Must See

Eastern Cape

Cape Town

Lying at the foot of flat-topped Table Mountain is this beautiful seaside city, which enjoys a relaxed, almost continental atmosphere that will charm even the most sophisticated jet-setter. Views of the city out across the peninsula to the Atlantic and Indian Oceans can be had by taking the cable car ride to the top of the mountain, but be sure to do so on a cloud free day.

The Victoria And Alfred Waterfront is where it all happens - in this beautifully restored old Victorian harbour there's free entertainment, shops, museums, an aquarium, bars and restaurants. Boat trips can be taken from here to Robben Island, the prison where Nelson Mandela and many other nationalist leaders were held.

Other highlights of Cape Town include the Cultural History Museum, National Gallery, Parliament Buildings, Groote Kerk (Great Church), Koopmans-de Wet House (historical museum), and Company's Garden, planted in 1652 to provide food for passing sailors.

The Addo Elephant National Park

The Addo Elephant National Park lies 72 km (45 miles) north of Port Elizabeth, and was established in 1931 to protect the last eleven South African bush elephants from extinction. Recently massively expanded, it offers an excellent range of animals, including rare Cape buffalo, black rhino, numerous species of antelope (bushbucks, Cape grysboks, red hartebeests, kudus, elands and duikers), porcupines, anteaters and bush pigs. There are also more than 170 bird species to be seen, such as wattled starlings, ostriches, Cape thick-knees, little swifts, bronze-naped pigeons, quails and kites.

There are also several private reserves nearby, including the excellent Kwandwe and Shamwari, both of which have some upmarket accommodation and 'Big Five' (leopard, lion, elephant, rhino and buffalo) game viewing.


The town of Graaff-Reinet lies in a bend on the Sundays River at the foot of Spandau Kop, a peak in the Sneeuberg range. Situated in the heart of the Karoo Nature Reserve, it is one of the finest surviving Cape-Dutch towns in South Africa, with many attractive 18th- and 19th-century buildings, such as Reinet House (a former parsonage), Groote Kerk (built in 1886 on the model of Salisbury Cathedral) and The Old Library, which now houses a museum with an interesting collection of fossils, paintings, and photographs by William Roe, who travelled in South Africa in the second half of the 19th C.

Just 5 km (3 miles) outside the town, it is possible for visitors to drive into the deep, narrow gorge known as the Valley of Desolation, along a twisting single-track road that eventually climbs into the mountains for a magnificent view of the surrounding area.

Western Cape

The Garden Route

The 200 km (25 mi) route along the south coast east of Cape Town takes its name from the days when the area was heavily forested. Some hardwood forest remains after development, along with lakes, golden beaches and mountains, which contrast with semi-arid expanses.

There are some excellent beaches, such as those found in Plettenberg Bay, which extend for almost 12 km round the town. There are also a number of nature reserves, including Tsitsikamma National Park, home to many species of birds, monkeys and the smaller antelopes, and Wilderness National Park, which is a paradise for water birds.

Northern Cape


Namaqualand, in the northwest of the country is a vast area of seemingly barren semi-desert, which bursts into life after the winter rains during August to October. The landscape becomes carpeted with flowers such as daisies, aloes, lilies and perennial herbs. It is not possible to predict exactly when or where the wild flower season will reach its peak, as this depends on the rainfall and climatic conditions, which differ from year to year.

Limpopo Region

Kruger National Park

A reserve the size of Wales and a great place to spot the Big Five and many other species, with accommodation for all needs from luxury cottages to campsite enclosures. It lies in the northeast of the country (5-6 hours' drive from Johannesburg), extending for 350 km from north to south and a total area of 19,485sq km. This is the largest and oldest National Park in South Africa, internationally renowned as one of the world's most important game reserves.

The fauna living in the National Park includes:

  • 30,000 buffaloes
  • 7,500 elephants
  • 4,900 giraffes
  • 125,000 impalas
  • 900 leopards
  • 1,500 lions
  • 1,500 rhinoceros (mostly white rhinos)
  • 32,000 zebras
  • 114 different species of reptiles
  • 500 species of birds
  • numerous butterflies and moths and other insects

The Park is one of the last refuges for many gravely endangered animal species, including the sable antelope, the black rhino and the wild dog.

