12 Best Tourist Attractions Destination in South Africa - South Africa Travel Guide. South Africa, officially known as the South African Republic, offers a great introduction to the Dark Continent's many jewels. Tourists will find classic African scenery here: golden savannah, large gaping gorges, and hauntingly beautiful deserts, as well as their favorite African creatures–and creature comforts as a bonus.

12 Best Tourist Attractions Destination in South Africa - South Africa Travel Guide

Indeed, South Africa is one of the finest tourist destinations in the world. Although it is a ten or twelve-hour flight from Europe, the country offers visitors from the northern hemisphere a welcome climate change in the less pleasant seasons of their year-South Africa has sunshine on about 250 days a year-magnificent scenery, fascinating wildlife and a wide range of recreational activities.

South Africa is a land where contrasts are striking. Tourists arriving in the country will be struck at once by the juxtaposition between modernity and tradition and by the mixing of people of different backgrounds and races-black, white, colored, Indian-who meet with openness, ready interest and friendliness.

Tourists will come across evidence of the long history of the country everywhere in South Africa-a history as old as humanity itself. It is now believed that the origins of man are to be sought here. The Bushmen's rock drawings bear witness to its oldest known inhabitants, but there is also evidence of the lives of South Africa's black peoples and white people who first settled on the Cape in 1652 and then controlled the country's destinies for more than 300 years.

Although its after-effects can still be felt since the abolition of apartheid relations between the races much more relaxed. Poverty, lack of education, homelessness and high unemployment affect mostly the black population, sometimes leading to violence and crime. But normally these issues don't affect the ordinary tourist. As a rule, the person sees almost exclusively the inviting aspects of the country: the lively cities–rich in tradition such as Cape Town, South Africa's "mother city," or ultra-modern cities such as Johannesburg, the country's economic capital–and idyllic small towns such as Stellenbosch, Graaff-Reinet or Paarl. However, the real wealth of South Africa lies in its magnificent scenery, still largely untouched by mass tourism: rough rocky coasts, wide sandy beaches, mountains, rolling plateaus, lakes, rivers, fertile arable land, arid desert-like regions and luxurious subtropical forests. Visitors can observe the unique flora and fauna of South Africa in seventeen national parks, including the famous Kruger Park, and hundreds of private game reserves. The world's largest terrestrial mammal (the elephant), the highest (the giraffe) and the smallest (the pygmy shrew) can be seen here.  The list of superlatives could be continued: South Africa also has the second largest mammal (the rhinoceros) as well as the fastest (the cheetah) and the world's largest bird (the ostrich).

Once you have discovered South Africa - its variety, its ready hospitality, its beauty - you will want to come again.

South Africa, officially known as the South African Republic, offers a great introduction to the Dark Continent's many jewels. Tourists will find classic African scenery here: golden savannah, large gaping gorges, and hauntingly beautiful deserts, as well as their favorite African creatures–and creature comforts as a bonus. South Africa is home to some of the world's most luxurious private game reserves and lodges, apart from Kruger's big-name game parks and the Kgalagadi (Kalahari) Transfrontier Park. Wildlife lovers in search of the "Big Five" come here from all corners of the globe: lion, buffalo, leopard, rhino, and elephant, and they often find it, and so much more.

Coral reefs, shark dives, mountain ranges backed by dragons, white-water rafting, and golden beaches lapped by legendary surf breaks are some of the many other attractions in South Africa. Traveling around this vast land and touring the vibrant cities, visitors can learn about the turbulent history of the nation: in Cape Town, one of the most beautiful cities in the world; in Durban, a melting pot of cultures and cuisines; in Johannesburg's poignant museums and galleries; and in Soweto, Nelson Mandela's birthplace, which helped to bring about democracy in this amazingly diverse nation.

01. Kruger National Park, Mpumalanga and Limpopo Provinces

Kruger National Park, Mpumalanga and Limpopo Provinces

Kruger National Park is one of the most renowned safari parks in the world. One of South Africa's oldest game reserves, the park lies about a 3.5-4.5-hour drive from Johannesburg and offers visitors the opportunity to see the "Big Five": lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, and rhino, as well as amazing wildlife diversity. It is also home to archeological sites and rock paintings by bushman. Visitors can explore Kruger in a wide network of sealed roads; organize a walking safari; or soar in a hot air balloon across vast grasslands, gallery forests, and river systems.

