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Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in South Africa

One of the largest countries in Africa by area and population, South Africa entices travelers with stunning landscapes, incredible diversity, unique cuisine, and unforgettable experiences. Johannesburg is one of the main international gateways and home to the acclaimed Apartheid Museum, which is not far from Soweto township. You can visit both on guided tours, which include transportation and provide insider information from a guide. Cape Town on the western coast of the country is one of the oldest cities in South Africa. The iconic Table Mountain looms over the city, and the famous winemaking towns of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek are in the nearby Cape Winelands. Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, sits just off the coast from Cape Town and is reachable by ferry. Durban, on the eastern coast, offers another look at South African life with its Zulu and Indian influences. Garden Route tours during the spring give visitors a chance to see a profusion of local flora in bloom. And safari tours are one of the most popular activities in South Africa, from the enormous Kruger National Park to smaller game reserves all over the country. Choose to visit on a day trip or opt for longer multi-day tours to enjoy game drives in search of Africa's “Big Five.” South Africa is also a common starting point for tours that visit other nearby countries, such as Zimbabwe or Zambia to see the mighty Victoria Falls, or Botswana to explore Chobe National Park or the Okavango Delta.
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Delaire Graff Estate
29 Tours and Activities

The Delaire Graff Wine Estate, near Stellenbosch, is a beautiful winery destination in the Cape Winelands region. Laurence Graff, a diamond dealer of many years, bought the Delaire Estate in the early 2000s. The estate was re-opened as Delaire Graff in 2009, and now features not only the winery but also world-class dining, luxury lodges, a spa, an excellent art collection, a diamond boutique, and picturesque botanic gardens.

Delaire Graff Estate is a luxury destination where you're tempted to stay for a few days, but you can also visit for a day to sample the estate's wines. Sip Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, rose and sparkling wines, and both white and red blends

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Robben Island
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110 Tours and Activities

For nearly 300 years, Robben Island was a place of isolation, where political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela, were imprisoned and cut off from the rest of the world. It also served as a voluntary sanctuary for lepers. Despite this unsavory past, Robben Island is an important piece of South Africa's history, as well as a reminder of the difficult road to South African Democracy and the victory over apartheid.

Robben Island was declared a World Heritage Site in 1999, and the Robben Island Museum is dedicated to preserving the memory and contributions of the freedom fighters held within its walls. The museum's exhibitions detail the life, times and struggles of its prisoners, particularly those of Robert Sobukwe and his commitment to Pan Africanism. A multimedia exhibit educates visitors on the history of South Africa's democracy.

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Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve
84 Tours and Activities

Blyde River Canyon is the third largest in the world and second deepest in Africa. Known as the “River of Joy”, its towering cliffs rise nearly 800 meters above the winding valley, providing backpackers and day hikers with epic views of the Drakensberg Mountain Range and the lush natural forests that make a trek through Blyde breathtakingly scenic.

Lucky visitors to the canyon may spot a pair of Taita Flacons—one of the most rare bird species in the world—near the Abel Erasmus Pass. Travelers can also get up close to some of South Africa’s other natural rarities too, like Three Rondavels viewpoint, where massive rocks spiral out of canyon walls. Hundreds of years of flowing waters have created Bourke’s Luck Potholes, natural rock sculptures that are recognized as one of the country’s most memorable geological formations.

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Cape Agulhas
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30 Tours and Activities

Plenty of Cape Town visitors head for the Cape of Good Hope thinking it's the southernmost point of South Africa, but that distinction belongs to Cape Agulhas. It isn't quite as dramatic as the Cape of Good Hope, nor as picturesque, with more of a gently curving coastline rather than a point, but there is a small rocky beach, and a geographical marker in Agulhas National Park indicating its status as South Africa's southern tip. A shipwreck is still visible on Cape Agulhas, but many ships were lost in the difficult seas off the coast. The lighthouse in the national park was built in 1848 to help cut down on the number of wrecks. In addition to being the country's southern point, it's also off Cape Agulhas that the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet.

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Kruger National Park
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One of South Africa’s premier attractions, Kruger National Park is famous the world over for the extent and diversity of its wildlife.

The “Big Five” of game are all there: buffalo, elephants, leopards, lions, and rhinoceroses. A world-class conservation program means you’ll also encounter wildebeests, giraffes, zebras as well as big cats of all stripes. This vast territory covers a number of geographical zones, with a range of fauna including the distinctive baobab and low-lying plants of the typical South African “veldt”. Man-made attractions include an elephant museum, the evocative ruins of an old Portuguese trading post, as well as traces of civilizations dating back to the Iron Age.

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Durban Botanic Gardens
12 Tours and Activities
Cape Town's Kirstenbosch gardens may be more famous, but Durban's Botanic Gardens hold the title of Africa's oldest surviving botanical gardens. Founded in 1851, Durban's Botanic Gardens were a response to Kew Gardens' challenge of creating botanic gardens around the world. The goal was not only to furnish Kew with new plants, but also to help raise global awareness of potentially valuable plants. The first garden in Durban was established in 1849 in a different location – it has been at its current location, closer to the city, since 1851.
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More Things to Do in South Africa

Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve

Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve

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197 Tours and Activities

The Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve is a nature lover's paradise. See fynbos, Dutch for "fine bush," and indeed, the native flora is as spectacular as it is varied, as well as the native flora, which includes zebras, elands, ostriches and baboons. Further south is Cape Point, where you superb bird watching, whale watching and breathtaking ocean views in some of the cleanest air in the world - the visibility is bar none.

