We’ve got the low-down on South Africa’s hottest tourist destinations you need to add to your bucket list this year.
By: El Broide
While the world gets smaller and smaller with easier, and more direct, flights to some of our favourite destinations, we often forget that some of the world’s greatest treasures lie on our very doorstep. If you want to make the most of all our beautiful country has to offer, you need to make a plan to visit these incredible destinations in 2020:
Bo-Kaap has certainly become one of South Africa’s most unique neighbourhoods. Known for its brightly coloured houses, there is more to Bo-Kaap than meets the eye. The neighbourhood is situated at the foot of Signal Hill and was formerly known as the Malay Quarter where, in the 1760s, people from Malaysia, Indonesia and the rest of Africa who were brought to work in the Cape were housed. The neighbourhood has a rich history and a distinct culinary offering and brings in people from all around the globe. But why the colourful houses? Well, when the Malay were slaves, their oppressors would not let them paint their rented houses anything other than white. So, when they were freed and allowed to purchase the houses they’ve been living in for years, the residents painted their property in bright colours as an expression of their freedom.
The Big Hole
The Big Hole is an open-pit and underground mine situated in the town of Kimberly in the Northern Cape. Kimberly used to be a mining town and what has today come to be known as The Big Hole was dug by over 50 000 miners between 1871 and 1914 with picks and shovels yielding 2,722 kilograms of diamonds extracted from 22,5 million tons of excavated earth. Today, there lies an incredible museum adjacent to the hole which gives audiences a deeper history into the town and how the big hole came to be. The centre also has a replica of the old town of Kimberly which is a must-see.
Less than an hour’s drive from Johannesburg’s bustling city centre is the beautiful Hartbeespoort Dam. The small town is the ultimate destination for a quick break from the city and plays host to a multitude of holiday resorts, B&Bs and the dam is perfect for taking the boat out for a ride or enjoying some of the exciting craft markets the town has to offer. Other attractions include Pretville, a movie set turned restaurant and movie house, French Toast coffee and waffle house and the popular Chameleon Village which is home to some of the best African souvenirs.
Lesedi Cultural Village
There’s a terrible stigma that Lesedi Cultural Village is a place only tourists should visit but the place is truly a celebration of our heritage and a place all South Africans need to visit. Lesedi Cultural Village gives guests a chance to experience traditional life at five authentic tribal homesteads. A visit to the homesteads opens up a genuine window into the lifestyles, customs and traditions of the Zulu, Xhosa, Bapedi, Basotho and Ndebele people. With a stunning craft market, audio-visual presentation and a delicious buffet lunch or dinner after your tour, Lesedi Cultural Village truly is the ultimate celebration of Mzansi’s heritage.
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#DidYouKnow… Traditional South African forefathers used to build their homesteads from clay soil, wood, stone, and thatching grass. Women would take pride in decorating their homes with bold geometric designs using either clay, cow dung or commercially available paints. To learn more, follow the link in our bio. For enquiries contact CRO: 010 442 5888 / [email protected] #stayaha #Lesedi #WorldSoilDay
Kruger National Park
The Kruger National Park is the largest national park in South Africa. The park comes in at a staggering 19,485 km2 – which is larger than the size of the whole of Israel. Home to the Big Five, elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo and leopard, there is no better place to go on safari than at the Kruger National Park. With a variety of five-star hotels and bush lodges in the park, the experience can become costly but there are more affordable alternatives just outside the gates of the park. With guided game drive or self-drive options, if you want to immerse yourself in the beautiful fauna and flora Africa has to offer, a trip to the Kruger National Park is a must.
Gold Reef City
Gold Reef City is certainly Africa’s playground. Built to look like an authentic mining town, Gold Reef City is one of the biggest theme parks on the continent. Home to hair-raising rollercoasters like the Anaconda and the Golden Loop as well as brand-new thrill rides like the The High-Flying Maverick and the Storm Chaser, it truly has something for everyone. Besides the theme park, the entertainment complex is also home to a state-of-the-art casino, two 4-star hotels, conferencing and teambuilding facilities, an epic cinema reminiscent of an old train station and an array of restaurants.
Robben Island has a monumental role in the history of South Africa. The island was used as a prison for political prisoners and convicted criminals during the Apartheid years and housed famous inmates like Nelson Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada, Jacob Zuma and many more. Today, the island serves as a strong reminder of the injustice of Apartheid and still houses the infamous prison many of our political leaders stayed in for years of their lives. A trip to Robben Island is both educational and scenic.
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Robben Island is a relatively flat and low-lying island which makes it susceptible to strong winds and extreme temperatures. The highest point on the island, Minto’s Hill, is only 24m!⠀ ⠀ #humanrights #HumanRightsMonth #RobbenIsland #RobbenIslandMuseum #RobbenIslandPrison #history #heritage #CapeTown #UNESCO #NelsonMandela #Apartheid
The injustices of Apartheid are still felt in everyday life in South Africa today which is why its important to continue educating ourselves and visitors about the country’s darkest time. This is why places like the Apartheid Museum are so important. The experience starts as soon as you enter the gates as the museum highlights the racially prejudiced system which ruled the country from 1948 to 1994 and beyond. With a variety of film footages, photographs, text panels and artifacts on show, the Apartheid Museum is a brilliant reminder of South Africa’s horrific past.
uShaka Marine World
Nestled at the very beginning of Durban’s Golden Mile is Kwazulu Natal’s ultimate entertainment destination uShaka Marine World. The venue has one of the best water parks in the country as well as a massive aquarium that continues to educate visitors on the varieties of sea life and the importance of keeping our oceans clean. Just outside the park there is an entertainment complex which is home to a variety of stores and restaurants. With its unique offering, the complex is one of the most popular entertainment destinations on South Africa’s east coast.
