Since the end of Apartheid and the establishment of a democratic government in the 1990s, South Africa's borders have opened to a flood of tourists who come to enjoy the country's stunning natural beauty and vibrant culture.
South Africa's sense of history is strong, and visitors have the chance to explore important historical attractions ranging from the Zululand battlefields of KwaZulu-Natal, to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, and Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town.
South Africa is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world: the 'Rainbow Nation' has 11 official languages, and its colourful population forms a patchwork of African, Asian and European culture. Whether browsing the Indian markets in Durban, enjoying a shisa nyama (barbecue) in Soweto, or tasting celebrated local varieties at a winery in Stellenbosch, visitors will encounter a warm welcome.
However, the true lure of South Africa lies in its untamed wilderness. Home to the 'Big Five' of African wildlife (lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo and rhino), along with thousands of other species of plants and animals, big game safaris in nature reserves like Kruger Park and Hluhluwe National Park remain among the most popular activities in South Africa. The landscape encompasses a range of climates and terrains, including deserts, mountains, plateaus, grasslands, bush, wetlands and subtropical forests.
Best time to visit South Africa
The climate of South Africa varies markedly between regions, making it important for travellers to research the specific regions they are visiting. Generally, the best time to visit South Africa is late spring (October and November) and early autumn (March and April) to avoid the intense heat of summer and the cold and wet winters in the Cape. However, many tourists relish the hot summer months between December and February.
What to see in South Africa
-Get up close with the Big Five and other wildlife in Kruger National Park.
-See Nelson Mandela's former cell at Robben Island Prison.
-Ride the rollercoasters and try your luck at the casino in Gold Reef City.
-Take a township tour through Soweto and Alexandra.
-Have a drink in the sunshine on Durban's Golden Mile. Read more about South Africa Attractions.
What to do in South Africa
-Go scuba diving in Sodwana Bay.
-Ride a cable car to the top of Table Mountain for spectacular views of Cape Town.
-Go wine tasting in the vineyards in Stellenbosch and the Cape Winelands.
-Learn to surf in Coffee Bay.
-Face your fears and go shark-cage-diving in Gansbaai. Read more about South Africa Activities.
While Cape Town’s history and Durban’s post-World Cup culture are both undeniably attractive, nature keeps the crowds flooding back to South Africa. The jaw-dropping Table Mountain National Park and the phenomenal views from the top of the mountain will provide you with the mother of all photo opportunities. While the famed Kruger National Park will always amaze, the Garden Route is totally unmissable. Simply, it’s where the natural world comes to show off.
Calling all explorers! South Africa has a total of eight UNESCO-registered World Heritage Sites. They cover staggering natural beauty with Mapungubwe National Park, historical gravity with Robben Island and links to the struggles of Nelson Mandela, and the origins of humanity itself with the Cradle of Humankind paleontological site. South Africa is a country with the power to fascinate and inspire on many different levels.
Few countries can claim to have anywhere close to 11 official languages – just a measure of the cultural diversity which lives alongside the natural diversity. This cultural infusion has impacted food, music and art enormously, with plenty to appeal to appetites of all kinds. Prepare to have your preconceptions changed by a country which is eager to impress, as you discover a land which is much more than the sum of its parts.