KwaZulu-Natal Region

Despite being a relatively small province KwaZulu-Natal covers five distinct ecosystems varying from dry thorn scrub to tropical forest, and has a concentration of everything travellers come to South Africa for. There's giant dunes, beaches, tropical reefs, savannas, the Drakensberg mountain range with its scenic views, 'Big Five' game viewing (the only place in the world where hippos, crocodiles and sharks share the same lagoon) and historic Boer War and Anglo-Zulu battlefields.


Durban is the third largest city in South Africa, and thanks to the warm water of the Indian Ocean, its long beaches and its subtropical climate, it can also claim to be South Africa's pleasure capital, and is dubbed the "Sunshine Playground".

Only a few old buildings survive in this modern city, and the seafront is one long succession of hotels. For a quieter and more restful stay, the seaside resorts south and north of the city are to be preferred.


Dundee lies in the Midlands, the hilly region between the Drakensberg and the Natal coast on the Indian Ocean, and has been occupied by man since the Stone Ages. In more recent time's Zulus, Boers and the British came into conflict with one another here, and a number of bitter battles were fought in the area. The Talana Museum, in Dundee, is the site of the first battle of the Boer War.

Dundee is also the best place from which to visit the following battlescenes:

  • Blood River, scene of bloody battle in December 1838, when a massive army of Zulus attacked a party of 464 voortrekkers. More than 3,000 Zulus were killed, with their blood staining the water of the river.
  • Fugitive's Drift and Isandlwana, home to a battle in January 1879 in which a small British force was overwhelmed by an army of 17,000 Zulu warriors)
  • Rorkes Drift, the scene of a devastating series of battles between the British and Zulus in January 1879 in which 139 British soldiers held two Zulu regiments at bay after the British defeat at Isandhlwana. The battle resulted in the most Victoria Crosses in a single engagement in the history of British warfare. This battle was filmed as Zulu, starring Michael Caine.


Located on the main road between Durban and the Transvaal, Ladysmith was the site of a devastating 120 day siege during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). The Town Hall still shows the scars, while the old Market Hall next door is an excellent Siege Museum. A number of important battles were fought round the town at Caesar's Camp, Umblawana Hill, Wagon Hill and Lombard's Cop.


At the heart of the KwaZulu-Natal province is the city of Pietermaritzburg. Founded in 1838 after the Boer victory over the Zulus, the town later became capital of the British colony of Natal. With its old-world dignity and British colonial architecture, it is affectionately referred to as "The Last Outpost of the British Empire". It is abundantly supplied with parks and gardens and with historic buildings, now protected as national monuments or museums. Highlights include the Natal Museum (one of South Africa's five National Museums), the Voortrekker House (built in 1847 and the only surviving building of the pioneering period), Fort Napier (built in 1843 as a British headquarters) and the Botanic Gardens, which have separate sections for indigenous and exotic plants.

Church Street is an attractive pedestrian precinct and shopping mall with a great variety of shops and handsome buildings.


Vryheid (Freedom) is the largest town on the Northern Natal Battlefields Route. It was briefly the capital of the New Republic proclaimed by the Boers in 1884, and is now home to a number of historic buildings from the period of independence, such as the Lucas Meyer House, once the home of the State President's widow and now a museum. Three major battles of the Anglo-Zulu War were fought nearby.


In the mid-19th century, the Tugela River formed the boundary between British Natal and Zululand. The Zulu Heartland is an area surrounding Eshowe seeking to preserve its traditional Zulu tribal life. Eshowe ('the sound of wind in the trees') itself is home to a number of visitor attractions, including the Vukani Museum, which has the world's largest collection of traditional Zulu arts and crafts; and Fort Nongqayi (1883), which houses the Zululand Historical Museum. In the nearby hills are several Zulu cultural villages, including:

  • Shakaland
    Shakaland, 5 km (9 mi) north of Eshowe was originally established as the setting for a film on Shaka, the legendary Zulu leader (1787-1828). After the completion of the film, the set was converted into a typical Zulu village, which is now an open-air museum with presentations of Zulu life.
  • KwaBhekithunga
    The road to Shakaland passes the Zulu village of KwaBhekithunga, famed for its rich variety of arts and crafts.
  • Stewart's Farm
    Unlike Shakaland, Stewart's Farm is a real, typical Zulu village, which seeks to preserve traditional Zulu tribal life, illustrating it for visitors with various presentations and exhibitions.
  • Dingane's Kraal
    Here at Umungundlovo, (85 km from Eshowe) Shaka's half-brother and successor, Dingane, established his royal kraal in 1828, with more than 2,000 huts, which could accommodate up to 20,000 warriors. It was here that the Boer leader Piet Retief met Dingane to conclude a treaty in 1838, but was murdered on Dingane's orders along with 70 of his men. Some of the huts have been reconstructed, and there is a monument and small museum a commemorating the murdered Boers.

