South African Getaways in every province

There’s plenty of opportunity to take a shot left to explore the beauty that is Mzansi. All while boosting our local tourism sector which has been hard hit, like so many other industries, by Miss Coco-V. South Africa truly is the world wrapped up into one. You can experience just about anything and everything during a number of themed South African getaways, from pristine beach escapes to overnight mountain hikes, slackpacking trails and world-class safari lodges to wooden cabins in luscious forests, as well as as well as city breaks. Mzansi, she’s got it all! Here’s a compilation of the best South African getaways in every province, as recommended by South African travel journalists, bloggers, guides and marketing gurus.

Western Cape

Get a 15% discount at Cape Town Sky Nest

Table Mountain on the one side; the ocean on the other; and the Smarties-coloured Bo-Kaap in between – those are the kinds of views you can expect to see when waking up in the Mother City during a stay at Cape Town Sky Nest.

This modern, fully-furnished studio apartment (sleeps 2) is on the 22nd floor of the city’s tallest residential skyscraper (with free undercover parking and 24/7 security and reception staff). Found on Bree Street in the city centre, the apartment is a few steps away from a number of coffee shops and restaurants, and a 10-minute walk to the V&A Waterfront. And if you feel like cooking during your stay, there’s a fully-fitted kitchen with SMEG appliances, as well as a dishwasher, washing machine and drier – which makes it perfect for longer stays (available during low season at reduced rates).

Remote workers will appreciate the work desk, fast, uncapped WiFi, air conditioning, and the fact that there’s no load shedding (power interruptions) as the building has a permanent back-up generator. The double-glazed windows keep the sounds of the city out (with the help of black out curtains). And when you want to put your feet up there’s a large, smart TV that’s compatible with your Netflix, Showmax, DSTV, Prime Vodep, DEOD, and Youtube.

There’s a rooftop bar, swimming pool (8am – 9pm), where you can savour a sundowner as the sun sinks behind Signal Hill or wake up with your morning cuppa, followed by a work out at the outdoor gym, which faces Table Mountain.

Get a 15% discount when you book Cape Town Sky Nest using the code: ‘IgaLovesSkyNest’
Book on: [email protected] or +41-76-466-6140 using ‘IgaLovesSkyNest’.

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♬ Intro – The xx

De Hoop Collection in De Hoop Nature Reserve

South African getaways

De Hoop Nature Reserve is a three-hour drive from Cape Town, along the world-renowned Garden and Whale routes within the Overberg region. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site that offers land-based whale-watching between June and November. The bay is a nursery for Southern Right Whales before they swim northwards towards the cooler waters of Namibia. But if you happen to miss the whales there’s always the opportunity to do an interpretive marine walk within the marine protected area (this is still one of my highlights), as well as a spot of bird watching. De Hoop is a paradise for twitchers with more than 260 species of birds, including the endangered Cape Vultures. A colony of close to 200 vultures nest in the Potberg Mountains in the reserve, which makes for exciting vulture hikes and viewing opportunities. Other activities include mountain biking trails, eco-boat cruises on the Ramsar-listed Wetland, as well as nature drives.

The De Hoop Collection within the reserve offers a wide range of accommodation that suits any budget – I loved the Melkamer Manor House where you can invite Head Chef Marcia Tyobeka to cook personalised meals for you in your kitchen. Otherwise, the Fig Tree Restaurant, located in The Shed, overlooks the vlei and adjoins the well-stocked wine cellar.

Book on: [email protected] or 021-422 4522

Read my post: Whale watching at De Hoop

Turbine Boutique Hotel and Spa in Knysna

South African getaways

I loved my stay at the 5-star Turbine Boutique Hotel and Spa on the picturesque Thesen Islands in Knysna pays homage to the revamped wood-burning power station it once was. This surely makes it one of South Africa’s most unusual hotels. It’s a fascinating blend of history and innovation, as well as a living art gallery with original artworks by South African artists provided by Knysna Fine Arts – all of which are on sale.

The tables of the Island Café Restaurant overlook the canals, pool deck and poke between the refurbished turbines, while the Gastro Pub offers classic pub grub with a delicious twist and lagoon sunset views. Do keep an eye out for the sea horses, which breed around Thesen Island on the wire mesh that holds the canals in place.

The Turbine Water Club can arrange a variety of water- and land-based activities such as lagoon cruises, forest walks, city tours as well as bicycle and canoe hire. While the nearby Featherbed Nature Reserve has undertaken excellent regenerative and conservation activities after the Knysna fires. I highly recommend taking a walk through the Knysna Forest for your dose of magical enchantment. But if you choose to turn up the dial on relaxation, the Turbine Spa has a wide range of treatments to hit the spot.

