Discover the best time to go, top destinations & things to do in Cape Town, Kruger Park and Garden Route.
With its diverse people and cultures, endless shores, majestic mountains, cosmopolitan cities, and haunting semi-deserts, South Africa is a world in one country. The “Rainbow Nation,” (a term coined by Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu), caters to all travellers – whether you’re a couple on a romantic African safari, a family making memories, 5-star luxury-seekers, or a group of friends in search of adventure.
For first-time visitors to Africa, South Africa provides something of a snapshot experience. Here, you can enjoy a classic Big 5 safari, a sun-sand-and-sea beach holiday, and a unique culture trip. Plus, you can take in some world-class attractions, such as Table Mountain, the Garden Route, Robben Island, Soweto, the Cape Winelands and more.
Of course, a Kruger National Park safari tops most visitors’ lists as South Africa’s biggest highlight. The iconic wildlife park is famous for its sensational game viewing, especially in the private reserves which share unfenced borders with the main park. On open vehicle game drives or guided bush walks in these exclusive conservancies, visitors can potentially view all five species of the Big 5 (lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant) in just one day.
From cosmopolitan Cape Town to the Afro-powerhouse of Johannesburg, each of South Africa’s cities has a personality of its own. While Cape Town has a reputation for being the country’s “little Europe,” Johannesburg, the economic centre of South Africa, is known as the “City of Gold.” Durban, in KwaZulu-Natal, enjoys a proud Indian heritage, while Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape traces its history back to the 1820 English Settlers. Pretoria, the nation’s capital, is famous for its purple-blooming Jacaranda trees and historical architecture; and Kimberley, home to The Big Hole, is where to go to explore South Africa’s exciting diamond-rush history.
And then there are the towns and villages dotted in between, each promising an even greater diversity of experiences. For foodies (notwithstanding the famous culinary delights of Cape Town), Franschhoek in the Winelands, Knysna in Garden Route, and Oudtshoorn in the Klein Karoo are all on the menu. As are waterfalls, mountain peaks, rushing rivers and more, on the itinerary for adventure-seekers.
Couples, honeymooners and families, explore the beaches of KwaZulu-Natal, and the shores of the Eastern and Western Cape. Marvel at the snowcapped peaks of the Drakensberg Mountains, or the arid plains of the Karoo. Tee-off on a world-class golf course or tick off your wildlife bucket list; whatever your Africa travel dreams, South Africa delivers a larger than life experience.
Good to Know
English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa, Tswana, Tonga, South Sotho, North Sotho, Venda, Ndebele, Swati
South African Rand (ZAR)
Typically warm dry summers and cold winters (snow only in high-lying areas). Much of the coastal regions are typified by temperate climates, while the interior is often dry during winter.
Top Experiences in South Africa
Explore Cape Town’s colourful culture, cuisine, history and landscapes, including visiting the Bo-Kaap, shopping at the V&A Waterfront, wine tasting in the Constantia Valley (or further afield in the Cape Winelands), riding the cable car to the flat-topped summit of Table Mountain, and being moved by the stories of hope and survival during the apartheid years on a tour of Robben Island.
Embark on the ultimate road trip along South Africa’s world-famous Garden Route and discover quaint coastal towns set against ancient forests, including Knysna, Wilderness and Plettenberg Bay.
Go whale watching in Hermanus, the best land-based whale watching destination in the world (between June and September), or game viewing in the Kruger National Park, South Africa’s most famous wildlife reserve.
When to Travel to South Africa
South Africa’s diversity of landscapes means that the climate varies from region to region. Cape Town and Western Cape experiences a Mediterranean climate, with a hot dry summer and a cold wet winter (June to August). Much of the rest of South Africa experiences a wet summer with a cold, dry winter, including the Kruger National Park. The Garden Route and Eastern Cape are temperate regions, with rainfall experienced any time of the year.
For the best game viewing in the Kruger Park, visit South Africa during the drier winter months between May and October as animals are concentrated around water sources and are easier to spot in the winter-sparse bush.
For a beach holiday, the hot summer months between November and March are ideal in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban. However, the South African summer school holidays fall over this period, making it a very busy time to travel to South Africa.