South Africa is arguably one of the most beautiful countries in the world and has become an increasingly popular tourist destination.
Most people visit Table Mountain in Cape Town, see the penguins at Boulder Beach, take in a safari in Kruger Park and check out the meeting of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans at Cape Point. With good reason.
Those places are all amazingly beautiful and definitely deserve a visit.
However, once you finish Instagramming the 117th picture of an elephant, check out some of these options that stray a little further from the beaten path.
This slideshow was first published in July 23, 2013
One of the best parts about traveling? The food. Always. And South Africa is no exception. Famed for their braai aka barbecue, South Africans know their meat. And nobody knows meat better than the folks at Mzoli’s, a restaurant in the Gugulethu township on the outskirts of Cape Town. While some might be nervous about venturing into a township, Mzoli’s provides a place where locals and travelers alike gather to eat some exceptional meat and relax in the South African sunshine. Plus, it’s BYOB, so pretty much every day turns into a party.
The beauty of driving in South Africa is that half the fun of visiting the cities is getting there. The Garden Route stretches along the southeastern coast and is populated by quaint towns, larger fishing villages and everything in between. With mountains, parks, marine reserves, and more, the drive is breathtaking. It’s recommended to rent a car rather than hop on a bus so you can take your time winding down the route, stopping wherever you feel the urge. Hopefully you’ll land near Storms River on the eastern edge of the Garden Route, also home to Bloukrans Bridge, offering up the highest commercial bungee jump in the world. You only live once, right?
The number of gorgeous hiking trails in South Africa is staggering, and some are more taxing than others. For those looking for a challenge, try hiking from Table Mountain to Cape Point on the Hoerikwaggo Trail. A 62-mile hike that normally takes five to seven days, is not for the faint of heart, but the scenery and wildlife you’ll come across make it worthwhile. There are options to hike shorter sections of the trail for those looking for a day- or -overnight trip. It’s recommended that you hire a guide to take on the whole enchilada, or at least to do research on accommodation options in eco-friendly lodges that dot the trail.
That’s right, kloofing. Basically, head to a mountain stream and follow it all the way down, whether by swimming, floating, jumping, rappelling, or whatever else it takes. Adrenaline seekers will inevitably head to the top of the highest cliff to jump into the cool water below — mellower travelers can stick to lower altitudes. Kloofing is most common in the Western Cape. Many are drawn to the aptly-named Suicide Gorge (it’s exactly what it sounds like).
If you’re visiting South Africa in the springtime (preferably September through November), be sure to head to the Namaqualand region, about a five-hour drive from Cape Town. At first, it seems as though you’ve entered a semi-desert with arid lands and dusty plains. Namaqualand is actually considered the country’s outback. As you continue driving, however, you enter a wonderland of blooms with more than 4,000 different species of plants covering the region’s entire landscape. Hiking and cycling routes can get you close up to the majesty, though the allergy-prone may want to check it out from the car.
The Diamond Coast in the Northern Cape is virtually undiscovered by tourists, but has not yet been abandoned by diamond hunters looking to make their fortunes. Visitors can see the diamond mines that are still in operation, shipwrecks of sailors who washed out in the frigid water, and amazing landscapes for bird watching. Just don’t try to take a swim unless you don’t mind losing feeling in all your body parts.
Near the Drakensberg Mountain range, you can find artistic remnants of the San people who inhabited the region from the Stone Age until the 19th century. Under sandstone overhangs and inset caves, they’ve left some of the finest examples of rock art in the world. Rather than in a museum, it’s definitely a more interesting way of checking out art.
Anybody can ride a horse, but how many people can say they’ve conquered the bizarre sport of ostrich riding? Remarkably strong birds, ostriches can run up to 43 miles per hour – which makes for a fun ride! Ostrich farms around South Africa offer rides in a safe environment, although there’s no guarantee you won’t get a small peck for your souvenir…
OK, so the Apartheid Museum is pretty well set on the beaten path, but it’s a must-see when visiting South Africa to get a real understanding of the country’s history. When exploring the gorgeous landscape, it’s easy to forget the turmoil that prevailed before South Africa became the rainbow nation it proudly claims to be today. The museum explores the long history of apartheid in South Africa, the movement that finally brought it to an end, and the implications it still holds on the future. Be sure to fit this in your trip, and you won’t be disappointed.