The Best of South Africa
Collected by Marie Frei , AFAR Local Expert
In South Africa, life happens outdoors. Drive across country, past vineyards and farmlands, stopping at padstals (farm stalls) for fresh fruits and biltong (dried meat). Climb Table Mountain, surf in the Indian Ocean in Durban, and enjoy an outdoor concert in Cape Town. On safari, you'll see animals year-round, but it's particularly easy to spot them in winter, from June through September. When you do go inside, you'll have your pick of some of the top restaurants and hotels on the continent.
Robben Island, Cape Town, 7400, South Africa
One of South Africa’s most famous sights, Robben Island is located four miles to the west of Cape Town. Its history as a prison is almost as old as the first Dutch settlement on the cape, dating all the way back to the 17th century. Today,...
The Old Biscuit Mill, 375 Albert Rd, Woodstock, Cape Town, 7915, South Africa
As soon as you've booked your flight to Cape Town, you'll also want to book your lunch or dinner reservation at the Test Kitchen. The restaurant was named to the “World’s 50 Best” list in both 2015 and 2016, making it one of...
76 Orange St, Gardens, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa
The Belmond Mount Nelson is a window back to South Africa’s colonial era, but only its finer aspects. A statue of Mahatma Gandhi presides over the entrance; the service is oh-so-proper; and guests enjoy a lavish, quintessentially English...
Tafelberg Rd, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa
Cape Town’s Table Mountain National Park, which hugs the perimeter of the city, is so popular that the line for the cable car to the top can be longer than a queue for a Disneyland ride. But why stand in line when you can put your feet to...
Mandela Capture Site, R103, Howick, 3290, South Africa
You may have seen photos of Marco Cianfanelli’s Release, but nothing can prepare you for the interactive experience of visiting the sculpture in real life. Start your visit to the Nelson Mandela Capture Site in the museum, where tall panels...
Northern Park Way and Gold Reef Rd, Ormonde, Johannesburg, 2001, South Africa
Opened in 2001, the Apartheid Museum powerfully—and extensively—documents the rise and fall of racial segregation in South Africa. Constructed on a 16-acre plot of land, the museum features a unique design—as you head through the...
7 Church Street, Cnr Bird Street & Church Street, Stellenbosch Central, Stellenbosch, 7600, South Africa
As you walk through Stellenbosch’s town center, you’ll probably smell the bread baking at Boschendal at Oude Bank before you even arrive at the café’s main entrance. Owned by Boschendal Farm Estate since early 2017, the...
Klapmuts - Simondium Rd, Simondium, Paarl, 7670, South Africa
About an hour outside of Cape Town, Babylonstoren is one of South Africa’s oldest werfs, or farmyards. In 2010, Karen Roos, a former editor at South Africa’s Elle Decoration, reimagined the property as a fantasy farm stay with an...
Rhodes Dr, Newlands, Cape Town, 7735, South Africa
Founded in 1913, this famous botanical garden was the first in the world dedicated to its country’s own flora. The spectacular, 90-acre plant haven forms part of a nature reserve that borders Table Mountain National Park. Besides numerous...
73 Juta St, Johannesburg, 2000, South Africa
This semi-outdoor market on Juta Street in Joburg's Braamfontein neighbourhood is fun fun fun. Eat oysters from Namibia, drink craft beer from South Africa, and devour paella, gelato, cheeses, chocolate...a food lover's paradise! Open on...
276 Fox St, City and Suburban, Johannesburg, 2094, South Africa
Johannesburg has some awesome hidden gems, including street art found throughout the city. Free tours are offered every Sunday afternoon around the Maboneng Precinct, starting near the Market on Main in Fox Street.
276 Fox St, City and Suburban, Johannesburg, 2094, South Africa
Sunday is the day to go when food vendors from nearby sell their eats in one place. Maboneng is the arts district of Joburg. Arts on Main hosts several galleries, shops and vendors to enjoy. Many of the galleries feature young and emerging artists...
71 Wale St, Schotsche Kloof, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa
The Bo-Kaap was one of the few Cape Town neighborhoods to escape apartheid's bulldozers—the cluster of bright buildings, once known as the Malay Quarter, housed many of the slaves who worked for the 17th-century Dutch colonialists. In this...
D53, Thakadu Gate, Madikwe Game Reserve, Molatedi, 2838, South Africa
Patience Bogatsu, who is from Molatedi village just outside northern South Africa’s 185,000-acre Madikwe Game Reserve, is one of the few black, female game rangers in the country. She might be your guide at the Thakadu River Camp, a lodge run...
