Tourist attractions in South Africa are vivacious and multifarious in a way that they cannot be explored in merely one visit. South Africa is a plethora of wildlife, small beautiful towns, metropolitan cities, national parks, vineyards, beaches and intriguing topography with mountains, lush forests and lagoons. The country is a multifaceted platform of development and fluctuating economy, yet it has so much to offer from people around the world and make their visit worthwhile.
An amalgamation of small countryside towns to metropolitan cities of skyscrapers; interspersed with natural silhouettes and wildlife, the country is surely the best once in a lifetime experience. Take a look at a list of top 20 tourist attractions in South Africa.
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Top Tourist Attractions in South Africa
1. Kruger National Park, Mpumalanga
The world famous and oldest game reserve of South Africa, Kruger National park of Mpumalanga and Limpopo province is the best sight to encounter the Big Five. Big Five is the name given to South Africa’s five best wildlife species – lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino.
The park can be called a canvas, painted by diverse wildlife species and different shades of green scenery. It houses the prominent archaeological sites and famous Bushman rock paintings of South Africa along with widespread grasslands, rivers and thick forest cover.
Self-guided tours for camping and lodging sites and hot-air balloon ventures providing a clear view of the rivers brushing their course against the rocky land leave the trekkers and adventure lovers speechless. The subtropical climate of the place accompanied by heavy rainfalls adds to the beauty of this place.
- Best time to visit – June, July and August;
- Activities – Early mornings and late afternoons are perfect timing for game viewing, Safari and adventure sports.
2. Kgalagadi (Kalahari) Transfrontier Park, Northern Cape
Established in 2000, Kgalagadi National Park is the largest wilderness area in the world and declared as the first Transfrontier Park in Northern Cape of South Africa. What makes this park one of its kinds is the miscellany of rugged roads, golden grass-covered lands, dark blue horizon and knotted camel thorn trees composing a surreal setting for photography. The predators like Hyenas, leopards and cheetahs, Kalahari lions and other uncommon species such as weavers, meerkats, prey birds gemsbuck with peculiar V-horns are the inhabitants of this territory. Game viewing and Safari are interesting activities to enjoy at this place.
- Best time to visit – March to May; right after the monsoon
- Activities – Game viewing, swimming with a refreshing drink while watching the sunset, camping, safari or wilderness walks
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3. Drakensberg, Kwazulu
Natal Drakensberg is a Dutch name for “dragon mountains”. The name suits the setting of this tourist attraction in South Africa as it is entrenched with the highest peaks. The edgy basalt buttresses and uneven mountain trails create an ideal track for hiking and biking. The dense forests of Drakensberg house 600 plant species, which is indeed a picturesque view for nature-lovers. Significantly known for the Amphitheatre, a mountain range shaped like an amphitheatre, 3482 metres high is a source of origin for some of the main rivers of South Africa. It also shelters a World Heritage site, Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park, home to a biologically diverse population, scenic views and paintings from old civilization.
- Best time to visit – April, May, September and October and during the winter season for snow vacation.
- Activities – Game viewing at Giant’s Castle Game Reserve, hot air balloon ride, parasailing, abseiling, fishing, rafting, rock-climbing and hiking.
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4. The Garden Route
Nestled between blue lagoons of Knysna and dense forests, the Garden Route at the southeast coast, between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, is one of the most famous tourist attractions in South Africa. Stretching over 300 km from Mossel Bay to Storm River, it is a trove of lush tropical vegetation, astounding tidal blue lakes, lagoons and beautiful gorges with green cliffs lining the coastal region. An abundance of wildlife can be found here, ranging from elephants, whales, cheetahs to wild mammals, birds and reptiles.
The beautiful landscapes of the Garden Route are inhabited by whales, dolphins, wolves and an ideal location for tourists to enjoy wine and gourmet foods while taking a stroll in the market to buy craft items and indigenous plant foods.
