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Top 9 Things to Do in South Africa

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Chapman's Peak scenic drive along the Cape Peninsula near Cape Town, South Africa

Chapman's Peak scenic drive along the Cape Peninsula near Cape Town, South Africa

With myriad experiences to enjoy in locations that range from mountainous to coastal to vast wilderness, these top nine things to do in South Africa demonstrate why the destination is often referred to as a world in one country.

From breathtaking beaches to cosmopolitan cities and picturesque winelands, South Africa, with its fascinating history, has experiences for every visitor.

Step into wildlife wonder with unforgettable safaris and dive into an ocean of thrills with adventures along the Atlantic and Indian Ocean coastlines.

Overview
  1. 1. Spot the Big Five in Famous Wildlife Reserves
  2. 2. See the Marine Life When Exploring the Coastlines
  3. 3. Discover the Historical Landmarks of South Africa
  4. 4. Spend Sunny Days on Postcard-Perfect Beaches
  5. 5. Sample Local Wines at Award-Winning Estates
  6. 6. Take in the Natural Beauty on a Scenic Drive
  7. 7. Explore the Origins of Mankind at Archeological Sites
  8. 8. Create Memories in Creative Cape Town
  9. 9. Embark on Multi-Day Hikes Around South Africa
  10. Experience the Top Things to Do in South Africa

1. Spot the Big Five in Famous Wildlife Reserves

Elephant herd at Addo National Park, South Africa

Addo National Park, South Africa

A true highlight of any visit to South Africa is to embark on a safari. From private game reserves to national parks, a safari is a memorable experience that gives you a chance to spot the Big Five.

Game drives take place just before sunrise and again in the late afternoon, a “sundowner” offered from a fantastic viewpoint, just as the sun sets. Enjoy open-vehicle game drives, as well as the option to self-drive in one of the national parks.

Some private concessions offer night drives, where nocturnal favorites such as porcupine and aardvark may be seen. Qualified guides walk with you along nature trails and river banks as you look out for plains game and perhaps the Big Five, lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino, or leopard. Whether you are staying in a luxury tent, a classic safari lodge, or on a mobile safari, simply spending time in the bush is unforgettable.

Best Places to Spot the Big Five: Kruger National Park • Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve • Timbavati Game Reserve • Hluhluwe National Park • Addo National Park • Madikwe Game Reserve • Pilanesberg National Park

Learn more: Kruger National Park Safaris

2. See the Marine Life When Exploring the Coastlines

Great white shark-cage diving in Gansbaai, South Africa

Gansbaai, South Africa

Exploring the coastlines is a must-do in South Africa that will bring you up close and personal with incredible marine life, from larger mammals to coral havens. The Atlantic and Indian oceans present opportunities to embark on close encounters of the thrilling kind.

Known for epic great white shark-cage diving and more tranquil whale-watching excursions, the southeast coast of South Africa is alive with excitement. Avid scuba divers can take to the warm waters on the country’s northeast coast.

Sunset cruises set out from Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront and international cruise liners can be seen nearby as they wait for passengers at the Mother City’s port. Short trips to Seal Island and visits to see the penguins at well-known Boulders Beach can also be undertaken.

Best Places to See the Marine Life: Gansbaai • Hermanus • Sodwana Bay • Boulders Beach • Cape Town • Hout Bay • Dyer Island

Learn more: Cape Town Vacations

3. Discover the Historical Landmarks of South Africa

Taal monument in Paarl, Western Cape Province, South Africa

Taal monument in Paarl, Western Cape Province, South Africa

Discover the historical landmarks of South Africa as you step back in time and walk in the footsteps of a nation rich in tradition, human rights, and fortitude. The country has come together over the decades to rebuild and stand out as a Rainbow Nation.

Learn of the hardships experienced during Apartheid as you step inside the Apartheid Museum and feel the emotions that arise as you stand on Constitution Hill, both in Johannesburg. Take a boat ride to Cape Town’s Robben Island and uncover the stories it has to tell of its most famous inmate, Nelson Mandela.

Visit Cape Malay neighborhoods for a taste of the flavorful tradition of a vibrant people whose stories of hardship and wrongdoing are shared in the District Six Museum in Cape Town. Relive the French Hugenot era in the winelands and understand the roots of Afrikaans.

Best Historical Landmarks to Visit: Apartheid Museum • Constitution Hill • District Six Museum • Bo-Kaap • Robben Island • Nelson Mandela Capture Site • Huguenot Monument • Taal Monument

Learn more: South Africa Tours

4. Spend Sunny Days on Postcard-Perfect Beaches

Beach in the Plettenberg Bay in South Africa

Plettenberg Bay, South Africa

Spend sunny days on any of the Western Cape or Zululand beaches, a choice of white or golden sands inviting you to create postcard-perfect memories while relaxing or surfing some incredible waves.

Comprising a great selection of Blue Flag beaches, the Cape coastline invites visitors to choose between lazing on pristine sands, surfing epic waves, or paragliding above the cool Atlantic. Sip and savor at seaside cafes in Simon’s Town or take a walk along Noordhoek beach.

Take some time out from urban adventures and classic safaris as you get away from it all with a sandy escape from the far corners of Zululand to the secret coves of the southern Cape.