The Drakensberg

The Drakensberg is South Africa's largest mountain range and extends for 1,000 km (620 mi) from the Kruger National Park in the north to the eastern border of the kingdom of Lesotho in the south. Its name, which means 'Dragon Mountains' in Afrikaans, comes from the jagged backbone of saw-toothed peaks. Some of the highest mountains on the African continent are located in the Drakensberg range, with many peaks rising above 3,000 m (10,000 ft).

Natal Drakensberg

This part of the range extends between the Mont-aux-Sources and the Underberg in KwaZulu/Natal and Lesotho. It is one of South Africa's most popular holiday regions throughout the year and has excellent facilities for visitors. There are three tourist areas:

  1. The Royal Natal National Park in the north, which includes the Amphitheatre, an 8 km- (5 mile-) long crescent-shaped curve in the main basalt wall. It is flanked by two impressive peaks, the Sentinel (3165 m/10,384 ft) at its west end and the Eastern Buttress (3047 m/9997 ft) at the other.
  2. The central highlands around Cathedral Peak, Champagne Castle and the Giant's Castle Game Reserve, which boasts more than 500 Bushmen rock paintings in a single shelter
  3. The southern highlands, with the Loteni, Kamberg and Mzimkulwana Nature Reserves.

Transvaal Drakensberg

This part of the range lies in northern South Africa, to the west of the Kruger National Park, separating the highveld from the fertile lowveld, and consists of older rocks, mainly dolomites and quartzites.

In the Escarpment, just to the west of the Kruger boundary, the edge of the African continental plateau is marked with a series of plunging cliffs and dramatic mountains. The road along the rim of the escarpment provides spectacular views of the landscape below, including:

  • God's Window, a viewing point eastward over the Lowveld 1,000m (3,300ft) below and the Kruger National Park to the Mozambique border
  • Lisbon Falls (92 m/300 ft high)
  • Berlin Falls (80 m/260 ft high)
  • The Pinnacle, a massive, free-standing granite column rising out of a densely wooded gorge

The road then turns to run along the rim of the Blyde Canyon (26 km/16 miles long and 350-800 m/1050-2400 ft deep), passing Bourke's Luck Potholes, a series of bizzare rock formations created by the swirling action of pebble-laden flood water.

The Three Rondavels View Site is a magnificent viewpoint just 13.5 km (8.5 mi) beyond Bourke's Luck Potholes.

Wine Routes

There are some well-organised (and well-signposted) wine routes in South Africa, covering all 13 major wine-producing regions. These include:

  • Stellenbosch
    One of South Africa's most beautiful towns, Stellenbosch is also one of the best preserved of the towns dating from the time of the Dutch East India Company. All of its 130 wineries are situated within a 12 km (7.5 mile) radius of the town.
  • Klein Karoo
    The Klein Karoo Wine Route in the Southern Cape is arguably the most diverse of South Africa's wine regions. It is the easternmost wine producing region in the country, stretching 300 km from Montagu in the west to Uniondale in the east.
  • Swartland
    The Swartland Wine Route is a 40-minute drive away from Cape Town and stretches from the Paardeberg in the south to Citrusdal in the north, including the Riebeek Valley and Piketberg areas. It has a total of 12 cellars, ranging from co-operatives to private cellars.
  • The Robertson Wine Valley
    This region is a two-hour drive from Cape Town, known particularly for Chardonnay. The winelands are a stunning region of vineyards, old Cape-Dutch villages and mansions.
  • Franschhoek
    Tiny Franschhoek originally hosted refugee Huguenots from France, who brought their wine-growing skills to South Africa. It now has an excellent Huguenot Museum. The route include 30 wine farms, including some of South Africa's most respected names, who produce many of South Africa's top wines, from whites such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Semillon and Chenin Blanc to the reds of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Merlot.
  • Paarl
    Paarl is home to several small museums and over 30 wine cellars and estates, including KWV, Laborie and Ridgeback Wines.