Quick tip – The Garden Route is known for its malaria-free environment.
- Best time to visit – September and October
- Activities – Whale watching, elephant rides, abseiling, hiking, biking, bungee jumping and other leisure activities like swimming, sunbathing on cruise ships.
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5. iSimangaliso Wetland Park, KwaZulu-Natal
If you prepare the itinerary for the best tourist attractions of South Africa and don’t add this location to it; you’ll miss out the real fun part. iSimangaliso Wetland Park is an ultimate composition of eight different ecosystems – lakes, crocodile-infested rivers, coral reefs, swampland, savanna, beaches, wetlands, coastal dunes and papyrus inhabited wetlands.
The diverse ecosystems are interwoven in the small wetland park in St. Lucia, South Africa; the abode of astounding corals, grasslands and beautiful species of animals like hippos, lions, leopards, rhinos, 526 bird species, say, flamingos, 32 marine species like leatherback turtles, crocodiles, humpback whales, papyrus, bottlenose dolphins. Such riveting biodiversity has earned it the title of UNESCO World Heritage site and Africa’s largest estuary system. No wonder it was named “iSimangaliso” in Zulu language, meaning “a miracle.”
Quick Tip – Tournaments, events, sports, festivals and photography competitions are held for tourists and locals. Don’t forget to enjoy these events; you’ll have something extraordinary to recall your visit with a smile.
- Best time to visit – May to September
- Activities – Kayaking, fishing, diving, snorkelling, participating in tournaments, adventure sports, boat cruises, horse riding, game viewing.
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6. Blyde River Canyon, Mpumalanga
The second largest canyon in Africa is home to diverse flora and fauna. A plethora of rock formations, rivers and waterfalls, subtropical verdancy embellish this widely famous tourist attraction in South Africa. Hippos and crocodiles are the common inhabitants along with astonishing views of Three Rondavels and the infamous God’s Window.
- Best time of visit – May and August
- Activities – Boat trips, game viewing, hiking the trials, rafting
7. Table Mountain
Table Mountain stands high at 1,086 metres as a protective soldier to the striking city of Cape Town in South Africa. Adventure buffs and mountain climbers cannot the challenging peak of the mountain, which provides a divine and spellbinding view from the top. Cableways and cars with revolving features ensure a 360-degree panoramic view of nature’s artistry.
- Best time to visit – November and February
- Activities – Mountaineering, photography, hiking, adventure sports, and watch wild animal species like baboons and penguins are visible as you go higher.
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8. Cape Vineyards
Protected by majestic mountains, adorned with historical structures, orchards, grasslands, and suburban settlements, lies the valley of Cape Vineyards. It is world famous for its wine manufacture (red, white, brandy, sherry and other delicate flavours in different categories) and is indeed the oldest wine estates in South Africa. It’s captivating landscapes, gourmet food and finest wines contributed to listing it as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004.
- Best time to visit – May to August
- Activities – Wander into the vineyards and learn how world-class wines are made, relax in luxury hotels enjoying a savoury taste of wine with tasty meals.
9. Victoria and Alfred Waterfront
Claimed to be the most visited tourist attractions of Cape Town, and the famous things to visit in South Africa, the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront takes aback the visitors with its prehistoric settings. Something you saw in the 80’s or 90’s movie scene with ships at the harbour is what you’ll experience here live. Theatres, restaurants, pubs are some of the specialities of this tourist spot.
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- Best time to visit – January and April
- Activities – Board the Seal and Harbour cruise, dine at the Firefish Restaurant, fin across the Two Oceans Aquarium, visit the best museums around, ride the terrifying Cape Wheel and stroll through the Hamleys with your kids
10. Addo Elephant National Park
Nothing is more soothing and healing than watching the wildlife enjoying with its native species in their natural habitat. Addo National Park is one such peaceful hub to the wild species housing 600 elephants along with the big five. The recent addition of whales and white sharks has expanded it to big seven. Coastal areas, water bodies, and islands are an ideal home to elephants, leopards, lions, buffaloes, rhinos, sharks and whales. This National Park should not be missed when looking for a true wilderness expedition and fantasy jungle safari.