02. Cape Town, Western Cape

Cape Town, Western Cape

One of the most amazing cities on the planet, Cape Town is the second largest settlement in South Africa by population. This multicultural city is surrounded by nature, which nuzzles between a rough mountain range and the sea. Hike to the top of the flat-topped Table Mountain for a spectacular overview, or glide up on the cableway. Lion's Head's hour-long hike also offers panoramic views of the city. The magnificent Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens are located on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain within a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Walking along the boardwalk along the waterfront, visitors may see whales spouting out of the harbor. Penguins waddle along False Bay's golden beaches, while Cape Point is home to plenty of wildlife and various botanical wonders in the south of the city. Victoria and Alfred Waterfront is one of the top attractions in Cape Town. Reminiscent of San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf, visitors come here to shop, dine, and enjoy the many entertainment venues, including Two Ocean's Aquarium. Camp's Bay offers chic shops and cafes, rimmed by beautiful boulder-flanked beaches. Nature lovers stake a spot at sunset along the spectacular Peak Drive of Chapman in a dusk ritual known as "sundowners" to watch the sun sink slowly into the sea.

03. Kgalagadi (Kalahari) Transfrontier Park, Northern Cape

Kgalagadi (Kalahari) Transfrontier Park, Northern Cape

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is one of the largest wildlife areas in the world, a merger of South Africa's Kalahari Gemsbok National Park and Botswana's Gemsbok National Park. Established in 2000, it is the first officially declared transboundary park in Africa and is located in a remote Northern Cape region of South Africa. Gnarled camel thorn trees, red sands, golden grasslands and deep blue skies give photographs and game viewing a bold backdrop. Among the vast diversity of wildlife, this vast conservation area is home to the famous Kalahari black-manned lion, majestic gemsbok with its V-shaped horns, sprawling nests of sociable weavers, meerkats, and many prey birds. Other predators such as leopard, cheetah, and hyenas are also found here. Four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended for some of the minor rugged roads or for those venturing into Botswana.

04. Stellenbosch, Western Cape

 Stellenbosch, Western Cape

Stellenbosch is one of the most picturesque towns in South Africa. A mosaic of farms, old oak trees, and white-washed Cape Dutch dwellings, Stellenbosch is one of the best preserved towns from the era of the Dutch East India Company. Today, it's a vibrant and fantastic scenery university town. Foodies here are going to love it. Stellenbosch is home to some of the best restaurants and many sidewalk cafes in South Africa. History buffs at the Village Museum, a group of four restored houses and gardens from 1709 to 1850, can take a walk back in time. The Rupert Museum exhibits important works by South African artists, and another top tourist attraction is the Botanic Garden at Stellenbosch University. Nature buffs can go hiking and biking on the wilderness trails in the amazing Jonkershoek Nature Reserve in the surrounding area.

05. The Drakensberg, KwaZulu-Natal

The Drakensberg, KwaZulu-Natal

The spectacular Drakensberg, meaning "Dragon Mountains," is one of South Africa's most popular holiday destinations and home to the highest peaks of the country. The region includes the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, a region of jaw-dropping beauty with jagged basalt buttresses and San rock art, listed as a World Heritage Site, and the Royal Natal National Park, home to the amazing Amphitheater, a magnificent cliff face and source of the main rivers of South Africa. The region's Giant's Castle Game Reserve protects large eland herds. In the sheltered valleys, dense forests flourish, and the area is home to more than 800 different flowering plant species as well as a rich wildlife diversity. In summer, with gushing waterfalls and crystal-clear streams, the mountain landscapes are lush and fertile. The dramatic peaks are cloaked by snow in the winter. Visitors flock here to go hiking and cycling on the picturesque mountain trails.

06. The Garden Route

The Garden Route

Along the country's southeast coast, the Garden Route runs for about 200 kilometers through some of South Africa's most breathtaking coastal scenery. The route runs from Mossel Bay, in the Western Cape, along the Indian Ocean to the Storms River, in the Eastern Cape. This popular driving route crosses rolling green hills, beautiful coastal towns, lagoons, lakes, and cliffs along the coast. Highlights of the route include the charming town of Knysna snuggled between dense forests and a sparkling lagoon; the beautiful Garden Route National Park with its gorges, tidal pools and thick forests; the ostrich farms of Oudtshoorn and Cango Caves; and the Robberg Nature Reserve seal colony in Plettenberg Bay. Adventures run the gamut along the way, from elephant back riding to whale watching trips to bungee jumping and canopy tours of the tree.