2 Lighthouse Rd, Umhlanga Rocks, Umhlanga, 4320, South Africa
For nearly 90 years, one of the top luxury hotels in South Africa was nothing more than a cottage along the coastline of KwaZulu-Natal. It served as a beacon for passing ships until 1952, when it began its slow transformation: from family-run tea...
Check out the White Shark Diving Co. in Gansbaai, the Great White Shark capital of the world, for one of the most intense adventures you can have. They provide round trip transportation from Cape Town and any hotel or guesthouse along the way as...
R43, Gansbaai, 7220, South Africa
Grootbos sits on a stretch of coast famed for its fynbos, an incredibly diverse natural shrubland. Guests may see one of 765 plant species while hiking the property’s trails. The ocean’s “big five” are the other draw: Boat...
Dolphin Crescent, Dolphin Coast, 4420, South Africa
If you ever find yourself in Ballito (Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa), make sure you stop in at The Waterberry Coffee Shoppe Restaurant for some AMAZING cuisine, and of course some divine, decadent dessert! While I was there, I had the Orange Twist...
6 Desmond St, Kramerville, Sandton, 2090, South Africa
The Amatuli emporium is the top store in all of South Africa for authentic African artifacts, thanks to proprietor Mark Valentine’s infectious passion. Mark spends 50% of his time traveling the continent to personally source the items that wind up...
Sampson St, Kliprug, Paternoster, 7381, South Africa
Talented South African chef Suzi Holtzhausen continues to delight those who seek out her small restaurant, ‘Gaaitjie’ tucked away amongst the rocks on the beach at Paternoster, the charming Cape West Coast Village. Those seeking fresh seafood,...
Fancourt, George, 6531, South Africa
Set in the heart of South Africa's iconic Garden Route drive, Fancourt is a classic golf resort with three courses sprawling across grounds that are three times the size of Monaco. But no matter which corner you tee off at, you're guaranteed...
Bloukrans River Bridge, Tsitsikamma, Plettenberg Bay, 6600, South Africa
But that doesn't mean that you won't want to hop off this insane height (216 metres (709 ft) above the Bloukrans River!). For my part, I happily watched from across the canyon. I am a chicken, what can I say... For the more brave amongst us,...
R335 Paterson Road, Addo, 6105, South Africa
As a lover of elephants I was swung in the direction of Addo Elephant park when making my choice of South African safari. Being up close to these magnificent animals is a memory not to be forgotten. There is no malaria risk in this area and it is...
Sutherland, 6920, South Africa
Visiting the S.A.L.T. observatory was not on my list of things to do. In fact, I didn't know it existed until a member of our group shared about a dozen drinks with a staff member at a bar in Sutherland the night before, a pit stop on our wild...
67 Jan Smuts Ave, Westcliff, Johannesburg, 2132, South Africa
When the Four Seasons took over Johannesburg's celebrated Westcliff Hotel (a colonial-style grande dame that was admittedly fraying around the edges), its brief was clear: update the tired ambience with a cutting-edge makeover. For its first...
36 Saxon Road, Sandhurst, Sandhurst ,Johannesburg, 2196, South Africa
Welcome to the best layover of all time. The Saxon gently lulls guests into safari mode, enveloping them in its sophisticated African-chic decor and earthy tones. Name-droppers will love the Saxon: Nelson Mandela stayed here while writing his...
111 Sir Lowry Rd, Woodstock, Cape Town, 7915, South Africa
On a visit to Cape Town in 2011, Michelle Obama made quite an impression at The Kitchen, a local eatery in Woodstock. It’s easy to see why she—or her staffers—chose this homey spot, stylishly cluttered with an array of retro...
17 4th Ave, Houghton Estate, Johannesburg, 2198, South Africa
Whether you have your meal in the Dining Room or brought up by room service to enjoy in the comfort of your very comfortable home away from home, the food served at the Residence easily competes with that served at Johannesburg's top restaurants....
Leentjiesklip, Langebaan, 7357, South Africa
One hours drive from Cape Town, Die Strandloper is a restaurant unlike any other... right on the beach, with the sand under your feet and fishing nets above your head, the restaurant functions almost completely off the grid. No electricity means...
Thornybush Private Nature Reseve, Hoedspruit, 1380, South Africa
Spread over 28,417 acres of bushveld, the Thornybush Private Nature Reserve shares an unfenced border with Kruger National Park. The surrounding savanna, together with several rivers and tributaries, attracts the Big Five as well as...
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