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South Africa: The Highlights

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Enriched with a deep history, blessed with spectacular natural beauty and one of the world’s best wildlife destinations, South Africa is often considered ‘a once-in-a-lifetime’ destination. With its natural diversity, it’s easy to see why - from powdery beaches, star-filled desert skies, lush mountains, botanical gardens and verdant vineyards, this is a country with abundant natural riches. Then there’s the assortment of attractions - from incredible safaris, wine-tasting tours, magnificent beaches, cosmopolitan cities, and a fascinating, eye-opening history. This is a country that you could spend months exploring, but most visitors opt for a jam-packed tour of South Africa, which includes the country’s highlights. One thing is for sure, a trip to South Africa is one that you will leave you with memories for years to come.

Cape Town

Affectionately referred to as ‘The Mother City’, Cape Town is South Africa’s second largest city and boasts interesting cultures, tasty cuisine, gorgeous beaches, the iconic Table Mountain, and a whole host of other attractions. Usually a top feature, and often the starting point or end destination during a tour of South Africa, vibrant Cape Town is seeing steady tourism growth year on year. Trendy and cosmopolitan, the city has brightly painted architecture, innovative restaurants, health cafes and a beautiful harbour boasting plenty of bars for soaking up the views. With so much natural beauty, this is a place where the focus is on outdoor pursuits, with surfing, hiking and more extreme sports, such as abseiling, all popular activities with locals. With so much to offer its visitors, and a gateway city to a plethora of travel opportunities, it’s all so easy to fall in love with Cape Town.

Things to Do in Cape Town:

Scale Table Mountain: Around 600 years old and an iconic part of Cape Town, Table Mountain is visible from much of the city. Most tourists opt to take the cable car up the mountain, or alternatively there is a rather strenuous hike to the top, which takes around two hours each way. The weather can get cooler near the peak, so be sure to take a jacket, and expect fantastic views and plenty of photo opportunities once you reach the top.

Visit the Cape of Good Hope: Part of the Table Mountain National Park and dubbed ‘the most south-western point on the African continent’, the Cape of Good Hope is blessed with fantastic scenery, deserted beaches, wild mammals and birds. As well as the incredible views and walking trails, you can also expect to spot dassies, ostriches and cormorants.

Meet Penguins at Boulders Beach: One of Cape Town’s most visited beaches, the stunning Boulders Beach allows lucky visitors to get up close and personal with African penguins. With small numbers first settling on the beach back in 1982, the beach now boasts between 2,000 and 3,000 penguins, and plays an integral part in protecting the endangered species. As well as offering this unique wildlife opportunity, the beach itself is incredibly beautiful with white sand, clear water and giant boulders - not dissimilar to those in the Seychelles.

Tour Robben Island: Used as a prison right up until 1996, and imprisoning Nelson Mandela, this UNESCO World Heritage Site can be visited on a four-hour tour, which includes a ferry ride. During a visit, you will learn about the fascinating history of the island and even get the chance to visit Nelson Mandela’s cell.

Johannesburg

South Africa’s largest city and home to Africa’s busiest airport, Johannesburg is often the starting point for a South Africa adventure. Considered the heart of South Africa, and dubbed Jo’burg or Jozi by the locals, the city has seen huge progress and renovation work in the last decade. Incredibly friendly, Johannesburg has an interesting history which is skilfully displayed in top-notch museums dotted around the city. When you’re not exploring the sights, the upmarket area of Rosebank offers plenty of shops, bars and restaurants with boutique cafes, trendy cocktail bars and rooftop eateries.

Things to Do in Johannesburg:

Gold Reef City: Located on an old gold mine that closed in 1971 and themed around the 1866 gold rush that led to the establishment of Johannesburg, Gold Reef City boasts a gold mining museum, a casino, bowling alley, a Victorian train station themed cinema and plenty of shops. For thrill seekers there’s also a world-class theme park, which contains the famous inverted Anaconda rollercoaster.

Apartheid Museum:  Located next to Gold Reef City and open since 2001, this fascinating museum documents the rise and fall of the apartheid. As well as its interesting contents, the building itself is a fantastic example of design and all the exhibits have been carefully put together by a team of curators, historians, designers and film-makers. Boasting rave reviews, the museum succeeds in bringing home the horrors of apartheid and offers a greater understanding of this important part of South African history.

Mandela House: Located in the south-west of the city, and part of the infamous Soweto township, sits the modest house that Nelson Mandela and his family called home between 1946 and 1990. The Mandela family home is now an interesting museum with artwork, various memorabilia and awards that were given to Mandela over the years. Located on the lively Vilakazi Street, which also used to be the home of Desmond Tutu, the street attracts a wealth of tourists and as such has plenty of welcoming bars, cafes and restaurants serving local cuisine.

Kruger National Park

Considered one of the world’s greatest wildlife watching destinations, Kruger National Park is home to all of Africa’s famous species, including elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos, cheetahs, buffaloes, hippos and zebras. There’s also a huge variety of bird species and animal sightings are guaranteed. Surrounded by beautiful mountains, with bush plains and tropical forests, the popular National Park that spans a whopping 19,485 km², still boasts plenty of secluded spots. Unlike a lot of other African National Parks, visitors are able to drive themselves, but arguably, the wildlife is best seen by Jeep with an experienced driver, and Kruger National Park excursions are often included in organised South Africa tours

The Garden Route

This 300km stretch of road runs from Witsand in the east to Storms River in the west and is often considered one of the most beautiful car journeys in the world. The road follows the coastline, which offers beaches ranging from popular haunts with atmospheric beach towns, to deserted coastlines with nothing but spectacular scenery and the odd stray cow. As well as the beaches, the scenery that surrounds the road is nothing short of incredible, with diverse settings including remote African villages, lush mountains, lakes, private reserves and vineyards.

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