From deserts to mountains, parks, and beaches, South Africa is one of the most naturally diverse places in the whole world. While there’s lots to experience in its cities – vibrant nightlife, world-class restaurants and amazing museums – it’s the natural wonders that I love the most. For nature-lovers, hikers and intrepid explorers – it’s an absolute must to travel to!
1. Table Mountain
Table Mountain is without a doubt the most iconic natural place to visit in South Africa – and the most photographed! But not only is it a gorgeous landmark to look at, but it’s also home to many different kinds of plant and animal life, making it one of the most fun parts of the country to explore, too. At its foot, you can see flocks of penguins all over the rocks, and further up, you may run into some cheeky monkeys – caracals, baboons and rock hyraxes – hiding among the exotic flowers. If you make it to the summit, you’ll be treated to a breathtaking view over the Cape of Good Hope 1,086 meters above sea level.
2. Garden Route
The Garden Route is an amazing coastal stretch covering Knysna, Plattenberg Bay and Mossel Bay, offering opportunities to go on some of the most scenic guided tours of South Africa. Along this journey you can travel through an incredible variety of environments: lakes, lagoons, alcoves, beaches, mountains, 200km of luscious forest, and bush (“fynbos”). Unsurprisingly, it’s a pretty busy tourist hotspot, but remains a beautiful natural wonderland worth trekking through.
3. Swartberg Pass
If you enjoy road trips, you’ll love the Swartberg Pass. It’s not only famous for its sharp bends and snaking paths, but its panoramic, uninterrupted views. The top of Mullers Kloof offers particularly stunning photo opportunities, as you can look back down and really appreciate the crazy, zigzagging road you just took through the mountain passes. One of my favourite sections is actually closer to the start though, where parts of the jagged rock-face look like they’ve been dipped in sunset. So beautiful!
4. The Cango Caves
One of the (literally) hidden treasures of South Africa, the Cango Caves is a great scenic alternative to those who’d rather not go clambering up mountains. Not that’ll it’ll be the easiest of walks, though, as the path through them can be fairly slippery and uneven, but it is certainly worth the exertion. There are two tours you can do: the ‘adventure’ or ‘heritage’ tour, with the latter being the easier one. Some of the rooms are surprisingly spacious (over 90 meters long and 18 meters high!) and most are filled with the most spectacular stalactites you’ll ever see, dripping down from the ceiling.
5. The Valley of Desolation
Don’t be put off by the name! This valley in Camdeboo National Park is home to some of the most wonderfully weird geological formations in the country, formed by volcanic forces 100 million years in the making, and hanging 120 meters above the bottom of the valley. This height gives the summit a quiet, spiritual feel to it, which is perhaps why it was nicknamed the “cathedral of the mountains”.