Since living in Ireland, the small talk when meeting new people often leads to a conversation about whether they have visited my home country, South Africa. 7 of 10 people will say they have been to Cape Town, for the other 3, they have been fortunate to explore Kruger National Park.
It always kinda annoys me that everyone heads to Cape Town without really looking at everything South Africa can offer a tourist. Truthfully, there is so much more! South Africa really has it all: mountains, beaches, good food, the best weather and the people are by far the friendliest! We proud Saffa’s love being super modest about how awesome South Africa is, but truthfully, our country is our best kept secret! Maybe we don’t talk about it enough because we like to keep it all to ourselves?
So I thought I would let you in a few of my FAVE places in South Africa, and why you need to make a detour (or Sho’t Left as we Saffa’s would say) and try visit these places. Yes of course by all means go and see Table Mountain, but open your mind and expand your horizons that South Africa has a lot more to offer you.
Keen for a bit of outdoor adventure, some hiking and hitting the trails? Then you need to visit the Drakensberg. The pic above is from a place called Thendele which has great views of the Amphitheatre . My most favourite place in the Drakensberg is Injusiti. It will always hold a special place in my heart because that is where Rob proposed to me. If you are looking for a limited cell phone reception, great hiking trails, splendid views and stories around the campfire. You need to visit the ‘berg, as we locals like to call it.
Another one of our fave holidays was actually last year, when we went to Blyder River Canyon, Bourke’s Potholes, God’s Window, The Pinnacle, The Three Rondavels, and Pilgrim’s Rest. All these stop-off sights have the varying terrain, with endless views. It has the perfect spots for panoramic 360 shots to make your friends back home jealous.
Looking for cheap thrills:
Bit of a daredevil? Like to live life to the full? You could head to Bloukrans Bridge to bungy jump (you will not find me there). You could also head to the midlands in KZN and do the Karkloof Canopy Tours, which admittedly, was super fun even though I had my eyes closed for most of it. Rob’s sister and hubby have jumped off the Soweto cooling towers (see pic below), I have bravely run past them (what? 21km is a tough run!).
You will find adventure of all types all over South Africa, just please don’t be that person who goes shark cage diving. Similar to riding elephants, or feeding lions, it makes my skin crawl that we humans like to taunt animals for pleasure – don’t. just don’t.
Let’s go on “Safari”:
So you are keen to tick the big five off your bucket list? What better place than travelling to Africa to go on Safari. Firstly, when visiting South Africa, you can’t call it “Africa”. Africa is the whole continent, and South Africa is one of 54 countries in Africa (and it is miles away from Cameroon – totally FYI). Secondly: we don’t call it a safari, we call it a game drive. And although I will admit that I have not had the fortune to explore the Kruger – there are a ton of other game reserves that you can explore. Some of my personal faves are actually in the Eastern Cape; at the start of my honours year my class went to Lalibela for our orientation. Also while studying, I met a few friends who worked at Shamwari Game Reserve too. Another under estimated game reserve is actually the Pilanesberg, which is just a short drive out of Joburg (near to Sun City).
Hit the beach, bro:
Instead of heading to the over priced and over crowded beaches around Camps Bay (plus the water there is freezing!) My personal fave beach growing up was Cintsa: rolling dunes, vast open beaches, and back in the day – the best place to collect sea shells. More recently, we went on honeymoon to Coffee Bay, and Hole in the Wall. Not only is it affordable to visit, it has some great beaches. It truly is a slice of South Africa that is still, for the most part, untouched.
Wine and dine:
You came for the wine and cheese. I hear you! If I am completely honest, you may have got me on this one – Western Cape has all the wine farms you could ever want. It really is a treat to wine farm hop along the garden route. However, two of my fave foodie towns are actually Knysna and wait for it… Johannesburg.
Joburg has a massive foodie scene. Great restaurants like: Marble, DW11-13, Licorish, Wombles, to name a few. Heck, you should even go to Thundergun, which has the best ribs in South Africa! I could go on but it is making me hungry and I am already craving a good piece of steak. I haven’t even talked up the food markets in Maboneng and Braamies. If you are looking for good food, trust me, Jozi is the place to visit. And if you do, let me know, I can send you a list of all our faves.
While I could go on and on about how wonderful South Africa is, I hope this post has showed you that there is more to South Africa than just visiting Cape Town and Kruger. South Africa is filled with everything you could ever want, it has deep history and great lessons on the power and resilience of it’s people. This post has actually awoken a bit of sadness as I am yet to find a place that is as good as home sounds right now.
So, when are you planning on visiting South Africa? and for the locals – where is your fave place to take tourists?
Unlock the simple life,
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Wow, it looks amazing!!! Especially the wine and cheese, that’s our fave. Thanks for the article, enjoyed the read.
Definitely think we have the best of both! Let me know if you need any tips or suggestions for best spots!
This was wonderful! Pinned to my vacations board. South Africa is definitely on my list of must travels! Thanks!
Awesome – shout if you ever need tips and suggestions! X
Halley Barnes says
I’ve heard nothing but great things about Cape Town! I’m dying to visit. Definitely on my bucket list.