Today, Constitution Hill is the setting for the Constitutional Court of South Africa and the popular Flame Of Democracy but during Apartheid, the venue housed a prison where both political activists opposed to apartheid and common criminals were held. Popular prisoners included Mahatma Gandhi, who was imprisoned there in 1906, as well as Nelson Mandela, Joe Slovo, Bram Fischer, Albert Lutuli and Robert Sobukwe. Today, tour groups from around the world come to get a glimpse of the horrific life the prisoners lived in their cells but also at the progress South Africa has made as a democracy.
Stellenbosch Wine Routes
South Africa is known for its exceptional wines and with its ideal climate and vast space, Stellenbosch has become the breeding ground for some of the country’s best wineries. With a spectacular wine route and farms situated relatively close to each other, Stellenbosch has become famous for those looking to let their taste buds run wild. With a variety of wineries from the likes of Rust En Vrede, Kleine Zalze, Middelvlei and some of the country’s best, and most decorated, restaurants like De Warenmarkt and Eight At Spier, Stellenbosch is every foodie’s idea of heaven.
Many still consider Sun City as the ultimate resort in South Africa. With five hotels on the property, including the world-renowned five-star The Palace of the Lost City, one of the country’s greatest golf courses, a state-of-the-art conferencing and eventing facility, a newly-renovated entertainment area and the popular Valley of the Waves water park, a casino, nightclubs and a safari experience at the adjacent Pilanesberg National Park the complex continues to remain incredibly popular with both local and international tourists.
Whale Watching In Hermanus
The Hermanus area has been recognized by the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) as one of the 12 best whale watching destinations in the world and every year, between the months of June to December, the Southern Right Whales migrate from the Antarctic to come mate and breed in the waters surrounding the Hermanus region. Travellers from all around the world visit the city to experience these beautiful sites from the many viewpoints in the city, guided boat tours or even guided sea kayaking trips for those who are a little more adventurous.
Dinokeng Game Reserve
While many local explorers aren’t keen on the hours it takes to drive to the Kruger National Park or even the Pilanesberg National Park from Johannesburg, the Dinokeng Game Reserve is an ideal alternative. Just a half an hour’s drive from Pretoria, the game reserve covers an area of approximately 21,000 hectares and is home to the big five and a variety of resorts, B&Bs, tenting camps and more have opened their doors to give patrons a truly authentic safari experience.
What’s a trip to Cape Town without a trek up Table Mountain? Still one of the biggest tourist destinations in the country, Table Mountain offers tourists the option of either hiking up or taking a cable car to witness some of the best views the country has to offer. Edged by Devil’s Peak to the east and by Lion’s Head to the west, a trip up the mountain offers a glimpse of the Cape Town city, its harbour, the ocean and Robben Island. The mountain forms part of the Table Mountain National Park which plays host to a large variety of fauna and flora and is certainly the focal point for everyone visiting the Mother City.
A visit to Soweto should be on every South African’s bucket list and right in the heart of the world’s biggest township lies the popular Vilakazi Street. Both Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu lived here and its one of the few streets in the world where two Nobel Prize winners lived. Mandela’s house has since been turned into a remarkable museum and just a block away, Hector Peterson was killed by police during the students’ uprising of June 16 1976. Today, there are also a variety of restaurants which serve some of Mzansi’s best local cuisines topping off a visitor’s trip to Soweto in the most delicious way.
The Three Rondavels
The three rondavels are a stunning geological phenomenon in the heart of Graskop, Mpumalanga. As the name suggests, three mountains in the shape of ancient hut-like dwellings and are situated close to a beautiful viewpoint and hiking trail at the start of Blyde River Canyon on Mpumalanga’s Panorama Route. The rondavels are also a short drive from the popular Mac Mac Falls, the breath-taking views of God’s Windows and the old town of Pilgrim’s Rest.
Cradle Of Humankind
Just a 90-minute drive from Johannesburg’s city centre lies the incredible Cradle of Humankind. The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site is one of 10 in the country and it is the world’s richest hominin site, home to around 40% of the world’s human ancestor fossils. A trip to the cradle offers visitors the opportunity to learn about stones and bones and the history of human kind while also offering visitors exceptional dining, adrenaline-pumping activities, wildlife encounters and accommodation options.
South Africa is known for its beautifully diverse landscapes and the Drakensberg mountain range is an area which draws thousands of visitors on a monthly basis. The Drakensberg is located between the borders of South Africa and Lesotho and mountains here reach heights of around 2,000 to 3,482 metres above sea level. The area is known for its historic san cave paintings and today, hoards of hikers come to experience the vast terrain the popular mountains are known for.
Addo Elephant National Park
Just a short drive from the coastal city of Port Elizabeth is the country’s third largest national park. With majestic views, the park recently expanded to become the only park in the world to lay claim to Africa’s ‘Big 7’ – elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo, leopard, southern right whale and great white shark. With an array of safari, game drive and hospitality options, there’s a reason Addo Elephant National Park is fast-becoming one of the Eastern Cape’s hottest tourist spots.