The 17 best places to visit in South Africa

 

On the south western coast, just south of the city of Cape Town is Boulders Beach, part of Table Mountain National Park, the beach is famous for its endangered colony of rare African penguins, a species only found in Namibia and South Africa. Though the most popular recreational spot is Boulders Beach, the penguins are usually best viewed from Foxy Beach.

17. Boulders Beach

 

In the north of the country, encompassing an area of the Kalahari Desert is the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, crossing the border with Gemsbok National Park in Botswana it forms the enormous 38,000 square kilometre (14,672 square mile) Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. The terrain consists of red sand dunes of sparse vegetation and trees, yet is home to an abundance of varied wildlife species. These include lions, cheetahs, African leopards, wildebeest, springbok, hyenas among many, many more.

16. Kalahari Gemsbok National Park

 

In the far east of the country, just west from the city of Durban is Howick Falls, a waterfall the Zulu's called, 'Place Of The Tall One'. With a single drop of 111 metres (364 ft) it is one of the largest waterfalls in South Africa.

15. Howick Falls

 

In the east of the country, just south of one of the countries capitals, Pretoria, is the city of Johannesburg, the largest and most populated city in South Africa. Located on the Highveld plateau at an elevation of 1,753 metres (5,751 ft) above sea level, it is often described as Africa's economic powerhouse. Mainly used by tourists for shopping or visiting museums, one of the cities higlights include a visit to the Carlton Centre's 50th floor observation deck. From 223 metres (732 ft) it is the highest office building in Africa and gives visitors incredible views over the city and beyond.

14. Johannesburg

 

In the far east of the country, close to the Indian Ocean between the cities of Durban and Port Elizabeth is the very pretty Magwa Falls. Falling 142 metres (466 ft) into a precipice between two cliff faces, it remains one of the countries tallest and most picturesque waterfalls.

13. Magwa Falls

 

In the southern centre of the country, just north of Port Elizabeth is the 1,640 square kilometre (633 square mile) Addo Elephant National Park, the third largest protected area in South Africa. Originally founded in 1931 to provide sanctuary for the eleven remaining elephants in the area, the park is today home to more than 600 elephants and a large number of other animal species. This includes a large population of Cape buffalo, the endangered black rhino, lion, hyena as well as many more.

12. Addo Elephant National Park

 

In the east of the country, between Underberg, KwaZulu-Natal and Mothotlong in Lesotho is the Sani Pass, one of Africa's most incredible roads. Located within the beautiful Drakensberg (Dragons Mountains), the road begins at 1,544 metres (5,066 ft) above sea level and climbs 1,332 metres (4,370 ft) on a gravel surface of hairpins and steep gradients. From the South African side the road is only open to 4x4 vehicles, due to poor traction, muddy conditions and ice and snow in the winter. One of the countries most dangerous roads, though it offers a fantastic journey through breathtaking scenery, the Sani Pass has claimed many lives.

11. Sani Pass

To the south of the city of Johannesburg is the last remaining signs of Vredefort Crater, the largest verified impact crater on Earth, and dating back some two billion years it is the second oldest known crater on the planet. At the time of impact it measured 300 kilometres (190 miles) across, but having eroded over time the small geological structure that remains today is known as the Vredefort Dome, measuring only 70 kilometres (43 miles) in diameter. For its geological interest, the Vredefort Crater has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

10. Vredefort Crater

 

In the southern centre of the country, to the north of Port Elizabeth​ is the 194 square kilometre (75 square mile) Camdeboo National Park, encompassing an area of mountains and steep cliffs on the vast plains of the Groot Karoo. One of the parks highlights is The Valley Of Desolation, also known as the Cathedral Of The Mountains, a sheer face of columns reaching 120 metres (394 ft) above the flat plains, a sign of volcanic forces over millennia. Home to a large number of wildlife species including 43 different mammals, visitors will have an excellent chance of spotting some fine creatures among this beautiful landscape.