Hey Halley, thanks for stopping by. Maybe you want to re-read the post as I am trying to promote other places in South Africa NOT Cape Town! 🙂
OK, question. I’ve met a lot of South Africans on my travels (also, I LAV the accent, ja), but is there a thing about this word ‘Saffa’? I’ve met South Africans who use it, others who have never heard of it before and some who find it borderline offensive eg comparing it to ‘yank’ for Americans, like its a derogatory term. So, as you’ve used it in this post – what’s the dealio with ‘Saffa’?
Hey Amy! Haha I’m stoked you love our accent!! I think Saffa is a slang term, shortening the words South African. I personally don’t find it offensive but maybe it’s ok to call myself it, because I am one 😉
Great post! Beautiful photos!
Gone with a whim says
I came here from the Blogging Squad and what a stroke of luck! 🙂 Fantastic list of offbeat things to do and I must say I can’t wait to visit South Africa now. What do you think is the best time to visit? I’m planning to spend about a month there.
I have always wanted to visit South Africa and even more so now because I have been listening to Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime on the way to work this week. It’s a light-hearted book about his upbringing and talks about life in South Africa in general. I must aside the nature, South Africa boasts a fascinating culture and a tumultuous past. I really really can’t wait to go!
P:S Will be following your adventures and stories from now X Have a wonderful week.
Hey Divya, i think the best time is April – it’s still warm in most parts of the country, also a good time to see animals and you could still go swimming because it hasn’t gotten too cold yet. Jan/Feb is super hot months where the animals tend to hide in the shade and it’s harder to spot them. June/July is our winter – it is dry and often the trees are bare, it gets cold in Joburg and rains a lot in Cape Town, it’s usually still pretty warm in Durban (maybe just overcast/cloudy). August/September is our spring and tends to be our rainy months but we have suffered a great drought so there was a lack of rain last year which caused water shortages, and affected the farmers quite bad. It has since rained but the country is still on high alert. If you are going for a long time, I would say between March and April or October/Mid November would be a good times to get the best of everything. Let me know if you need more details and advice!
Wow, stunning pictures! Can’t say I’ve been to South Africa (or anywhere else in Africa) yet, but this post definitely makes me want to. 🙂
Ah this makes me so happy to hear! hope you get to visit SA.
I love this! I found your site when you commented on mine yesterday! I was born in SA but my parents moved us to the States when I was really young. I’ve visited SA many times and I’ve never been to Capetown 😉 But I haven’t been in almost 15 years! Hoping to bring my kids in the next couple of years when they are old enough to appreciate it but still young enough to not be grumpy teenagers.
Alexandra Black-Paulick says
Phenomenal! South Africa is on my list, and to be honest I wouldn’t have had any idea other than Cape Town where to head. Blyder River Canyon, Bourke’s Potholes, God’s Window, The Pinnacle and basically all those outdoorsy ones are right up my alley – and the photos are a great way to get my husband excited about possibly venturing that way. It’s also great to have the local input aspect.
Thanks Alexandra, get in touch if you ever do go – would be happy to give you some more insider tips 🙂
This post was a great find as I am actually thinking of planning a trip to South Africa next year! So thank you for all the wonderful information – your photos are gorgeous. Is it best to hire a car to get round the places you recommend or are the distances too great?
I also know what you mean about tourists only really visiting Cape Town – I feel the same about the UK – people visit London (which of course they should) but so many other cities and wonderful countryside gets missed! Thanks for a great article.
That is awesome Louise. It depends where you fly into SA and for how long you plan to stay. I have had friends do a trip from Joburg to Cape Town over a few days and stopping along the way, but it is a long drive (17hrs or so). If you need any help planning your trip, get in touch – happy to assist where I can. I may pick your brain about the UK.
While I haven’t visited yet, I think South Africa has a lot to offer! The issue is that there really is so much to see there and not enough time to see it. When I go, two things I would like to do are go on a safari at Kruger National Park and check out wine country!! The beaches also look really gorgeous.
This is so true – you need a few weeks to really get to see SA, and even then, you will miss things!
What a great experience! I can’t get over how beautiful this place is. I’d love to go there one day soon, so this is a very useful post to start planning my trip. Thanks for the inspiration 🙂
I love showing off my home country 🙂 hope you get to visit there one day too!
Campfires&Concierges (@leighlwilson) says
I can’t wait to visit South Africa someday…I’ll be sure to venture beyond Cape Town 🙂
haha, please do Leigh! 🙂
South Africa has been on my bucketlist for such a long time, but I want to make sure I have time to discover it properly…from wining and dining in Cape Town to going on safari and seeing all the natural beauty it has to offer!
SA really has it all – I hope you get to visit soon!
Lula Aventura says
That scenery is wow! Definitely on the bucket list one day… Thanks for sharing 🙂
Thanks! I hope you get to tick SA off your bucket list!
Safari is the primary reason I want to visit South Africa. And some of it’s neighboring countries too. I want to do an extensive safari trip here once my kid grows up a bit.
Oh Neha you are so right – surrounding countries of SA are also not to be missed!
Rosie Fluskey says
I am definitely one of the guilty ones, I’ve been to Cape Town and Stellenbosch but that’s it. I developed an irrepressible faux SA accent (IN A WEEK) and an obsession with cape sparkling rose. My husband went travelling in SA for six weeks so convincing him to do it all over again has been tricky. Happily, my friend is getting married in Joburg or Durban next year and so I am making lists of great ideas from your article for afterwards 🙂
My home town is Durban, SA is so vast – so I hope you get to travel it a bit more next year. Let me know if you need any insider tips!