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Where to go in South Africa – Planning your South Africa itinerary

The decision was tough but you’ve gone for South Africa, it’s always been high on both of your bucket-lists and there’s no time like the present to tick this beauty off. Now, it’s just the question of where to visit once you’re there that remains. And we won’t pretend that there’s an easy answer to that one. With its pockets of urban cool, endless stretches of dramatic coastline and an interior punctuated by regions that are populated with more wildlife than people – whether you choose to jet from the Cape to Kruger or drive the picturesque Garden Route, you won’t be short on options. 

When first-time visitors ask “where to go in South Africa”, the Western Cape reaches out with its alluring, white-sand-skirted arm to welcome them into the Mother City’s warm embrace. Flanked by the iconic Table Mountain and the glittering cobalt waters of the icy Atlantic, Cape Town’s cosmopolitan campaign to be your first port of call is one that’s difficult to argue with. 

Versatility being Cape Town’s trademark, you could whet your appetite for wildlife here – think penguin spotting on Boulders Beach or racing dassies to the top of Lion’s Head – but make your way to the busy watering holes of the Eastern Cape or rugged bushvelds of Kruger National Park and things really get wild. This is the crowning jewel of South Africa’s safari offerings and once you’ve ticked the Big Five off your bucket-list, you definitely won’t be wondering why. 

View of Cape Town at dusk from the ocean

Or, perhaps the wonders of the water are more your thing – this is a country that plays host to the elusive Big Seven after all. Head to Plettenberg Bay's shores and despite the town’s surrounding beauty, it’s the creatures of the ocean that will steal all of the limelight here. Look out for the majestic breach of a southern right whale and you’ll be grateful for that gopro purchase that you made all those many moons ago. 

And no one can resist the hedonistic temptations of the luscious Winelands. Even if vino isn’t your beverage of choice, a quick trip to the pretty, whitewashed towns of Stellenbosch or Franschhoek – plus a quick conversion calculation that confirms how cheap it is – and your mind will swiftly be changed.  

But your trip to this corner of the world doesn’t have to be limited to South Africa’s myriad delights. Nearby Victoria Falls offers a wow factor that you’ll not catch anywhere else, whilst the breathtakingly beautiful beaches of Mauritius is the perfect stop to end your Southern Africa journey. Whatever your holiday needs, Southern Africa will have the location to fulfil them.

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Locations to add to your South Africa itinerary

Cape Town

The natural beauty of Cape Town’s impressive peninsula setting is offset by its inner-city cool. Taking ownership of a broad cultural spectrum, this city offers everything from hip bars and artisan coffee houses to a unique jazz scene and art galleries aplenty. Not to mention a poignant history that the city is still very much aware of today.

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Kruger National Park

You’ve made it. This is what you’ve travelled to South Africa for. Your binoculars are more often in use than not and you’ve embraced the khaki dress code from head to toe. Big Five? Tick. Safari of a lifetime? Double tick. It’s the quintessential African experience and one that will stay with you forever.

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This historical university town is most famed for the wine produced in its surrounding vineyards, of which, there are hundreds – now this is a place where “dry January” is nigh on impossible. A combination of students, locals and tourists make South Africa’s second oldest town quite the bustling hub.

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Plettenberg Bay

Long South Africa’s best kept secret, Plettenberg Bay has become increasingly popular with tourists looking for a sun, sea and sand stop-off when tracing their way along the scenic Garden Route. But this isn’t just a beach destination. The rich wilds of Plett’s enchanting inland forests will vie for your attention too.

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Victoria Falls

Deep in the heart of Southern Africa, straddling the continent’s two Z’s – Zimbabwe and Zambia – there is a definite rumble in the jungle (or rainforest in this case). It’s here, encased by national parks, that the world’s largest waterfall beats its heavy drum. 1,700 m wide and 108 m high, Victoria Falls’ incredible curtain of water is nothing short of mighty.

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Eastern Cape Safari

It’s home to the dramatic slopes of the Drakensberg peaks, countless world-class hiking trails and a coast so wild that the very fact became its namesake – there are many draws to the Eastern Cape, but not much will beat its main event. Here, it’s all about safari.

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You’d be forgiven for thinking that the word “quaint” was solely invented as a way of describing this spectacular valley and its impossibly pretty town. Vineyards tumble down the valley’s slopes, only interrupted by the impeccably kept elegant grandeur of their colonial-style wine estates.

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Desert island eat your heart out – except it’s not, obviously. But for the sheer untouched look of it, Mauritius may as well be. And here, on this island utopia, “warm” doesn’t just describe the balmy weather and bath-like waters, but indicates the spirit of the destination’s very being. A warm welcome it will give you and a warm welcome it deserves, because this island will show you how to holiday like no other.

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“Unique” seems a fitting word when it comes to describing Oudtshoorn. What was once a bustling hub for the Victorian fashion trade is now a quirky stop on the famed Garden Route just waiting for you to uncover its various charms. From ostriches and caves to the beautiful Swartberg Mountains, there is plenty here to keep you entertained.

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Desperate to shake off a plethora of preconceptions, Johannesburg is changing both quickly and for the better. Steeped in rich history – it was literally home to the world’s biggest gold mine back in the 19th century – Jo’burg powerfully tells the story of the country’s apartheid past. When not getting a feel for its fabric with a trip to the Apartheid Museum or the renowned Soweto Township, discover the city’s emerging hipster haven in Maboneng.

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Port Elizabeth

Located on the Eastern Cape’s aptly named Sunshine Coast, Port Elizabeth is one for the sun-seekers. Its glorious weather is a given and though it may not be a competition, having forever been in Cape Town’s Table-Mountain-shaped shadow, Port Elizabeth isn’t shy about advertising the fact that its waters are substantially warmer than it’s Western Cape counterpart.

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