Thanks for reading, I’m so excited to share this new post with you all! I’ve just returned from a trip to South-Africa, which was amazing! It’s a country I can recommend to anyone: Incredible diverse landscapes, wonderful wildlife, bubbly cities, friendly people, tasty food & wines, affordable prices (at least for Europeans) and the best sunrises/sunsets I’ve seen in my whole life! Okay, I’ll calm down now a bit and will tell you all about my travel itinerary with the wonderful places I’ve visited together with my boyfriend. As mentioned in the title, we booked 3 weeks and landed on Johannesburg and flew back from Cape Town, it was just enough to see most of the highlights we wanted but in the end, we wished we could have stayed longer, as we were so mesmerised by this beautiful country.
If you want some tips on how to plan your perfect trip, please read the article I’ve previously posted in preparation of this vacation: How to travel more often and find good deals – 5 tips! For South Africa, we can recommend staying in Airbnb’s – often lovely and very welcoming people. Furthermore, we can recommend the website sanparks.com for discovering the numerous national parks in South Africa (including accommodations).
I will now share all the places we’ve visited and how we experienced them. Honestly, I’m very happy with the choices we’ve made and I would recommend this itinerary to anyone! It’s probably a way too long post, but I hope it can help you put your travel plan together if you’ll ever decide to visit South-Africa. On the map below, you can view all overnight stops, follow the numbers to see the route :)
Day 1-2: Arrival in Johannesburg
We arrived late in the evening in Johannesburg, it was recommended to us to pick a hotel near the airport with a transfer arrangement just as a safety precaution, so we wouldn’t have to find our own taxi and go around searching for our place to stay late at night in the city. We were happy we took this decision, our driver came to pick us up and we basically went straight to bed. The next day we were brought to the car rental service and picked up our car that we would drive around in for the upcoming 3 weeks and were able to return in Cape Town :) I can recommend you to download the app maps.me for offline navigating through South Africa, solely on GPS (if you didn’t have internet like us).
Day 2-4: Graskop & Blyde River Canyon
We decided to skip Jo’burg to visit as we had a tight schedule and we didn’t find major highlights that we wanted to visit in the city. We went straight to Graskop for a 2-night stay, as this was a suitable location (and lovely town) to explore the nature around. We drove around, saw the MacMac falls, the Bucke’s Luck Potholes and made a hike in the amazing Blyde River Canyon. There is a possibility to go the to “Three Rondavels viewpoint” but instead we decided to make a hike from a resort close by, which was highly recommended online. At “Blyde Canyon, A Forever Resort” you have the possibility to purchase an entry ticket for the hikes, they provide a map and have different short trails laid out, starting from ‘Worlds End’. We took the Leopard hike combined with another hike, which was wonderful and took you around the edges of the canyon and across a small river. I couldn’t stop taking pictures, such amazing nature!
Day 4-7: Kruger National Park
The next day it was time to continue our journey to Kruger Park, which was pretty closeby. We booked 3 nights in the park, all in different places: Lower Sabie Rest Camp, Satara Rest Camp & Tamboti Tented Camp, so we could drive around and see different areas. Honestly, I didn’t have that high expectations of safari’s (called game drive), I thought: Well most animals I’ve seen in Zoo’s already, so how exciting can it be. WELL EXTREMELY EXCITING! haha To be there in your car, driving around and observing wildlife, just made me feel very close to nature and frankly also quite vulnerable as a small human being. It really was wonderful to see all those animals up close, and them not even caring about your presence and just doing their thing. We saw sooo many animals, I can recommend you to buy a Kruger Map at the entrance gate, cause that also includes a guide with all the different species you have in the bird, which makes it very fun to see which ones you can spot. Overall a really wonderful experience and we were sad to leave the animals behind us. I’ll do a separate post about the Kruger Park, as there are so many pictures I’d love to share with you!
Day 7-8: Standerton (overnight stop)
After Kruger, we continued our journey towards the Dragon mountains, we read somewhere online that it was recommended to not drive more than 400kms per day, as roads could be bad sometimes and so it would be hard to estimate how long that would take you. Therefore, we decided to make a quick overnight stop in Standerton. It was a safe place with a lot of farmlands around, but also mining industries, so no very interesting landscapes.
Day 8-10: Drakensberg
Next stop was the Northern Drakensberg area, also called Kwazulu-Natal National Park. Our goal was to go for a major hike there and we read very good things about the Sentinel Peak/Amphitheatre Hike to the top of the Drakensberg plateau and Tugela falls. As the starting point for this (Sentinel Car Park) was in quite a rural area, and we did not want to travel so far to get there, we decided to stay at Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge, which was located right in the mountains with incredible views! I can recommend it to anyone :) We did a small hike in the afternoon on the first day, and the second day we went for the longer one, mentioned before. The hike was not easy, but incredibly beautiful, I’ll make sure to write a specific post about it!
Day 10-11: Golden Gate Highlands National Park & Clarens
We continued our journey the next day towards Clarens, which is a lovely artsy town in the middle of Free State. On our way, we made a stop at “Basotho Cultural Village”, where we learned about the native tribes that lived in those areas. Also, we drove through the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, which was really beautiful and again a lot different than the scenery’s we’ve seen before. There is a possibility to go several hikes from the Glen Reenen Campsite, but we decided to just make 2 car loops the Oribi Loop & Blesbok Loop where we’ve seen quite some nice wildlife and wonderful scenery. This Map clearly displays the possible activities in the area. Clarens was also wonderful, really nice for just a lunch stop, but also for an overnight stop. We did the last and went to the Brewery, visited some shops and just relaxed, it’s a wonderful town :)
Day 11-12: Bethulie
The next day we continued our journey alongside the borders of Lesotho over the R26 (great views) towards Bethulie for an overnight stop. Even though we stayed at a really nice old Dutch guest farm, and the surroundings were quite beautiful, I would say stay at Gariep Dam instead if you’re looking for a quick stop in that area. Bethulie was a bit hard to reach, we ended up on a dirt road somewhere and had to take a detour. If you’re going in the same direction, we can recommend driving over Bloemfontein (from Ladybrand – Bloemfontein over the 8 and then take the 1 towards Bethulie/Gariep Dam. The R701 Route is dirt road for about 70KMs so that wasn’t really an option for us ;)
Day 12-14: Graaff-Reinet & Camdeboo National Park (Valley of Desolation)
Our next stop was Graaff-Reinet, we drove through the beautiful outskirts of the Great Karoo, another wonderful scenery which I wouldn’t skip if I were you! ;) We made a quick stop at Lonely Planet’s recommended Nieu Bethesda, but weren’t too impressed with the small and quiet town & Owl House. Graaff-Reinet was very lively and beautiful though, with many nice lunch & dinner places. We can really recommend “Our Yard” for a lunch or coffee in the sun, and “The Muller House” for a great dinner and drinks! The surroundings of Camdeboo National Park were wonderful, we made another small safari here, where we saw some new animals and we made a small hike “Eerstefontein Day Walk” starts and ends at the Spandaukop gate (5km; 11km and 14km options, we took the short one). And lastly, we ended our second day at Graaff at the Valley of Desolation, to watch the sunset with incredible views over the rocks & Karoo! This was definitely one of the best views I’ve seen my entire life!
Day 14-16: Daniell Cheetah Project & Addo National Park
Time for some more animals! Unfortunately, we did not manage to see the leopard & cheetah in the wild in Kruger, and as we still reallllly wanted to see these predators we decided to go to the Daniell Cheetah Project near Addo. It’s a place where they protect wild cats and breed them to play a part in the conservation of the cheetah. We were able to book a tour there for an hour and learning about all different species like the cheetah, leopard, serval, caracal and even lions & a hyena. In the end, we were even allowed to pet a Cheetah, such a thrilling experience! Afterwards, we went for some relaxation at the Happy Lands B&B, which I can really recommend to anyone who loves to enjoy some quiet time at a citrus farm with a wonderful garden and lovely people. From our stay there, we also visited Addo, which was nice, but we were already so spoiled with all the beautiful animals we saw before, that it wasn’t much added-value to our trip.
Day 16: Garden Route to Oudtshoorn
After some relaxation, we took our trip more southwards towards the coast, on to the Garden Route towards Oudtshoorn. This was a beautiful ride, we made a quick stop in Port Elizabeth and visited the Donkin Reserve. We continued our journey along the N2 and made a detour to Nature’s Valley, which was a beautiful quiet place where a river & the see meet each other. For lunch, we stopped at Nature’s Way Farm stall, where you can taste and buy some nice local products. Further down the road, we made some picture stops at Plettenbergbaai & Knysna, which seemed like lovely (luxurious) towns. We were actually quite shocked by the big contrast of these cities compared to the towns we saw during the rest of our journey. We arrived in Oudtshoorn in the evening, so only went for dinner and tried out the famous Ostrich fillet. My boyfriend liked it a lot, but I actually did not at all – too squishy/rubbery for me.
Day 17: Cango Caves & Route 62 to Cape Town
In the morning, we decided to visit the Cango Caves, where you have the opportunity to do an adventure or heritage tour (we took the latter, as I don’t like claustrophobic spaces;)). The caves were pretty impressive, however, there was unfortunately also quite some damage to the formations and for us, it felt like a bit like any other cave (we’ve probably seen too many already in Europe ;)). Then we continued our journey along the beautiful Route 62, which is recommended to drive towards Cape Town. You have very beautiful and different landscapes again and you slowly enter the wine areas. We actually had dinner in Franschhoek, which lies in the most amazing valley between mountains. We were super impressed by the beauty of this area.
Day 18-21: Cape Town & surroundings
Last, but not least on our list was Cape Town, where we stayed 4 nights! We arrived there in the evening and woke up in our apartment in the city centre with a great view over the city. However, we were in bad luck – as it was a cloudy/rainy period in Cape Town by the time we visited. As Cape Town provides a lot of outdoors activities, it was a bit of a challenge to find nice things to do. We did manage to make the best of it, however, the city wasn’t the biggest highlight of our whole trip. I’ll make sure to post a separate post about Cape Town soon :)
I hope my experiences can help you schedule your own trip through South Africa. However, I’m sure that whatever route you take, you will have the most wonderful time in this country! Let me know if you have any questions or want to know more about any of the places we’ve visited :)