9. Camdeboo National Park

 

In the extreme north west of the country, straddling the border with Namibia is the /Ai-/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, an amalgamation of two national parks that cross the borders of Namibia and South Africa. This vast landscape is a place of rocky mountains, arid rolling hills and deep canyons, making for some of the most naturally spectacular scenery in the country, encompassing one of the richest botanical hot spots on our planet. One of the most unusual plants in the area is the Pachypodium Namaquanum, also known as 'Halfmens Succulent' or 'Elephants Trunk', a cactus type specimen covered in sharp spines that can reach 4 metres (13 ft) high. Because of its important cultural value, the Richtersveld Cultural & Botanical Landscape has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

8. Richtersveld National Park

 

In the north west of the country, close to the border with Namibia is the 820 square kilometre (317 square mile) Augrabies Falls National Park, named after the parks impressively powerful waterfall. Originally named by the indigenous people as Ankoerebis, meaning, 'Place Of Big Noises', the waterfall has a peak drop of 60 metres (197 ft) into the plunge pool below. Between January and April when the river is in flood, the ferocious waters crash through with awe inspiring power.

7. Augrabies Falls National Park

 

In the south west of the country, directly east from one of the countries capitals, Cape Town, is the 768 square kilometre (296 square miles) Karoo National Park, encompassing a portion of the Great Escarpment. This enormous arid landscape is a fantastically beautiful terrain of flat desert plains and steep mountainous plateaus, home to a large number of wildlife species. These include springbok, gemsbok, Cape mountain zebra, Cape buffalo, black rhinoceros, ostriches and lions among many others.

6. Karoo National Park

 

Located within the Drakensberg (Dragon's Mountains) just north of the border with Lesotho is the 81 square kilometre (31 square mile) Royal Natal National Park. Highlights of the park include the Amphitheatre, a geological feature often regarded to be one of the most impressive cliff faces on Earth, more than ten times the size of Yosemite's famous El Capitan. Measuring over 5 kilometres (3 miles) in length, the mountains rise over 1,830 metres (6,004 ft) above the valley floor. Another highlight of the park is the Tugela Falls, a seasonal waterfall that is generally accepted as the worlds second tallest. The combined total drop of the five distinct falls measures 948 metres (3,110 ft), but new measurements suggest it may be even taller than the current tallest, Venezuela's Angel Falls.

5. Royal Natal National Park

 

In the extreme east of the country, straddling the border with Mozambique in the east and Zimbabwe in the north is the 19,485 square kilometre (7,523 square mile) Kruger National Park, the first designated national park in South Africa, and one of the largest game reserves on the continent. Encompassing a landscape of mountains and rich diverse terrain, the park is home to more species of mammal than any other African game reserve, including the big five, lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and Cape Buffalo. One of the most famous parks in Africa, supporting a wealth of animal species, Kruger National Park has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

4. Kruger National Park

 

In the extreme south west of the country​, on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean is the legislative capital of South Africa, the city of Cape Town, known as the Mother City, the oldest urban area in the country. Located on the shores of Table Bay, a natural amphitheatre shaped area bordered by Table Mountain, easily one of the most picturesque cities in the world. The gateway into Table Mountain National Park, surrounded by pristine beaches and catering to every touristic need, the city of Cape Town has become one of the most visited cities on Earth.

3. Cape Town

 

In the east of the country, straddling the border with the Kingdom Of Lesotho is ​South Africa's uKhahlamba-Drakensberg National Park, when linked with the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, QwaQwa National Park, Sterkfontein Dam Nature Reserve, the Royal Natal National Park and Sehlabathebe National Park in Lesotho it forms the 8,113 square kilometre (3,132 square mile) Maloti Drakensberg Park. Situated in the Drakensberg, meaning 'Mountain Of The Dragons', making up the eastern end of the Great Escarpment, a major geological formation consisting of steep slopes from the southern African plateau, the terrain forms some of the most spectacular mountain scenery anywhere on the continent. Supporting a large ecosystem with globally significant plant and animal species, home to more ancient wall paintings than anywhere else on the planet, the magnificent natural terrain of the Drakensberg has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

2. uKhahlamba-Drakensberg National Park

 

In the east of the country, east of one of the countries capitals, Pretoria, just west of Kruger National Park in the northern part of the Drakensberg escarpment is the Blyde River Canyon, sometimes referred to as the Motlatse Canyon. Measuring approximately 25 kilometres (16 miles) in length, and with an average depth of 750 metres (2,461 ft) it is the second largest canyon in Africa, though possibly the largest 'Green Canyon' on the planet due to its lush subtropical vegetation. Supporting a large diversity of wildlife, visitors may spot hippopotamus, crocodile, the four primate species found in South Africa among an enormous number of bird species. Stunning on a vast scale, Blyde River Canyon is often regarded to be one of the great natural wonders on the African continent.

1. Blyde River Canyon

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