South Africa for beginners... top attractions

| September 8, 2014

Are you considering exploring South Africa? Below, we introduce you to some of the finest things it has to offer.

Cape Town is home to a wealth of attractions

Spanning spectacular mountains, verdant vineyards, wildlife-rich national parks and fascinating cultural sites, the attractions of South Africa are many and varied indeed. This wonderful country has much to offer travellers, and part of the magic of coming here is that you can visit time and time again, and have quite a different holiday experience in each instance.

Today, we aim to introduce newcomers to South Africa to some of its most exciting elements.

Cape Town

Cape Town acts as something of a gateway to the rest of South Africa. This stunning city has a blend of culture and natural wonders that makes it particularly captivating – most notably its associations with Nelson Mandela and the dominating presence of Table Mountain.

So numerous are the attractions of Cape Town that it would be easy to spend your entire holiday here – though its surrounding destinations mean that a more varied itinerary is virtually impossible to resist. A first-time visitor should be sure to tick off the city's famous highlights before moving on to areas such as the Winelands, with Table Mountain and Robben Island being two of the finest attractions to discover.

The flat-topped, 1,086 metre high Table Mountain is accessible by cableway. The views from both the car itself and the summit are wonderful, particularly in the early mornings and evenings, which typically offer the clearest views.

Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was famously imprisoned for years, is one of Cape Town's cultural must-sees. As part of a visit here, you can be shown around the prison by a former inmate, who will share their personal experiences, as well as take a tour around the wider island.

Cape Winelands

Not far from Cape Town are the vineyards and valleys of the Cape Winelands – South Africa's top wine-producing area. Travelling around here will give you the opportunity to visit a wide variety of vineyards, as well as taste exquisite cuisine; indeed, the local towns are home to some of the finest chefs in the country.

It is the region's mountains and valleys that make it such a wonderful place for wine production, creating perfect microclimates for the practice. Towns like Stellenbosch, which was founded by the Dutch, and Franschhoek are both favourites among visitors, with the latter being particularly well known for its glorious scenery.

Stellenbosch-Cape-WinelandsStellenbosch, Cape Winelands


Once a small fishing village, today Hermanus is an immensely popular place to include on South African itineraries. Its lovely beaches are certainly a factor, but what really attracts travellers is its whale watching. In fact, this is, arguably, the very finest land-based whale-watching destination on the planet – so it's little wonder it is so popular.

The best time to spot whales here is from June to December, when it's often easy to see them off the coast of Walker Bay, and there's even a whale-watching festival here each September or October. Hermanus is also a great place for scenic walks – its clifftop routes are particularly impressive – and possesses an excellent selection of restaurants.

whale-watching-hermanusSouthern Right Whale in Walker Bay, Hermanus

The Garden Route

Particularly well-suited to self-drive holidays but wonderful to visit during any itinerary, the Garden Route is one of South Africa's most scenic areas. It is the name given to a coastal belt that includes a medley of forests, mountains, waterways and beaches, so naturally it possesses a strong appeal among those keen to discover some of the country's finest scenery.

What's particularly lovely about the Garden Route is that it also manages to be an excellent place for soaking up local culture – something that is thanks in no small part to the locally run accommodation here. These small, unique guest houses and hotels are almost as much of an attraction as the landscapes here.

Chapman's-peak-drive-garden-routhChapman's Peak Drive, Garden Route


South Africa is also a premier safari destination, which makes it easy to enjoy an itinerary that features a mix of wildlife spotting and soaking up culture. This is where you will find the celebration Kruger National Park, which is one of the finest safari destinations in the world - but it is also home to smaller, little-known areas that are perfect for discovering wildlife off the beaten track.

Taking a moment to look at Kruger National Park, though, this is a fantastic place to view the Big Five (elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos and buffalos), not to mention a host of other exciting creatures, including graceful giraffes and lightning-fast cheetahs.

Rhinoceros-krugerRhino, Kruger National Park

While Kruger National Park is a natural place for any first-time visitor to explore, if you are looking for something a little off the beaten track, there are plenty of other options to consider, such as the Waterberg. This savannah biosphere reserve is wonderfully diverse, both in terms of the wildlife to spot and the landscapes to admire, while its comparatively low level of visitors makes you feel like a real explorer.

Cox & Kings offers a range of holidays to South Africa, from group tours to private journeys and tailor-made itineraries. See the Cox & Kings website for more information, or call one of our South Africa experts on 020 7378 5000.

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