South Africa is a land of contrasts. It has a diversity of cultures and the land itself echoes this. The fishing villages dotted on the coast, the semi-desert of the Karoo, the majesty of the Drakensberg Mountains, the breathtaking scenery and The mother city, Cape Town will all help to make your South African Bucket List Trip a fantastic holiday.
This is not an exhaustive list by any means and everyone will have their own favourites, but these are some of mine.
The Bucket List Trip
1. Cape Town
I am a proud Capetonian being born there and having gone to school in the city, therefore, it has to be no 1 on my list. It really has everything you could want in a holiday destination and more. If you are looking for white beaches to catch the rays or surf, a vineyard to wander through sipping a glass of wine or a mountain to climb then Cape Town will not disappoint. The world famous Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens are also a good way of enjoying the outdoors in the shade of Table Mountain.
I love visiting the quaint seaside villages of Kalk Bay and Simonstown. Kalk Bay is still a working fishing harbour and there is nothing nicer than eating fish and chips in one of the restaurants or buying a freshly caught fish from the boats.
Boulders Beach Nature Reserve is also high up on my list and the wacky penguins will keep you suitably entertained as they waddle to and fro. The Cape Point Nature Reserve which is also the same side of the peninsula should not be missed. The views from the top of the point are awesome in the true sense of the word.
Another part of the city that you should not miss visiting for a unique insight into the Cape Malay culture is the Bo – Kaap. I recently visited again and was so impressed by the colourful house, friendly people and delicious food. Here’s what to expect from a visit.
Cape Town also offers a host of wonderful restaurants and markets for foodies to enjoy.
2. The West Coast flower route
Just after the winter rains for about 2 months the semi-desert area of Namaqualand becomes a carpet of flowers. Don’t miss this! It is just as beautiful as the lavender fields in Provence.
If you are unable to plan a trip around this time it is still worth a visit as the coast is still beautiful. Try and spend a couple of days in Paternoster, a whitewashed fishing village where you can indulge in freshly caught fish, crayfish ( a bit like a lobster with smaller claws) and mussels straight off the rocks.
3. The Garden Route
No South Africa bucket list trip is complete without a visit to the Garden Route. You will be seduced by the sheer natural beauty of a drive along the coast. The 200 km stretch includes George, the Wilderness, Sedgefield, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay and ends in the Tsitsikamma Forest, a magical world of ferns, bird life and giant trees. The sandy beaches, lagoons and cliffs are also worth exploring. If you are an adrenaline junkie then drive an extra 26 km to the Bloukrans River Bridge to bungee from the highest commercial bungee bridge in the world.
4. The Karoo
This area is a vast semi-desert region best known as big sky country. You really can see for miles. The region is dotted with small villages and a few larger towns. Windmills adorn the landscape like solitary sentries guarding the secrets the land has to offer.
One of these gems is the town of Matjiesfontein, just off the N1 between Touws River and Laingsburg. Visiting here is like stepping back to a bygone era. The town was established in 1884 on the main line between Cape Town and Johannesburg. It was also a popular spa in the Victorian Era. It was declared a National Heritage site in 1975. For a taste the past this is living history at its best. The only place to stay is at the Lord Milner Hotel for a taste of a bygone era where the Union Jack still flies proudly.
5. The Drakensberg (Ukhahlamba) Mountains
The Drakensberg Mountain range is the highest in South Africa. It has a rich plant life and rugged peaks, forests, waterfalls and rivers abound in the mountains. It is one of the World Heritage sites found in South Africa.
The area is divided into 3 regions, southern, central and northern, each with their own unique beauty. The mountains are littered with San rock art sites featuring around 35 000 images. Over the years I have visited much of this region, but my favourite remains the northern area. The Amphitheatre is a cliff face that is 5 km wide and 1200 m tall. The scale is immense and you feel totally dwarfed by its majesty. There is a chain ladder to climb to the top of the escarpment for the hikers amongst you. It’s really worth doing as you will be rewarded with unforgettable views.
6. The Kruger National Park
No visit to South Africa is complete without a trip to the Kruger National Park. If you are planning a visit then my post on planning a safari will give you tips to make the most of your visit. This is one of the world’s greatest national parks. The vast number of animals makes it a unique and special place. The iconic safari animals or Big Five can all be found here and the scenery changes as you move from the south to the north of the park. The southern part is my favourite with granite outcrops and the Lebombo mountains dominating the scenery which offers a variety of habitat for the animals of the park.
I could go on and on. I love South Africa, even with all its problems. It doesn’t have many old buildings, or quaint olde ye worlde cobbled street villages, but it does have so much to offer. It is a beautiful country. I have travelled extensively, in fact, 53 countries at the last count, so apart from being a little bit biased, I think that I am qualified to make this statement. Once you start exploring you will find much to like and you will hopefully return to delve a little deeper into its splendour.
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Originally written for www.travelblogsquad.com