Book on: [email protected] or 044-302-5746

Sky Villa Boutique Hotel in Plettenberg Bay

South African getaways

The 5-star Sky Villa Boutique Hotel is situated on a hilltop in Barons View Estate in Plettenberg Bay. From this vantage point, it offers an uninterrupted 360-degree view of the Keurbooms River, the Indian Ocean and the Tsitsikamma and Langkloof Mountains. It’s gives you the sense that it is encircled by nature even though it’s five minutes away from town and Plettenberg Bay Beach. This luxurious 14-room boutique hotel offers the ultimate seaside escape with its light-filled interiors, cutting-edge design and contemporary decor, as well as private terraces that overlook lush indigenous gardens. The restaurant uses hotel-grown herbs and vegetables across its seasonal menus – do try the seafood soup and the mussels. While the Sky Bar serves us a relaxed finger-food style menu, platters and tapas alongside cocktails. And there’s everything you’d expect from a fully-equipped gym and swimming pool with jets to a wine cellar, snooker room, and a state-of-the-art conference facilities – if you really need an excuse to get away.

Book on: [email protected], 087-550-2967 or 082-767-3393

The Overberg by Linda Markovina of Moving Sushi

The world is a mess right now. We don’t have to pretend that we have it all together or that we are sailing though this unscathed. I don’t know anyone who isn’t facing some form of stress in some area of their life. I only know one thing and that has been an overused statement that can probably be found on coffee mugs to sugar packets the world over. That the cure for everything is tears, sun and the sea. Which is why I count myself as part of the uber blessed to have two of the three things in abundance in my home area of the Overberg in the Western Cape — and it’s not the tears. Obviously. 

Even in the cold of the winter months, the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom biosphere has some of the loveliest wine farms, picturesque beaches, mountains, forest hiking and slow-paced village life. Visit Harold Porter Botanical Gardens for a meander up the reserve or picnic in the rolling greens. Stony Point nature Reserve is home to a penguin colony, while the main beach in Bettys Bay never fails to please kids of all ages. Head over to Arniston to clamber over Waenhuiskrans cliffs and caves or through the ancient Platbos Forest Reserve. Otherwise, eat out in Stanford’s array of locally prized restaurants and cafes.

There is really not enough space to squeeze in everything that can be done in the entirety of the Overberg region in one small post. I am forever finding new or untouched areas of exploration even after 15-odd years of strapping on my wetsuit and hitting the surf. It’s a home break with all the peace, love and sandy feet you can handle.

Eastern Cape

Samara Karoo Reserve

South African getaways

The award-winning, family-run Samara Karoo Reserve is located on 70 000 acres of wilderness in the Great Karoo and offers Big five game viewing, along with the chance to track cheetah on foot. It is a passionate conservation undertaking. What was once farm land has been allowed to rest over 20 years to help preserve the complex and diverse ecosystem of five vegetation biomes that provide habitat for over 60 mammal species. Samara forms part of a greater vision – to create South Africa’s third largest protected area within a global biodiversity hotspot. The driving force behind this vision is the desire to preserve this irreplaceable part of South Africa’s natural heritage. 

Besides the usual game drives, guided walks, birding, mountain hikes and off-road biking, guests can also experience the luxury star bed experience, indulge in wilderness picnics and conservation activities, such as planting hardy spekbooms to help regenerate indigenous vegetation and further rehabilitate the land.

The two, five-star luxury lodge can accommodate up to 26 guests, in either the Karoo Lodge, a renovated farmstead overlooking an amphitheatre of mountains, or the exclusive-use Manor, which is a luxury villa that comes with a private pool, chef, butler and game ranger. As it is situated approximately 270km from Port Elizabeth and 53km from Graaff Reinet, Samara is easily accessible along quality roads.

Book on: [email protected] or 031-262-0324

Read my post: The Return of the King

The Drostdy Hotel by Ian Manley

Graaff-Reinet, South Africa’s fourth oldest town, also lays claim to a 5-star hotel. While part of The Drostdy Hotel is a heritage site, it is keeping up with the times as it even has an electric car charger and is found along South Africa’s electrical highway. Once you’ve gotten your fill of art from the gallery, award-winning wines from the cellar, a taste of Karoo cuisine at the De Camdeboo or Coldstream restaurants, and dip in one of three swimming pools, and a visit to the Himalayan salt sauna at Africology spa — you can explore the surrounding towns of Nieu Bethesda (my favourite small South African town) and Ganora. Venture to the malaria-free, Big Five xxx game reserve or embark on a walking tour from the hotel.

