7 Things You Can’t Miss in South Africa (Updated 2022)

Safe to say, a touring experience through South Africa is an adventure you’ll never forget, and these are our top experiences you can’t miss.

At first glance, the beauty of South Africa might seem to exclusively lie in its physical structures; the striking landscapes, the wild and rugged coastlines, and national parks filled with wildlife encounters that will leave you speechless. But, where this must-visit destination stands out from the rest of the world is in the nation’s strength and resilience that comes from surviving some of the most harrowing events in history. A touring adventure through South Africa is an adventure you’ll never forget, and these are our top experiences.

1. Gain a first-hand understanding of South Africa’s history

Despite suffering a series of heart-wrenching events throughout the years, the beauty and magic of South Africa lie in the strong sense of pride that runs through the country today. A visit to the many exhibits and museums on the Apartheid era might be a heavy experience, yet it provides an in-depth understanding of just how far the country has come, and should not be missed.  

During your travels through South Africa, a visit to KwaZulu Natal is an essential piece of the puzzle to help understand the effects of the Apartheid. In this region, you can visit the Nelson Mandela Capture Site where he was apprehended for his anti-Apartheid activism. Or, you can spend time learning about the historic significance of the Battle of the Blood River that took place on the banks of the Ncome River.

View of Robben Island from a far surrounded by the sea
Robben Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned | © Brian Snelson/Flickr

From the waterfront in Cape Town, you can see Robben Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. While the prison is no longer serving its original purpose, it now acts as a museum (accessible via a short ferry) where guided tours are led by ex-prisoners.

Or, if you find yourself in Johannesburg, you can continue your history lesson at The Apartheid Museum; another can’t miss experience.  

2. Get lost in the bustling backstreets of Cape Town

You could spend weeks in Cape Town and barely scratch the surface, as this energetic city truly has it all. With its trendy bars and secret eateries on Kloof Street, iconic views of Table Mountain that dominate the skyline, hidden galleries dotted throughout the city, artisan markets such as the Old Biscuit Mill Market or Green Market Square, the atmosphere is unbeatable – and is worth spending hours and hours getting lost in.

A view of the sea off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa
Explore all that beautiful Cape Town has to offer!

Just don’t forget to spend an afternoon down by the waterfront, or visit the District Six Museum for another moving history lesson.

3. Spend time in the Winelands

Once you set off from Cape Town, Route 62 – the longest wine route in the world, should be your next point of call, and this region has carved its own unique identity. Picture this: quaint, boutique vineyards where innovative food, unique Dutch-influenced architecture, and rolling hills make for the perfect place to give in to temptation and enjoy a glass, or two.

Vineyards in South Africa
South Africa is known all over the world for its delicious wine!

4. Come face-to-face with hundreds of ostriches in Oudtshoorn

Oudtshoorn might boast a strange claim to fame as the ostrich capital of the world. But, it’s another unmissable stop during your exploration of South Africa. If you have an adventurous palate, ostrich kebabs or ostrich steak will be on the menu, assuming you’re up for the experience.

Observe ostriches in their natural habitat on a tour | © Wolfgang Hasselmanr/Unsplash

5. Find an adrenaline-filled adventure in Jeffery’s Bay

This sleepy coastal town is a haven for adventure enthusiasts. Grab a board and learn to surf with the locals. Go sandboarding on the nearby dunes. Or, take the plunge with a bungee jump at Bloukrans Bridge, just outside of Jeffery’s Bay.

6. Journey through the Drakensberg Mountains

We may have mentioned it earlier, but the geographically diverse landscapes of South Africa are some of the best in the world, and the Drakensberg Mountains exemplify exactly that! The tabletop peaks – stretching as far as the eye can see – can be explored on foot with various hiking trails. Or, you can jump in a 4×4 vehicle travelling up to Sani Pass overlooking the Khomazana river valley.

One thing’s for sure: don’t forget your camera!

Drakensberg Caves, South Africa
Explore the Drakensberg Caves for yourself

7.  Spot the Big Five in Kruger National Park

So, we know you were probably expecting Kruger National Park to score a mention on our list of best experiences, and here it is! But rest assured. It didn’t earn its place as one of the most popular places to visit in South Africa without good reason.

Experience the magic of the Big Five on a safari | © AnnaKate Auten/Unsplash

Home to the illustrious Big Five – lion, buffalo, leopard, elephant, and rhino – as well as countless other animals, coming this close to nature is a goosebump-inducing experience. Just don’t be surprised if you shed a tear the first time you see a pride of lions roaming nearby.

If we haven’t convinced you that a safari in South Africa is worth the stamp in your passport, then let Gerhard from Hotspots2c tell you why a tour through this wondrous region will change your life:

Gemma is a travel-lover from Melbourne. When she's not surrounded by the great outdoors, Gemma can be found spending her time with family and friends or planning her next trip overseas.

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