- Best time to visit – June to September
- Activities – Safari, game viewing, whale-watching
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Protected by magnificent sandstone cliff, Knysna is a small port town known as the heart of the Garden Route. This town is a harbour of different marine and coastal creatures as it attracts endangered fish species, whales, seahorse and hippos. A treasure trove for biologists, ornithologists and sea-food lovers.
- Best time to visit – February to April
- Activities – Whale watching, water surfing, beach picnic, swimming in tidal pools and calm lagoons.
In the Western Cape of South Africa, lies this picturesque town with preserved gardens and houses which date back the 18th-19th century. The University of Stellenbosch houses a Botanic garden, listed among the top tourist attractions of South Africa. Dutch dwellings of East India company, old oak trees and farms are some of the sights to witness in this beautiful town.
Stellenbosch boasts of the best restaurants and street cafes in Africa, so, the town’s a delight for foodies. Apart from these, there are many adventures and activities for tourists to enjoy and make memories.
- Best time to visit – September to April
- Activities – Explore the wilderness trails, hiking and biking, camping, visit art galleries and artists masterpiece displays to uncover the history of the town.
Surrounded by Langeberg mountains and rivers, Montagu is a small town known as “mountain mecca.” It is famous for its idyllic scenery, vineyards, orchard farms, beneficial herbs and dry fruits. Hot mineral springs and uncanny rock formations are a sight for nature lovers. Without taking much of your time off from itinerary for top tourist attractions in South Africa, this wine-producing town of the country will leave a memorable impression on you.
- Best time to visit – January to May
- Activities – Stargazing, hiking trails, shop for dry fruits and local plant foods, visit the theme parks and Montagu dam, Wine Valley safari tour.
Formerly known as Nelspruit, Mbombela is the gateway to the Kruger National Park settled on Crocodile River. It bores a human-made rainforest and contains San rock art. Capital of the Mpumalanga province of South Africa which saw gold developments in its early years. Important wildlife species can be spotted here like rhinoceros, zebras and elephants, to name a few.
- Best time to visit – April to August
- Activities – Explore wildlife at Open Skies Wilderness Expeditions and befriend chimpanzees at Jane Goodall Chimpanzee Eden Sanctuary, Mbombela Stadium, Botanical gardens, Sudwala caves and i’Langa Mall are important landmarks and sights for tourists activities.
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The capital of Northern Cape of South Africa, Kimberley houses the world’s largest diamond mine.”Big Hole.” It is significant from Africa’s history what amount of labour and hard work it required back then for Kimberley to become the largest diamond mining hub.
Rides through the mining shaft are provided for the tourists to witness the real diamonds in different hues and textures. Small museum housing artefacts, diamonds, a high platform to view the “Big Hole” visible from space and a 17-minute movie is all you’ll need to go back in time in order to understand everything about Africa’s mining history and labour.
- Best time to visit – February to May
- Activities – Nearby cafes, artefacts and gift shops, ancient buildings and museums, De Beers house, empty streets are some places to visit in Kimberley.
One of the most important human-made tourist attractions of South Africa is the busy city of Durban. Built around Africa’s major port, it is a city with multifarious cultural influences from India and colonial era and its prominent Zulu culture.
What’s interesting about this city as a backdrop to the busy golden beaches is it is a shopper’s paradise for crafts, jewellery, world-class malls and street bazaars. The hospitality, entertainment and commercial centre of South Africa, provides beachfront accommodation, self-service apartments, and leisure activities and water sports and marine adventures for tourists.
