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Top 8 Must-See Places in South Africa

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Cheetah in Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve, South Africa

Cheetah in Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve, South Africa

South Africa is the embodiment of drama and diversity, and these must-see destinations display them both. 

With unparalleled natural reserves and breathtaking scenery, one moment you can be immersed in the wonder of the “Big Five” and find yourself just hours later in a cosmopolitan city. Discover sights and sounds never before experienced with both wildlife and winelands, both towns and tides. 

This list of our must-see destinations is an insight into what awaits you on your vacation to South Africa.

1. Private Game Reserves – Ultimate Safari Experiences

Herd of elephants in Sabi Sands Game Reserve, South Africa

Herd of elephants in Sabi Sands Game Reserve, South Africa

A countless number of mammals roam freely between Kruger National Park and the Greater Kruger Area's private reserves. One of the most popular is the Sabi Sands Game Reserve, offering the classic Big Five experience along the Sabi and the Sand rivers. An area of staggering abundance, most of the iconic safari animals can be seen in large numbers in an ambiance of elevated intimacy from the decks of one's immersive luxury lodge suite or private exclusive tented chalet.

The Greater Kruger Area comprises many smaller reserves and parks and includes the exciting Timbavati Game Reserve – famous for its white lions. Considering a malaria-free option? Madikwe Game Reserve is a short flight from Johannesburg and offers an unforgettable five-star safari experience, as do several options in the Waterberg and Welgevonden Parks.

Described as 'art galleries of the bush,' the best way to experience a South African safari is with expert guides and as one of the limited number of guests at one of many properties to consider. Each reserve or lodge has a unique appeal, whether that's proximity to lion pride, views over the river, or acacias favored by large elephant herds. Your Zicasso safari specialist will design an itinerary and make recommendations based on your travel preferences and safari goals.

Why You Should Go: Stepping foot in South Africa would not be complete without experiencing that ultimate ‘bucket list’ item – an African Safari. Together with your Zicasso travel specialist, your safari will exceed expectations and be curated just for you.

Recommended Length of Stay:  We recommend spending a minimum of no less than three or four nights at each safari property, and it is ideal to design your trip to include more than one safari destination. Combining options that offer diversity, such as the open savannas of the Sabi Sands and with the thick bush of the Timbavati, for example, is highly recommended.

Best Time to Visit:  May to September is the ideal time for a safari in South Africa. April and October are also worth considering, as the grass is low, nights are cool, but your days are mild, and game viewing is at its optimum.

2. Kruger National Park

Lioness and her cub in Kruger National Park, South Africa

Lioness and her cub in Kruger National Park, South Africa

The famous Kruger National Park has always held a special place in the heart of safari lovers. One of Africa’s oldest and biggest parks covering almost 20,000 square kilometers, scale is something Kruger excels at, possessing over half the world’s rhino population and a staggering number of big cats. Habitats blend, and ecosystems collide, resulting in encounters with a staggering array of animals.

On a single game drive, you could see dozens of white rhinos and a handful of different lion pride. The more game drives you go on, the better the chances. Parts of Kruger are incredibly dense with life, while others are much quieter. It’s important to note that the Kruger is a national park with a lot of day visitors. Strict rules apply, such as sticking to speed limits and staying on the designated tar roads, but Zicasso only works with the best guides.

Why You Should Go: Visiting one of the worlds’ most famous safari parks is reason enough. However, exploring the luxury properties within this famous park should not be missed.

Recommended Length of Stay: No less than three nights is recommended to ensure you have had an authentic bush experience.

Best Time to Visit: When the grass is low, animal sightings are better. Visiting between May and September is ideal. Nights are cool, but days are clear, crisp, and dry.

3. Cape Town

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa

Experience the vibrant culture, unique wildlife, and scenic beauty this famous city has to offer. Watch the sunset from the top of Table Mountain, visit the penguin colonies at Boulders Beach, watch the baboons at Cape Point, and drive the spectacular Chapman's Peak drive. Take the ferry from the famous V&A Waterfront to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, tour the historic city bowl or stroll in nature around Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Discover local cuisine and culture as you explore this Atlantic coast playground.

Why You Should Go: Cape Town is one of the most dynamic and cosmopolitan cities in the world and combines well with any safari experience in Southern Africa.

Recommended Length of Stay: Three to five days is best to explore the city, though one can easily spend up to a week.

Best Time to Visit:  Cape Town is a year-round city with possibly the less frequented time being in the heart of winter, the month of August. The Western Cape is the only province in South Africa with winter rainfall so days can be wet and cool. However, this time of year can bring perfect moments in less-crowded restaurants and wine farms where you can sip wine by a fire. Table Mountain’s cable car is closed usually between late July and late August for maintenance.

4. Cape Winelands

Cape Winelands in Stellenbosch, South Africa

Cape Winelands in Stellenbosch, South Africa

There is nothing quite as romantic as spending time exploring the vineyards of the Cape Winelands. Amongst dramatic mountain ranges, some of the world's finest wines are produced here. Options range from intimate boutique wineries to larger, experience-orientated wine farms. Immerse yourself in a world of tranquility while discovering the wonderful world of wine.

Why You Should Go:  For wine-lovers, this is a must. Add a few nights to any Cape Town itinerary to discover some of the best wines in the world. Not a wine-lover? The landscape and activities at the many properties will be reason enough to visit.

Recommended Length of Stay: Two to three days will provide time to explore and time to relax in this unique and beautiful region of South Africa.

