Top tourist hotspots you can’t afford to miss in each South African province
South Africa is one of the most beautiful countries to visit, with a mix of different cultures, wildlife, and stunning landscapes that change every couple of kilometres. With a diverse range of attractions throughout its interior, South Africa offers one of the most rewarding holidays. Here are our favourite attractions you can see in each of the 9 provinces:
1. Western Cape
The Western Cape has an abundance of tourist attractions, from Table Mountain to Robben Island. However, if there is one hotspot you really don’t want to miss while you’re here, its Cape Agulhas – a rocky headland declared to be southern-most point of Africa, where the turquoise waters of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. Don’t forget to take your picture at the sign that marks the official dividing line between the two oceans.
The peaceful hills and grasslands of Zululand bear little resemblance to what was once the location of three famous and bloody battles; proven only by the existence of forts and sad graves that lie scattered throughout the landscape. The largest concentrations of battlefields are in northern KwaZulu-Natal, where tourists can follow the Battlefields Route. View a number battlefields, national monuments, forts, museums, war graves, and memorials along the route, and walk in the footsteps of famous military tacticians like Shaka, Winston Churchill, and Mahatma Ghandi.
The Cradle of Humankind is a World Heritage Site in Gauteng where the earliest hominid fossils to date have ever been found – some dating as far back as 3.5 million years. The site spreads over 47,000 hectares and contains a complex of limestone caves, including the Sterkfontein Caves, where the famous 2.3 million year old fossil known as Mrs Ples was discovered in 1947. This cave has produced over a third of the early hominid fossils ever discovered.
4. Eastern Cape
The Owl House, located in Nieu Bethesda in the Eastern Cape, is an extraordinary museum of concrete and glass animal sculptures. These creations are the lovechild of Helen Martins and her helper, Koos Malgas. Martins grew bored of her “dull life” and began a project in 1945 that would become her life’s work. The interior of the house is covered by glistening crushed glass and captivating objects, from owls to camels, which have been brought to life from cement, glass, and wire. Some of the works are inspired by the Bible, with most of the sculptures facing to the east – towards a mecca of sorts. The house was declared a provisional national monument in 1991.
5. Free State
The Vredefort Dome is the world’s largest verified impact crater, measuring 300km in diameter. It was formed after a meteorite 10km in diameter hit the earth more than 2 billion years ago in what we know today as the Free State. While the crater itself has eroded away, the remaining geological structure is known as the Vredefort Dome; consisting of a ring of hills measuring 70km in diameter. The Vredefort Dome has been added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites for its geological interest.
6. North West
The malaria-free Pilanesberg National Park in the North West province is a must see for anyone exploring the North West province. It is easily accessible, located in the transition zone between the arid Kalahari and wetter Lowveld regions and, because of this merge of landscapes, an interesting overlap of animals occur. Game drives are unrivalled, with a chance to spot the famous Big 5, along with endemic species like the brown hyena, cheetah, sable, giraffe, zebra, hippo, crocodile, and over 300 species of birds.
7. Northern Cape
The Namaqualand flowers attract both locals and international tourists to the Northern Cape during the spring season when this normally barren landscape region is transformed into a kaleidoscope of colour. This region (spread through Namibia and South Africa) extends along the west coast for over 970km and covers an area of 440,000 km²!
The “Big Baobab” at Sunland Nursery in Modjadjiskloof, Limpopo, is one of the oldest, and definitely the widest, of its kind in the world! It has been carbon dated to around 6,000 years old and has even made front page of the Wall Street Journal. While the tree itself is impressive, the world famous Baobab Tree Bar within it is one of the main reasons tourists come to see it.
The Panorama Route in Mpumalanga is one of the most striking scenic routes in the whole of South Africa. The towering rocky outcrops, stretching evergreen landscapes, and glistening river beds are so beautiful, you’re sure to catch your breath on your first view of them. The route includes the Blyde River Canyon, Three Sisters, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, and God’s Window, characterised by towering canyons, awe-inspiring jagged rock formations, and a number of cascading waterfalls.
Make sure you allow yourself enough time to explore all nine of South Africa’s provinces. And remember, these are the only top attractions per province, which means there is still SO much more to see! Find your accommodation here.
Main image by Țetcu Mircea Rareș (Wikipedia)