Best 10 places to visit in South Africa

1-1-   CAPE TOWN

Cape Town at a Glance: Cape Town lies on a small peninsula at the southern

tip of Africa which juts into the Atlantic Ocean. It is South Africa’s premier tourist destination and its fourth largest urban centre. Enriched by Dutch, British and

Cape Malay influences, the cosmopolitan atmosphere is a unique blend of cultures. Lying at the foot of its most famous landmark, Table Mountain, Cape Town has a

host of well-preserved historical buildings. Many, such as the Old Town House on Greenmarket Square, now house museums. Outside the city, attractions include

Chapman’s Peak Drive along a winding coastline, where sheer cliffs drop to the swirling sea below, and a tour of the vineyards around Franschhoek and Stellenbosch.

2  2- Robben Island

Named “Robben Eiland” – seal island – by the Dutch in the mid-17th century, Robben Island has seen much human suffering. As early as 1636 it served as a penal settlement, and it was taken over by the South African Prisons Service in 1960. Its most famous inmate was Nelson Mandela, who spent 18 years here. When the last political prisoners were released in 1991, the South African Natural Heritage

Programme nominated the island for its significance as a seabird breeding colony – it hosts more than 130 bird species. In 1997 the island was designated a museum,

and in 1999 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Governor’s House This splendid Victorian building dates from 1895 and was originally the home of the Island Commissioner. Today it serves as a conference centre and provides

upmarket accommodation for visiting dignitaries and VIPs.

3- Touring the Cape Peninsula

Tours of the Cape Peninsula should start on the Atlantic coast and include Chapman’s Peak Drive, a scenic route that took seven years to build. The drive, cut into the cliff face, has splendid lookout points with picnic sites. A highlight of the tour is the panorama at Cape Point, where the peninsula juts into the sea. The views encompass False Bay, the Hottentots Holland mountains and Cape Hangklip, 80 km (50 miles) away. The return journey passes the penguin colony at Boulders and goes through

charming Simon’s Town. Chapman’s Peak 1 The highest point rises to 592 m (1,942 ft). An observation platform is set on sheer cliffs which

drop 160 m (525 ft) to the swirling seas below.

4- Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

In July 1913, the South African government handed over the running of Kirstenbosch estate (which had been bequeathed to the state by Cecil John Rhodes in 1902) to a board of trustees. The board established a botanical garden that preserves and

propagates rare indigenous plant species. Today, the world-renowned garden covers an area of 5.3 sq km (2 sq miles), of which 7 per cent is cultivated and

90 per cent is covered by natural fynbos and forest. Kirstenbosch is spectacular from August to October when the garden is ablaze with spring daisies and gazanias.

Colonel Bird’s Bath Tree ferns and Cape Holly trees surround this pool, named after Colonel Bird, deputy colonial secretary in the early 1800s. Van Riebeeck’s Wild Almond Hedge In the 1660s a hedge was planted to keep the Khoi out of the settlement and discourage illegal trading.


Introducing the Western and Southern Cape This region is dominated by a rugged mountain chain, comprising what is geologically known as the Cape folded mountains. The landscapes found in this territory are diverse. The arid and rather barren West Coast gives way to fertile winelands, cradled by jagged mountains. Beyond the terraced valleys, dramatic passes that traverse the massive mountain ranges of the Southern Cape are a testament to the efforts of early road builders. The spectacular Cango Caves lie here and, on the other side of the mountains, the

magnificent Garden Route. All along the rocky coastline, which is one of the most dangerous in the world and where swells can reach up to 30 m (98 ft) in height, fishermen reap the harvest of the sea. Some 37 whale and dolphin species

and around 100 different types of shark occur in southern African waters. Only a

small number come in close to the coast, however. Of the dolphins, bottlenose,

common and Heaviside’s are the most prolific, while common predatory sharks

include the great white, tiger, ragged-tooth, oceanic white tip, bull (Zambezi), and mako. A large portion of the world’s 4,000–6,000 southern right whales migrates

north annually, with numbers increasing by seven per cent every year. They leave their subantarctic feeding grounds from June onwards to mate and calve in the

warmer waters of the protected rocky bays and inlets that occur along the South African coastline.

6-     Boschendal Manor House

In 1685, Simon van der Stel granted the land on which the manor house stands to the French Huguenot Jean le Long. Originally named “Bossendaal” (which literally means “forest and valley”), the property was transferred in 1715, together with adjacent fertile farmland, to another Huguenot settler, Abraham de Villiers. It remained in the wine-farming de Villiers family for 100 years. Jan de Villiers built the wine cellar and coach house in 1796. His youngest son, Paul, was responsible for Boschendal Manor House in its present H-shaped form, which he built in 1812. Today, this historic estate

belongs to DGB, a consortium of local business people who bought Boschendal from Anglo-American in 2003. Crafted Room Dividers Screens divided the front and

back rooms in elegant Cape Dutch homes. Boschendal’s original teak-and yellowwood screen is decorated with geometric designs in dark ebony. Master Bedroom This antique stinkwood four-poster bed was crafted in 1810 by local artisans. It is decorated with a hand-crocheted lace hanging and a light, embroidered cotton bedspread, both of which date from around 1820.