- Best time to visit – May to September
- Activities – Visit uShaka Sea World for a Waterworld adventure while snorkeling, Botanical gardens with fossil plants, palms, a century-old international trees, Essenwood market for shopping crafts, clothes, jewellery, good food and drinks, surf or walk across the infamous Golden Mile and watch 200 species of birds at Umhlanga Hiking trail, Kwahule Museum for city’s history and Indian district for beautiful sights and experience.
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The purple administrative city of South Africa goes by another name “Jacaranda” because of its blossoms and monsoon-laiden vegetative cover. The suburb conventional city was once the main centre of the Apartheid system, which undergoing renaissance is now a platform of the diverse African population and foreign citizens. Located at the foothill of Magaliesberg mountains extending in the Apies River Valley, Pretoria is a historical city with amusing architectural structures and museums, botanical gardens and art galleries worth watching.
- Best time to visit – April to October
- Activities – Ice skating, treetop adventures, biking, visits to museums and historical centres
18. Port Elizabeth
One of the safest cities in South Africa is Port Elizabeth, located in the Eastern Cape of coastal South Africa. The city boasts of not only the best beaches, safe waterfronts, diverse wildlife, but is associated with the rich history of influential people and cultural heritage of South Africa.
Decorated by its aesthetic beaches, natural beauty and captivating views, the city is a jumble of friendly people from many different cultures (given the history of the country) which makes it colourful and more attractive. Hence, the different names “The Friendly City” because of people and “The Windy City” because of its coastal influence are given to this city.
Port Elizabeth, besides being the safe and irresistible tourist attraction in South Africa, is a definite spot for kids vacations. The museums, forest trails, Bay world, Nelson Mandela stadium, SANCCOB Seabird Rehabilitation Centre for penguins are go-to places, to name a few, in Port Elizabeth. You’ll not regret any part of your visit to this worthy city.
- Best time to visit – All throughout the year with September being the busiest tourist month.
- Activities – Water sports, heritage tour, beach walk and forest trails, camping, game viewing, diving and many more.
The gold city of South Africa with 40% of the world’s gold is also known as “Egoli” and is second on the list of top tourist attractions in South Africa. The bustling urban landscape of Johannesburg should not be confused with its suburban settings and rich flora and fauna extensively spread throughout the city.
Improvised in 2010 for Soccer World Cup, the metropolitan city has faced an upheaval after the Apartheid system was ended. Since then, it has developed and thrived inexplicably. The extravagant wildlife reserves, infrastructure with architectural influence from the ancient era, theme parks, hot air balloon rides with a panoramic view of the city and Soweto township are capable of making the tourists extend their visits.
- Best time to visit – March to May, September to November
- Activities – Private open-air safari to Lion and Safari Park, explore the diamond mining sites, stroll through the Apartheid Museum, spend a day at Suncity resort with game viewing at Pilanesberg National Park, experience the local culture at Lesedi Cultural Village.
20. Cape Town
A haven for travellers and coastal inhabitants is this oldest city of South Africa. Cape Town tops the list of best tourist attractions in South Africa. Nestled between the best natural settings and captivating views, resting beneath the Table Mountain is this city which has almost everything for a full-fledged tropical and leisure holiday trip.
Cape Town is the legislative capital of South Africa and is called “Mother City” as it has been around for 300 years.
The city is a sublimation of best escapades, cultural intersection, natural landscapes and entertainment affairs; you name it, and the city offers the best it has.
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- Best time to visit – January to April
- Activities – Explore penguin colonies and best vineyards, sunbathing, paragliding, hot air balloon rides, hop-on-hop-off bus sightseeing tour, safari and game viewing, whale watching, boat-cruising, lodging and camping, stargazing, marine sports and water ventures.
Looking for a real venture to the continent of wild and paradise; South Africa is the answer. The country has the oldest cities from the Apartheid era and colonial times and some of the largest gold and diamond mines. People in the country are friendly and welcoming. If not indigenous people of the country, the wildlife and prodigy of nature will leave you in awe; hence, rendering it possible for people from far and wide, to encounter the best tourist attractions in South Africa.
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