Best Time to Visit:  The Cape Winelands is a year-round destination. In the warmer months, you could be sipping your favorite chardonnay on a patio facing a mural of natural beauty, while a crackling fire will keep you company as you try South Africa’s signature Pinotage in winter.

5. The Whale Coast & Garden Route

Cage diving with Great White Sharks in South Africa

Cage diving with Great White Sharks in South Africa

In June, the Humpback and Southern Right Whales arrive for their annual migration from the cold waters of the Cape to the east coast's warmer waters. Take a whale-watching boat trip to get up close and personal to this magnificent ocean giant, and learn about its natural history and conservation. The region is also known for being home to the Great White Shark and, if you're feeling brave, you can set out on a cage dive to see Great White Shark.

One hundred ninety miles of scenic wonder, the Garden Route runs along the east coast of South Africa, dotted with cities and vacation escapes along the way. It is not only beaches and playgrounds for those looking for some downtime near the waters of Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, but those looking for adventure will find it at Storms River and the Tsitsikamma Forest. With one of the world’s highest bungee jumps, tree-top canopy tours, wildlife interactions, and more, the possibilities are endless.

Why You Should Go: Proving that there’s more to South Africa than just safari and Cape Town, the Garden Route offers an insight into a multitude of wonders. You can relax or be adventurous and find plenty to discover along the way.

Recommended Length of Stay:  Three to seven nights, often ideal for a second-time visit to South Africa.

Best Time to Visit: Soak up the sun in summer, take a hike in the spring or fall, and the wet season comes in November and December.

6. Route 62

Cango Caves along Route 62 in South Africa

Cango Caves along Route 62 in South Africa

Draw a line from Cape Town to Oudtshoorn, and you have the fantastic Route 62 in South Africa. Quaint villages, art galleries, and museums on a tiny yet authentic scale, classic small-town cafes, charm abounding. The route winds its way at a slow pace, and you will find it hard not to want to stop in every village or town. One could spend a night or two along the way or just enjoy the drive as you make your way to the ostrich capital of the world, Oudtshoorn. Home to the famous Cango Caves offers visitors an insight into the ostrich farming and feather world, and maybe you will have time to visit meerkats while you are there.

Why You Should Go: For a second-timer to South Africa or for a traveler that likes to go off the beaten path, this is a great addition to your itinerary to discover local gems.

Recommended Length of Stay:  You can do a drive-through, but we recommend one or two nights to fully embrace this region if your time allows.

Best Time to Visit: This region is a year-round option and the perfect addition to any visit to the Western Cape.

7. The Zululand Kingdom

Rhino grazing in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi, South Africa

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi is a blueprint for conservation as Africa's oldest reserve offering a compact haven for both the big and small wildlife for over a century. It provides a refuge for both prevalent safari animals and those rarely spotted, such as the elusive black rhino and the more common white rhino.

The park's diversity has its origins in a broad habitat with tradition radiating through everything, from the view of a Zulu-designed circular hut or 'Kraal' to the mammals clashing at a waterhole, big cats stalking a kudu or a member of the Big Five visible from the road. Being a national park like the Kruger, the same rules apply regarding speed and sticking to the main road.

Adding a stay in the bush or a nearby Zululand coastal town fits perfectly into the itinerary of those looking for a safari and culture in one of South Africa's most inviting provinces.

Why You Should Go: This is the oldest reserve in South Africa, and it combines well with a coastal getaway along the warm Indian Ocean coastline.

Recommended Length of Stay: No less than three nights on safari, and if you are adding the coast or other Zululand experiences, you can easily take up to a week.

Best Time to Visit: It can be very hot and humid early in the year, so it is best to wait for the grass to get shorter and visit from May to September. The great thing about the Indian Ocean is that it never gets cold, so the “safari & beach” combo works well, especially during the spring and fall months.

8. The Panorama Route

Blyde River Canyon, South Africa

A short drive from the famous safari circuit in the Mpumalanga Province will find the picturesque and breathtaking Panorama Route. The region presents small towns, some famous for their food, others for their adventure activities, and others provide gateways to spectacular sights such as Bourke’s Luck Potholes, Blyde River Canyon, and God’s Window. If you have the time, we highly recommend you add a couple of nights in the area and a full day to explore, perhaps with a hike or a hot air balloon ride.

Why You Should Go: For scenery-loving enthusiasts and adventure-seekers, spending time in one of the most beautiful parts of the country is worth considering.

Recommended Length of Stay:  Two nights will give you one full day to explore.

Best Time to Visit: A visit before or after time spent on safari is ideal, as is avoiding the big rains in December.

How many days is enough for a South Africa Safari?

Leopard in Timbavati, South Africa

Leopard in Timbavati, South Africa

Zicasso travel specialists customize your itinerary based on the time you have available for your vacation. Our general advice is a minimum of ten days to set out on safari and explore the Cape. If you want to explore a little further, give yourself 12-14 days so that places like the Garden Route, Cape Winelands and even Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe can be added to your customizable itinerary.

More Travel Information & Tips

Coffee Bay on the Wild Coast Region, Eastern Cape, South in Africa

Coffee Bay on the Wild Coast Region, South Africa

South Africa contains the spirit of wildlife and wilderness combined with a culture and beauty that would move any visitor. Rich in history and modern in its luxury escapes, the destination offers something for romance, adventure, relaxation, culture, wine and safari-seekers. Our South Africa Travel Guide has helpful tips and information for planning your perfect safari. You can also speak with a South Africa travel specialist for free by filling out a Trip Request or by calling our team at 1-888-265-9707.

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