7-    Franschhoek’s French Heritage

Franschhoek is a charming little country town with a distinctly French character. Wine-making traditions introduced by the early French Huguenot settlers are still

pursued by viticulturists with surnames like Malherbe, Joubert and du Toit. Restaurants called Le Quartier Français and La Petite Ferme offer Provençale cuisine in light-filled, airy interiors, while Chez Michel flies the French flag and

serves delicacies like escargots, and Camembert marinated in Calvados brandy. Architecturally, the influence of French Classicism is evident in the graceful lines

of the historic buildings. A good example is the Huguenot Memorial Museum, which was based on a design by the 18th-century French architect Louis Michel Thibault. Freedom of religion is symbolized by the dramatic central figure at

the Huguenot Monument, which depicts a woman holding a bible in her right hand and a broken chain in the left. Refined classic gables like that of the Huguenot Memorial Museum replaced the Baroque exuberance of earlier gables. THE FRENCH HUGUENOTS After King Louis XIV of France revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685, countless French Huguenots were forced to flee to Protestant countries. The Dutch East India Company’s offer of a new life at the Cape of Good Hope was eagerly accepted by some 270 individuals.

8- Worcester Museum

The recreated buildings of this living “little farm” museum (previously known as Kleinplasie Open-Air Museum), which opened in 1981, portray the lifestyle of the early Cape pioneer farmer. Each one houses a particular home indus try

activity that was practised between 1690 and 1900. Here, visitors can watch

brown bread being baked in an outdoor oven and the mak ing of tallow candles and soap. At times the museum hosts seasonal activities such as wheat threshing and winnowing, grape treading and the distilling of witblits (a potent home-made brandy). Shepherd’s Hut Shepherds who tended distant flocks lived in temporary shelters like this one. In the treeless Karoo, domed stone roofs were used instead of wooden beams and trusses. The Horse-Mill Back in 1850, most farmers relied on horse-drawn mills to grind flour, a slow, laborious process. Canisters This collection of 19thcentury storage tins is displayed in the museum restaurant.

Occasionally, these tins are found in “junk” stores today. The Blacksmith The smithy door, aswell as the bellows used by the blacksmith, date from 1820. The rest of the building has walls cast in clay and gables built from raw brick. The blacksmith can be seen daily, forging nails, hinges, forks and tripods.


The dry, sunbaked landscape of South Africa’s western coastal terrace is bounded to the east by the rugged Cedarberg mountain range and to the west by the rocky, wind-blown Atlantic coastline. An unexpected surprise in this forbidding terrain is the appearance every spring of colourful fields of exquisite wildflowers

in Namaqualand, the West Coast’s most famous tourist attraction. The West Coast extends north of Cape Town to the Namibian border, where the fringes

of the Namib desert epitomize the extremes of this vast, rain-deprived area. The

arid, bleak and infertile vegetation zones support only hardy, drought-resistant succulents and geophytes (plants whose bulbs, corms or tubers store water and nutrients). The fynbos area south of Nieuwoudtville possesses a stark beauty, embodied in the weird forms of the Cedarberg’s outcrops that were eroded

over millennia by wind and rain. Further inland the country’s wheatbelt centres on Malmesbury, and is an area of undulating golden corn whose texture changes constantly with the play of light on the rippling fields. The upwelling of the Atlantic Ocean’s cold Benguela Current along the coast brings rich phytoplanktonic nutrients to the surface, attracting vast shoals of pelagic fish

(especially anchovies). This harvest from the sea supports an important fishing

industry in the Western Cape. Saldanha Bay, a rather unappealing industrial town, is the fishing and seafood processing hub. It is also a major centre for the export

of iron ore, which is mined at Sishen, further inland in the Northern Cape Province. Sishen is the site of the largest iron ore deposits in the world. The Namaqualand is an arid belt stretching north of the Cedarberg almost to the Namibian border, which is marked by the mighty Orange River. This belt only receives about 140 mm (6 inches) of rainfall during March and April, but the brief downpours provide sufficient moisture to clothe the landscape with colourful blooms from August to October every year.

10- West Coast National Park


The West Coast National Park encompasses Langebaan Lagoon, the islands Schaapen, Jutten, Marcus and Malgas, and the Postberg Nature Reserve, which is opened to the public each spring (Aug–Sep) when it is carpeted with colourful

wildflowers like daisies and gazanias. The park is one of South Africa’s most important wetlands, harbouring some 250,000 waterbirds including plovers, herons, ibis, and black oystercatchers. Antelope species such as elands, kudus and zebras can also be seen. Accommodation in the park consists of chalets and houseboats on the lagoon. WATERSPORTS AT LANGEBAAN Ideal conditions have attracted the attention of international organizations: the 1995 Windsurfing World Cup was held at Langebaan Lagoon, and in 1998 it was nominated

to host the prestigious Production-Board World Championships. In order to protect the natural environment without curtailing the activities of other interest groups, the lagoon has been zoned into three recreational areas, with the northern tip demarcated for all watersports enthusiasts and the central part of the lagoon out of bounds for motorboats.

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