Top 5 Most Incredible Places to Visit in South Africa

South Africa, often referred to as the “Rainbow Nation,” is one of the main historic and cultural hubs in the greater African continent, as well as being home to some of the most maintained safari and nature parks in the world. Despite having just come out of apartheid and a long history of turmoil, South Africa has so much to offer to just about any type of visitor. If you’re a backpacker, a student, or a two-week vacationer, you’ll definitely enjoy your time there wholeheartedly.

Here are four of the most appealing sites in the country for you to consider for your upcoming South Africa holidays:

Kruger National Park
Undoubtedly one of SA’s most popular attractions, Kruger National Park is one of the largest and most pristine game reserves in Africa. With around 2,000,000 hectares of land, the park is larger than Israel, about the same size as Wales and is only a touch smaller than all of Belgium. Home to Africa’s Big Five, (the lion, buffalo, leopard, elephant, and rhinoceros) Kruger National Park is easily accessible by car and there are many lodges and centers throughout. At these centers, informational, interesting and exciting safari tours with zoologists and conservationists can be arranged, including night time expeditions and lectures with on staff biologists.

There are many rest and campsites as well which are available to the public and require no special permits. These sites are hugely popular among backpackers and travelers on budgets since it provides an affordable way to experience the African wildlands and witness the majestic splendor of all its inhabitants.

Cape Town and Cape Peninsula
Cape Town, being one of the most multicultural cities in the world and boasting the highest rate of wealth equality in all of South Africa, is a natural center for tourism. Here one can find a few UNESCO world heritage sites, the Castle of Good Hope and the highest density of Cape Dutch style buildings in the world. One of the fastest growing cities in South Africa, Cape Town has something to keep even the most erudite of travelers engaged.

Cape Town was also significant during the time of Apartheid, serving as the home (and prison) of many notable leaders of the opposition party, most notable being Nelson Mandela himself. Robben Island, the site of the prison, has a long-standing history and is now open to visitors in the form of a museum. The island has served many purposes, ranging from worship site to leper colony, and has a well-documented record of events. Many of the guides are former prisoners themselves, and they walk visitors through the annals of the island’s many past lives, detailing the island’s (sometimes harrowing) political and historical accounts.

Stellenbosch, Winelands
For all you wine enthusiasts out there, Stellenbosch is the place to be. With the South African wine and viticulture industries on the rise, (producing upwards of 1,000,000,000 liters of wine every year) Stellenbosch has become a world-class destination for tourists, complete with a precious, small town feel and a large selection of vineyards and wineries which are open to visitors. The region has a very Mediterranean climate, featuring warm, dry summers and cold, rainy winters and as such is an ideal place for the production of wine grapes.

Known as the “City of Oaks” for its wonderfully wooded streets, Stellenbosch has much to offer in the way of agricultural tours, museums and quaint architecture, and should be near the top of your list for a relaxed, but interactive South African getaway.

Although Johannesburg is not traditionally seen as a popular tourist destination, there’s no denying that it’s home to a few must-see sites, including (but not limited to): The Mandela House, the Apartheid Museum, and the Gold Reef City theme park. Johannesburg is also close to the Cradle of Mankind, one of the most anthropologically important sites in the world.

Originally founded in 1886 due to the discovery of local gold deposits, the population skyrocketed to 100,000 over the span of ten years, and it remains the most populated city in all of South Africa. While most travelers choose to stay in Johannesburg for only a few nights, you would be remiss to not visit Johannesburg and experience the wonderful things that the city has to offer.

Bulungula Lodge
Located on the vibrant Eastern Cape, Bulungula Lodge is a hotspot for cultural and traditional exchange. Staffed and maintained by members of the local village, the lodge supports the entire community as a whole, giving South African craftsmen, fishermen and artists opportunities to present their trades to interested visitors.

The different workshops available span from fishing classes to classic cooking techniques, agriculture workshops to traditional face painting. The main language spoken in Bulungula is Xhosa, and introductory lessons can also be arranged.

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  2. Our home city!! We love Chicago and especially love living downtown with a kiddo. I disagree that you need to rent a car to explore Chicago. The public transportation is great and easy to use. Plus, driver's in Chicago are a bit nuts and parking can be super expensive. That will make it harder to get to some of the places listed - most notably Kohl's Children Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry, but there is so much to do downtown that it's nearly impossible to see and do it all in one trip.

    Other tips I'd recommend for first time visitors with kids:
    - Maggie Daly Park (in Millennium Park between the "bean" and Lake Michigan
    - Go to the Willis Tower (Sear's Tower) Skydeck during the day and stand on the Ledge (glass bottomed balcony floor)
    - Go to the Signature Room (bar at the top of the John Hancock building) at night. This will give you a different perspective of the city and you won't have to pay for the view, just the drinks!
    - Don't forget to look up kids days/activities at the museums. For instance, the Art Institute has free daily art drop in classes for families.

  3. Hello! Thank you for all the great input! Although I agree the public transportation is great we do enjoy having some of our own space every now and then. I would agree that for people unfamiliar with driving in big cities should consider all options.

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  7. Brilliant list. I have them on my bucket list and hope to cross them off soon!

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