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With so much on offer, it may seem daunting to whittle down the top things to do in South Africa to an amount that you can reasonably fit in without exhausting yourself – this is meant to be a holiday after all. But with big-game-stocked national parks galore, a history worth remembering and a major emphasis on outdoor living, one thing's for certain: South Africa will show you a good time.
And what better way to share its myriad offerings with you than from the top of its mightiest peaks? Whether you opt to hike or cable car, in South Africa, “sweeping views” is an understatement. After all, you can’t really say that you’ve been to Cape Town without conquering the most iconic of its shadow-casting summits – Table Mountain, duh.
From Table Mountain’s immense crest (or even Lion’s Head’s pointed peak) Robben Island appears in the distance as a small dot on the map, which of course it is – geographically – but this now-desolate outland has made a big mark on the country’s history. Most known for being one of the locations in which Nelson Mandela was imprisoned during his 27 years of incarceration, a trip here will help you truly get your head around South Africa’s devastating past.
Just a hop, skip and a jump away from the Mother City’s abundant attractions, you’ll stumble across the sumptuous rolls of the Winelands’ impossibly pretty valleys. Punctuated by charming wine estates and backdropped by the Cape’s dramatic mountains, vineyard hopping – via tram, transfer or bike – is something that you’ll never forget (no matter how many glasses of wine you’ve had).
A safari is at the top of all discerning travellers bucket-lists. Nothing quite matches the thrill of seeing lion cubs playfully clambering upon one another in the long grass, or an elephant herd stopping to appease their thirst at a watering hole. Whether you go for the big name and take in Kruger’s wild expanse, or make a quick stop in one of the Eastern Cape’s private reserves, tracking down the Big Five is guaranteed to be an experience that you won’t forget in a hurry.
Then there’s the beaches. Whether you join the bronzed bodies that frequent Camps Bay and Clifton, or head to pretty Plettenberg to play, it quickly becomes apparent that South Africa’s coastline is just as dreamy as it is dramatic. But the adrenaline factor is never far away – get out into the waters that lap up on Hermanus’ shores and you’ll be treated to some of the world’s best whale watching and shark cage diving opportunities. But this handful of attractions doesn’t even make a dent in all that South Africa has to offer. Take a look below to see what else you could be getting up to on your tailor-made adventure.
Ensure you don’t miss a thing by using our itinerary builder. First, choose your base itinerary so the most important sites are on the map (don’t worry if a destination is missing at this point – you can add it later). Then simply tailor your holiday to your exact requirements.
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Backdropped by the impressive 12 Apostles mountain formation and hugged by the surging Atlantic Ocean, its sands are a favourite amongst Cape Town’s locals – as well as being regularly voted as one of the world’s best. Oh yes, this is a city that knows how to please its sun-worshipers.Discover more
A jagged outcrop cuts into the foaming Atlantic. With its sheer cliff faces, surging sea, and incredible array of flora and fauna, journeying along the Cape Peninsula, towards the famed Cape of Good Hope, is – quite undeniably – a drive of a lifetime.Discover more
For anyone who’s anyone, Clifton is the place to be. South Africa’s most expensive suburb, this stretch of coastline is home to four of Cape Town’s most popular white-sand beaches named First, Second, Third and Fourth – and each have their own distinct fan group.Discover more
Perfectly manicured gardens meet dense forests and unruly stretches of the peninsula’s renowned fynbos, all at the foot of Cape Town’s show-stealing landmark, Table Mountain.Discover more
Protected by Table Mountain National Park, Lion’s Head is the hottest spot in town when it comes to catching that soft light of the rising sun. Stifling yawns, make the 669 m climb at dawn for the most rewarding views – ask any travel blogger and they’ll talk for hours about the magic of witnessing “golden hour”.Discover more
The island has over 500 years worth of stories to tell – get comfy because Robben Island is a journey into South Africa’s history.Discover more
Compared to grand designs of Cathedrals that can be found across Europe, St George’s may seem fairly modest, but it is hugely symbolic of the country’s turbulent past.Discover more
Much like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, or Mount Corcovado in Brazil, the giant horizontal crest of this UNESCO World Heritage Site dominates the city’s skyline. But it’s not just the views of the city bowl that make Table Mountain worth the conquest – this is a natural wonder worth beholding in itself. Literally.Discover more
Forget the practicalities, this hub is where the people of Cape Town congregate to eat, drink and be merry – by which we mean shop, obviously. If ever there was a place to release your inner hedonist, this is it.Discover more
When caught up in the holiday gaiety of Cape Town’s incredible natural beauty and cosmopolitan urban delights, the city’s dark history is easily forgotten.Discover more
Dreamy sands and calm waters flanked by ocean-smoothed boulders. “How could the scene be any more idyllic?”, we hear you ask.Discover more
Whether red, white, pink or sparkling is your go-to tipple, the vineyards that carpet Stellenbosch will be sure to satisfy every one of your wine related needs – all for a price so good that the bill will have you doing double-take.Discover more
Lying between the big tourist towns of Stellenbosch and Hermanus, Clarence Drive makes for the most idyllic way to travel from one destination to the other. And with numerous lay-bys, lookout points and pretty villages dotted along the way, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to views.Discover more
With its rolling topography, ocean-battered coast and incredible array of flora and fauna, this route is undoubtedly amongst the crème de la crème of the world’s greatest road trips.Discover more
Fed up of the human monkey business that has led to so many primates’ native environments being destroyed around the world, Monkeyland is a self-proclaimed haven for monkeys in need of protection.Discover more
Combining rugged coastal scenery with a lush forest and mile-upon-mile of unruly, fynbos carpeted land, Tsitsikamma is any nature-lovers dream.Discover more
The bridge is undoubtedly a sight to behold and one that many want to get a picture of just as much as the falls themselves. But crossing it is where things get really magic.Discover more
The world’s biggest waterfall may be the biggest draw here, but you can guarantee that holidaymakers will snap away at the Zambezi too – the river’s choppy, croc infested waters, flanked by the craggy gorge that makes the natural border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, definitely call out to be photographed in their own right.Discover more
Cloaked in elusivity, spotting a great white in the wild makes for a story to tell for years to come. And here, off of the shark-infested shores of South Africa, you’re in the best place in the world to find them.Discover more
Whales are the main event here, and namely the southern right. But much like its lands, South Africa’s waters are teeming with wildlife, so you’re guaranteed some form of sighting whatever the weather.Discover more
Swartberg Pass is considered to be one of the most spectacular of its kind in the whole world, so you’re in for a treat – and of course some fantastic views – with this one.Discover more
There’s something decisively inaccessible and elusive about caves. They evoke an image of stalagmites and stalactites – nope, we don’t know the difference either – echoing caverns, claustrophobia inducing spaces and a whole lot of eerie darkness. But the beauty of the underground world isn’t limited to the crazy cavers who deem navigating excruciatingly tight spaces to be a thrilling sport.Discover more
Unlike in the national parks, a private game reserve offers up an opportunity to witness wildlife in their indigenous habitat without the crowds backdropped by an endless wilderness.Discover more
So you’ve heard of the Big Five, that’s old news, but what about the Big Seven? Yep, there really is such a thing. And Addo Elephant National Park, despite the limitation that its name may suggest, has it all. Elephant, lion, rhino, leopard, buffalo, southern right whale and great white shark – your bucket-list just got seven ticks.Discover more
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