Which are the best places to go in South Africa?
South Africa is also quite a large country, so you won't be able to take in all the attractions unless you've got tons of time. For this reason, I'm going to describe them by province, allowing you to decide where you'd like to go, and plan a great holiday.
Western Cape Province
Historic sites: Among these are the notorious Robben Island where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were incarcerated during the apartheid years. It's easy to get a boat trip to the island and explore the prison, which has been turned into a museum! The boat ride across table bay offers wonderful views that contrast with the grim reality faced by the erstwhile inmates of the once fearful prison.
Natural wonders and scenic splendour: Table mountain is well-worth ascending. For those not inclined to physical exertion, there's an exciting cable car ride, that will take you to the top, revolving gently so that you have an opportunity to see the view from every angle. The tourist centre on the summit sports a restaurant and curio shop and the amazing view can be taken in from every angle by following a paved footpath. Other activities, such as abseiling, will satisfy the adventurous.
Cape point, although not the southernmost tip of Africa as some believe, is nevertheless well worth a visit. An excellent road meanders through this nature reserve and you might be lucky enough to see ostriches strolling on the pure white sands at Buffalo bay. A little further on, you will find the light house and a tourist centre where there is an excellent restaurant with an unsurpassed view over the ocean.
From the tourist centre, a short footpath leads to the superb Dias beach. From this stunning spot, several footpaths allow for short walks that will get you in touch with the spirit of the place. Although this is a nature reserve, there are no predators ' but stay away from baboons, which can be dangerous!
The 'Garden Route': Take the well-maintained N2 highway up the eastern seaboard stopping at Cape Aughulus (the real Southern tip of Africa) and enter this stunning area famed for its forest, mountains, lakes and quiet beaches that stretch for miles. Visit the old port and gold-rush area at Knysna, see the big five at one of the excellent privately owned game reserves and visit 'Knysna heads' where there are also excellent restaurants as well as a superb view over the Knysna lagoon and its entrance into the sea between two mountains known as 'The heads'.
Not far inland, one can view the spectacular 'Cango Caves', among the most beautiful cave-systems known, this site offers easy tours as well as more adventurous ones! Even the 'easy' tour, will take you through spectacular, cathedral-like chambers adorned with stalactites, stalagmites and wonderful crystals.
Great shopping : The historic harbour at the Victoria and Alfred waterfront is a vibrant tourist attraction with buskers playing South African music, sailing ship rides and great restaurants and shops catering to upmarket clientele. Even if you're not a great shopper, I can almost guarantee that you will enjoy strolling around the well-restored old harbour.
At Knysna, in the Garden route, there is also a restored harbour known as 'The Waterfront' featuring similar activities on a smaller scale.
Food and wine: While you're in the Cape Town area, why not take in a couple of historic wine estates? Tours usually include wine-tasting and excellent food!
If you land and the international airport outside Johannesburg (OR Tambo), you may decide to begin your African experience here.
Historic and cultural activities: Take a guided tour through the townships and enjoy traditional African cuisine or visit the historic mining museum and theme park at Gold Reef City that offers activities from the frivolous and fun to the serious and interesting.
Shopping: As the economic hub of South Africa, there are many prestigious shopping centres ' enough for the dedicated shopper to 'shop till they drop'!
For those hungering for natural wonders, Gauteng has its own beauties, but if you want something truly spectacular, drive or fly to Mpumalanga Province
The name 'Mpumalanga' means 'where the sun rises', and indeed, the weather is sultry in summer, especially in the lowlands.
Historic sites: Visit the old 'gold rush' towns of Pilgim's rest and Kaap Muiden. Both of these are lovingly restored and are surrounded by wonderful scenery.
Scenic and natural splendour: Visit the escarpment, where the Drakensberg range of mountains drops to the coastal plateau. There are dramatic views, towering waterfalls by the dozen and dense, tropical forest rich with wildflowers. There are several well-maintained hiking trails ranging from the easy to the extreme.
Mpumalanga is also the province in which the famous Kruger National Park is situated. This reserve covers 20 000 square kilometres and houses the famous 'big five': elephant, rhino, buffalo, leopards and lions. There are many other species besides: antelopes, cute mongooses, apes and a huge variety of birds abound. Do stay in your car except in designated rest camps!
Great shopping: This province is undoubtedly the best one in which to obtain handmade African curios such as carvings and sculptures.
Cautionary note: Do use anti-malaria tablets in this province!
No matter which province you visit in South Africa, there will be exciting things to see and do, but I believe that these are the top sites for both local and international tourism! Plan your route, and enjoy yourself!
Written by : Andrea Durrheim, South Africa
Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )