There is a saying in South Africa that the northern part of Africa is not the real Africa. That’s easy to say in a country that represents most about everything the continent has to offer. From the vineyards of Stellenbosch to the game reserves of Kruger Park, the “rainbow nation” of Africa has something for everyone.
1 Blyde River Canyon, Mpumalanga. When J.R.R. Tolkien created the fantasy like nature in the Lord of the Rings, he was inspired by Mpumalanga. Something you understand when you visit the roaring rivers, waterfalls, and vertiginous viewpoints of Drakensberg. Head to Blyde River Canyon, a 26 kilometre long ravine and the largest green canyon on the planet. Discover the red stone potholes at Bourke’s Luck, the rock sculptures of the Three Rondavels, and the panoramic view of God’s Window, from where you on a clear day can see all the way to Mozambique.
2 Chapman’s Peak Drive, Cape Peninsula. Some road trips are so unique they acquire an iconic status around the world. Chapman’s Peak Drive is one of them. Starting off at Hout Bay, the 114 curves and 9 kilometres long drive takes you on a cliff hanging roller-coaster ride, landing your entourage at a 600 meter high viewpoint. A short break before you approach the wilderness of Cape Peninsula. A whale spotted on the horizon. An ostrich hiding in the bushes. Misty valleys and red soil beaches. And, of course, the penguin rookeries at Boulders Beach.
3 Camps Bay, Cape Town. In the outskirt of Cape Town, at a U-shaped beach dotted with swaying palm trees, is Camps Bay. A city within the city. An isolated pleasure bubble in a place notorious for high crime rate and nightly violence. Not only the number one (and safest) playground of Cape Town, Camps Bay offers some of the best restaurants and nightclubs in town. Go here to people watch, eat fresh seafood, and see the sun set over the South Atlantic.
4 Stellenbosch, Western Cape. The rolling hills of Stellenbosch, Paarl, and Franschhoek are a dream come true for wine lovers. A myriad of vineries offering everything from private wine tastings to a bed and breakfast experience. Built in Cape Dutch style, the vineyards are often family owned with long traditions of wine production. For a more personal experience, look beyond the great estates of Delaire Graff, Spier, and Muldenbosch, and invest your time in the smaller wine farms.
5 Kruger National Park, Mpumalanga. Too many national parks of South Africa have transformed into safari like zoos, where animals are trained to please its visitors at certain times and places. The Kruger Park is an exception. Spanning over three countries – South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique – it’s the largest game reserve in Africa. It’s also one of few places where you can experience all the Big five game animals in their natural habitat; lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo.
6 Robben Island, Cape Town. It wasn’t the first time a political leader was put on a remote island. But the view of Cape Town just across the sea probably made it one of the worst. So close, but still so far away. Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his prison time on Robben Island. Nevertheless, the struggle against apartheid never stopped. When he returned to the island after the final release, he created a symbol by taking a stone from the quarry and put it on the ground. Since then, every prisoner returning to the island has added a stone to the pile. Today, decades later, it’s still there.
7 Table Mountain, Cape Town. Missing out on the Table Mountain in Cape Town, is like going to Cairo and bypass the Pyramids. Either if opt for the three hour trek or the ten minute cable car ride, the flat topped mountain offers an exceptional nature experience. But it’s not the 360 degree view of the Western Cape that makes it unique, it’s the strange natural phenomena going on around you. The unexpected weather changes, the sudden gusts, and the white clouds forming up around you.
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