitable for whale watching on the Garden Route. The months December to April are ideal for Cape Town and the Garden Route. In August the Northern Cape is beautiful with its wildflower blooms. 

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