Best Beaches to Visit:  Camps Bay • Clifton 4th • Llandudno • Plettenberg Bay • Umhlanga •  Mtunzini Beach • St Lucia • Jeffreys Bay

Learn more: Best Time to Visit South Africa

5. Sample Local Wines at Award-Winning Estates

Vineyard and winery in Constantia, South Africa

Constantia, South Africa

South Africa is well known as one of the world’s top wine-producing destinations and wine lovers are invited to spend time in the breathtaking Western Cape Winelands sampling their bounty at award-winning estates such as Delaire Graff, Lanzerac, and Bouchard Finlayson, to name a few

Located in gorgeous countryside settings, visiting any of the wine estates situated outside Cape Town or a short drive from the southeast coast combines a scenic experience with a wonderful vineyard adventure.

Visit wine cellars, walk or cycle through vineyards, and explore a world of flavors unique to the region, such as the robust sapor of a pinotage. Discover the rich history of the wine industry and Cape Dutch influence when visiting some of the wineries located in Cape Town’s southern suburbs.

Best Places for Wine-Tasting: Franschhoek • Stellenbosch • Hemel en Aarde • Constantia • Paarl • Wellington • Robertson

Learn more: South Africa Wine Tours

6. Take in the Natural Beauty on a Scenic Drive

View of Kogelbay beach on The Garden Route, Cape Town, South Africa

Kogelbay beach on The Garden Route in Cape Town, South Africa

Hit the open road via one of South Africa’s highways or winding regional roads and take in the country’s natural beauty on myriad scenic drives.

Take a slow drive along the southern Cape’s captivating coastline, traveling along the famous Chapman’s Peak, and discover Route 62 with its charming towns and quirky food stops. Spend a few days traveling from one breathtaking spot to another along the Garden Route, with dramatic ocean, mountain, and forest scenes highlighting the way.

Travel through Mpumalanga and the picturesque Panorama Route. Endless vistas at God’s Window, dramatic natural potholes, and one of the world’s most scenic canyons, Blyde River, after time on safari is the perfect way to round up your South African visit.

Best Scenic Drives to Take: Chapman’s Peak • The Garden Route • Route 62 • Midlands Meander • The Panorama Route

Learn more: Best Places to Visit in South Africa

7. Explore the Origins of Mankind at Archeological Sites

Cango Caves in Cango Valley, South Africa

Cango Caves in Cango Valley, South Africa

Explore some of South Africa’s intriguing archeological sites, where whispers of early mankind’s mark on the world can be discovered. Visit important landmarks and art-filled caves as you journey through the country’s provinces.

Known as the Cradle of Mankind, the country’s Gauteng region boasts fascinating archaeological sites and a rich history. Visit the nearby Sterkfontein Caves and gaze upon the sites where a large number of hominid fossils were discovered.

Marvel at San rock art in the caves at Kagga Kamma and see what made the Sudwala Caves perfect for hibernation in prehistoric times. The Cango Caves in Oudtshoorn offer something a little different, stalactites and stalagmites hanging in breathtaking beauty.

Best Archeological Sites to Visit: Sterkfontein Caves • Cradle of Mankind • Sudwala Caves • Kagga Kamma • Cango Caves • Drakensberg Mountains

8. Create Memories in Creative Cape Town

Bongos in a souvenir shop in Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa

Explore the artsy, foody, and unique side of the “Mother City” in iconic suburbs that embrace the diverse culture and creative lifestyle in Cape Town.

Follow the art scene in Woodstock with a guided street art walk and spend a Saturday morning at The Biscuit Mill admiring local crafts and enjoying delectable cuisine native to the citizens of the Cape. Foodies can embark on Malay cooking classes in the Bo-Kaap, flavors bursting from recipe to plate.

Feel the wind in your hair as you weave through the streets on your guided motorcycle tour, a unique way to travel through the city and beyond. Follow the trail up to the top of Lion’s Head during a full moon to capture the city’s magnificence from the top of the world.

Best Places to Create Memories in Creative Cape Town: Woodstock • Lion’s Head • Bo Kaap • Chapman’s Peak

Learn more: Top Things to Do in Cape Town

9. Embark on Multi-Day Hikes Around South Africa

Blyde River Canyon in Mpumalanga, South Africa

Blyde River Canyon in Mpumalanga, South Africa

The mountains, hills, and beautiful coastal trails found in South Africa make it a most ideal destination to embark on multi-day hiking adventures, from coastal to inland mountain escapes.

Often needing to book way in advance, well-known hiking trails such as the Otto Trail, which runs along the beautiful Garden Route, and the Whale Trail, which takes hikers through the De Hoop Nature Reserve, offer five-day adventures.

Step onto magnificent mountains in the Drakensberg and take your time as you climb from picnic sites to rocky peaks, breathtaking scenery greeting you in every direction, no matter the distance of your hike.

Best Areas to Embark on Multi-Day Hikes: Garden Route • Overberg • Drakensberg Mountains • Loerie Trail

Experience the Top Things to Do in South Africa

Penguin colony at Boulder beach in South Africa

Boulder beach in Cape Town, South Africa

What to do in South Africa opens visitors up to a world of adventure, unique experiences, and myriad sites to discover. From city activities to coastal escapes and mountainous challenges, these top nine things to do in South Africa will keep visitors engaged at all times.

Whether interested in enjoying a bush-to-beach safari exploration or delighted by wine-tasting opportunities, you can find inspiration for your trip with our South Africa safaris. You can also find more ideas on what to do, where to go, and when to visit with our South Africa travel guide.

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