While the Cape of Good Hope is famous for its wildlife, humans have near-limitless options for recreation. South Africa is famous for its fantastic surf, and Cape Point has some of the best breaks in the world. Scuba aficionados have access to spectacular dive sites - the treacherous rocks of the reef are home to 26 recorded shipwrecks, and many more are yet to be discovered. If ocean activity sounds a little rough, the action on land is sure to pique your interest. Cape Point is great for shopping and dining; in particular, the Two Oceans Restaurant.

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Soweto

Soweto

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110 Tours and Activities

Soweto (short for South-West Township) was synonymous with resistance to Apartheid in South Africa, particularly as repression was stepped up in the 1970s and 80s, a time when images of the sprawling district on the edge of Johannesburg were rarely far from television news. The area has traditionally housed black workers who commute to more prosperous white areas of Johannesburg, and overcrowding has always been an issue.

But this is also a place of amazing cultural richness and a trendsetter for the whole country: South Africa’s heart beats to the rhythms of Soweto. Take a guided tour to discover the truth about life in Johannesburg’s most famous district and savor the taste of the township in one of the huge array of restaurants, offering everything from barbecues to modern variations on traditional Zulu dishes.

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Moses Mabhida Stadium

Moses Mabhida Stadium

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The Moses Mabhida Stadium, built to host the 2010 World Cup games, is one of the country’s top sport and concert venues. Its modern architecture and massive arch set it apart on the Durban waterfront. Overlook the city from a viewing platform at the top of the arch and push your limits on the world’s largest stadium swing.
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Sani Pass

Sani Pass

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Boulders Beach

Boulders Beach

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There are a lot of beaches in Cape Town that are likely to be on your must-see list - from surfing meccas to nightlife hotspots - but one beach in particular attracts countless visitors even though they can’t even walk on the beach itself. You may not be able to stroll on Boulders Beach, but it’s the place to go to see wild African penguins up close.

The colony of African penguins that calls Boulders Beach home first settled there in the early 1980s, and has grown to a population of more than 3,000. The area is protected - it’s part of the Table Mountain National Park - and visitors are encouraged to visit the part of the beach where raised walkways keep people away from the penguins and their nests. The walkways are only a few feet off the ground, however, so you still get a great view of the birds. The restricted area of Boulders Beach with the raised walkways is actually called Foxy Beach.

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Franschhoek Motor Museum

Franschhoek Motor Museum

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On the grounds of the L'Ormarins farm in Franschhoek, home to Antonij Rupert Wines, is the Franschhoek Motor Museum. This collection of more than 200 cars is the personal collection of Johann Rupert, who runs the wine estate. The cars span more than 100 years of car-making history, and the models on display (a selection that rotates periodically) are in impeccable condition. In addition to the cars, the Franschhoek Motor Museum also showcases some historical motorcycles and bicycles, as well as motoring memorabilia. There are four buildings on the estate which hold cars, each grouped by its make.

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Jordan Wine Estate

Jordan Wine Estate

9 Tours and Activities
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Harties Aerial Cableway

Harties Aerial Cableway

2 Tours and Activities
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Delheim Wine Estate

Delheim Wine Estate

4 Tours and Activities
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Malay Quarter (Bo-Kaap)

Malay Quarter (Bo-Kaap)

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The brightly colored houses of this lively neighborhood in the Central Cape are perched among the rocky crags of Signal Hill. Cobblestone streets wind through the multicultural township where freed slaves and Muslim immigrants settled. Visitors can follow guided walking tours through Bo-Kaap’s major sites, or delve into the history of the area on their own.

The Bo-Kaap Museum, which examines the contributions made by Muslim settlers, is housed in the quarter’s oldest home. It is the ideal place to start exploring the culture of this colorful neighborhood. Afterwards, check out the historic Mosques that dot the streets of Bo-Kaap, including one built in 1844, before visiting the well-known Karamats. The township is home to three of these burial sites that honor saints of Islam. Travelers can also learn to make famous Malay Curry during a traditional cooking class, or sample local fare and purchase traditional works of art at the food and craft market.

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Howick Falls

Howick Falls

12 Tours and Activities
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Knysna

Knysna

44 Tours and Activities
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Chapman’s Peak Drive

Chapman’s Peak Drive

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Chapman's Peak is a mountain on the Cape Peninsula, with a 5.5-mile road known for its scenic beauty. The road winds from Hout Bay to Noordhoek, clinging to the side of the steep mountain almost the whole way. The road was built in the early 20th century, and boasts 114 turns in its short 5.5-mile distance.

The road itself may not be long, but you'll want to take your time – not just because of the many curves, but also because of the gorgeous views. There are plenty of places to stop and enjoy the scenery along the way.

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Donkin Reserve

Donkin Reserve

7 Tours and Activities
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