07. iSimangaliso Wetland Park, KwaZulu-Natal

iSimangaliso Wetland Park, KwaZulu-Natal

iSimangaliso means "miracle and wonder" in the Zulu language, and it's a fitting name for this World Heritage Area, home to Africa's largest estuarine system. Formerly the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park, iSimangaliso is located on Kwazulu Natal's northeastern coast and connects eight interwoven ecosystems, including coral reefs, croc-filled rivers, lakes, towering coastal dunes, swamps and savanna. Not surprisingly, an incredible variety of wildlife is supported by the area. More than 526 species of birds live in the reserve as well as the highest concentration of hippos and crocodiles in Africa, leatherback and loggerhead tortoises, leopards, rhinoes and. This unique wilderness area offers visitors the opportunity to combine a classic safari experience with marine reserve coastal adventures like kayaking, fishing, diving, and snorkeling.

08. Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, Mpumalanga

Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, Mpumalanga

Beautiful Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve (also called Motlatse River Canyon) is a favorite stop on the drive between Johannesburg and Kruger National Park. The park is home to the second largest canyon in Africa, as well as a rich wildlife and plant diversity. Lush subtropical leaves, waterfalls, gleaming rivers, and lichen-covered rock formations create a striking color and texture canvas. With all the common species of South African primates and many hippos and crocodiles, game viewing can be especially rewarding. The best way to explore this spectacular park is through the picturesque driving routes or the extensive trails. Three Rondavels and the properly named God's Window are panoramic viewpoints. There are also boat trips and whitewater rafting on the rivers.

09. Cage Dive with Great White Sharks

Cage Dive with Great White Sharks

Step into a thick cage of iron, plunge into the ocean, and come face-to-face with a great white shark. Believe it or not, this is one of the top attractions for thrill seekers in South Africa. The sport has become so popular that every year new tour operators continue to grow. The best time to try the dive is April through October, but thanks to healthy seals and fish populations, great whites swim these waters throughout the year. Tour operators in Cape Town organize shark cage dives to areas such as Simon's Town, Seal Island, Dyer Island, Mossel Bay, and Gansbaai, the self-proclaimed "Great White Shark Capital of the World." Trips from Durban and Rocky Bay can also be arranged. Since divers are enclosed in the custom-designed cages, no diving certification is required. For a little less excitement, it's also possible to watch the action from the boat.

10. Robben Island, Western Cape

Robben Island, Western Cape

In Table Bay, Robben Island, listed in the World Heritage, is a haunting reminder of apartheid horrors. Nelson Mandela and other political dissidents and social misfits spent 18 years in prison here in a tiny cell. Perhaps the best part about this experience is that ex-prisoners are usually the guides who share poignant accounts of the atrocities they have endured. Tours to the island start at the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront with multimedia exhibits in the museum. Sightseers then board boats to Robben Island, on the 30-45-minute ride frequently braving rough swells. Make sure you book early as the tours can quickly fill up.

11. Durban's Golden Mile, KwaZulu-Natal

Durban's Golden Mile, KwaZulu-Natal

The sweeping waterfront promenade of Durban, the Golden Mile, is a legendary tourist magnet and a great point of departure for a city tour. Long blond beaches attract swimmers, surfers and anglers, while the busy promenade feels like Miami Beach with its high-rise hotels, shops, restaurants and flashy entertainment resorts. Visitors can rent a bike or Segway along here. In addition to the beach scene, top attractions along this stretch include uShaka Marine World, a wonderland of marine attractions; Moses Mabhida Stadium; and Mini Town, a tiny Durban replica with a mini-rail network, airport, and harbor scene.

12. Johannesburg and Pretoria, Gauteng

Johannesburg and Pretoria, Gauteng

Johannesburg, also referred to as Jo'burg, is by population the largest city in South Africa and a gateway for many safari travelers. Named the "City of Gold" because of its rich precious metal deposits, it is also the country's economic engine and vibrant heart. Top historical attractions include the Apartheid Museum, a poignant look at the birth of democracy's oppression of apartheid; Constitution Hill; and Gold Reef City, which traces the history of the region through mining-themed attractions. If South Africa's heart is Johannesburg, Soweto's shanty towns are its soul. Soweto was born as an abbreviation for "southwestern townships," the freedom movement that created the new democratic constitution for South Africa. Township guided tours often include a visit to the Mandela House, which is now a national monument. Close in the distance, but in feeling a world away, Pretoria is the country's administrative capital. It is a town of parks and gardens, home to the Voortrekker Monument and Heritage Site, as well as the highly acclaimed Freedom Park.

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