Book on: [email protected] or (021) 427-5900

Port Elizabeth by Tami Magnin of Tazz Discovers

When we travelled across South Africa a few years ago, we spent some time exploring the under appreciated city of Port Elizabeth. Despite spending a number of my childhood holidays there, during this trip, we gained insights into what all the locals keep under wraps.

The Donkin Reserve is a historical landmark near the center of town that is drenched in history. Give the Nelson Mandela Bay tourism team a call when you’re in the area and join a walking tour to really get to know the city. Meanwhile, the VW factory is an interesting spot to visit if you have kids. They offer free tours through the factory a number of times throughout the week, so call ahead and book your spot.

You cannot visit Port Elizabeth without including a day trip into the Addo Elephant Park. It is by far the best nature reserve in the area. After marvelling and these mammoth creatures, head towards the Sundays River and book into a riverside chalet for some much needed rest, relaxation and majestic sunsets.

To do Port Elizabeth properly, especially if you’re on a budget, check out the Nelson Mandela Bay Pass for great discounts and freebies as you discover the region.


Babanango Game Reserve by Lesley Simpson

South African getaways

Tucked into the creases of the foothills of northern KwaZulu-Natal is a protected wilderness area known as Babanango Game Reserve that aims to protect a vast African wilderness. It is one of the first major projects undertaken between conservationists, private investors and the Emcakwini Community to conserve and protect 22 000-hectares of grasslands, thornveld and riverine thicket.

Two hundred years ago, this was a stamping ground of the inimitable Shaka Zulu, whose impis once roamed Babanango’s hills. Today, African Habitat Conservancy, founded by German philanthropist Hellmuth Weisser and Jeffrey van Staden, established it as a vehicle to support conservation of African wildlife and community development.

The reserve lies within the Umfolozi Biodiversity Economy Node (UBEN) and is home to over 500 bird species. It works closely with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife to reintroduce key species, such as lion, elephant and rhino, with the ultimate vision of creating a Big five reserve.

Babanango caters to various travellers, with both an exclusive, upmarket lodge, as well as a comfortable affordable lodge, and a unique camp village that offers educational facilities. It offers a taste of everything you imagine South African getaways to the bush are made of.

Book on: [email protected] or (031) 100-0362

Thanda Safari

South African getaways

In the heart of Zululand — this is where you will find Thanda Safari. This Big Five game reserve offers a traditional wildlife experience with excellent game viewing year round. Meaning ‘love’ in isiZulu, Thanda Safari has a sincere commitment to the Zulu culture and conservation of the environment. Guests can pay a conservation fee to partake in various conservation activities, such as dehorning rhinos.

Thanda is a proud member of The Leading Hotels of the World with three accommodation offerings. Thanda Safari Lodge has nine Zulu homestead bush suites with panoramic views. Villa iZulu is a private hideaway amidst lush green lawns and surrounded by expanses of wild African bush. While each en-suite tent within Thanda’s Tented Camp has its own viewing deck.

Book on: [email protected] or (032) 586-0149; website

Read my post: 7 reasons to visit Thanda Safari

Little Switzerland, Northern Drakensberg by Chelsey Hale

South African getaways

The iconic Drakensberg offers everything from overnight hiking trails and hairpin drives to gentle strolls through forested glades and well over 6 000 San rock paintings.

At Little Switzerland, the Northern Drakensberg, you’ll find yourself in the middle of it all. You’ll be enraptured by idyllic views of the Drakensberg mountains clad in clouds, shrouded in snow, mellow in mist or silhouetted against a crisp sky. Crackling log fires, pampering at the spa, affordable family-friendly alpine chalets: all check.

Venture out nearby and you’ll discover the Royal Natal National Park, an addictively beautiful place far from the well-trodden tourist paths, where you can climb, bike, ride horseback, fish and spot birds and wildlife to your heart’s content. So, if you’re dreaming of seeing the mountains again, then channel your inner Fraulein Maria with a stay at this charming Alpine resort, where the mountainscapes make it hard to believe you’re roadtripping along one of a handful must-do South African getaways.

Book on: [email protected] or (036) 438-2500


Walkersons Hotel & Spa by Bongani Mahlangu

South African getaways

“Mpumalanga offers some of the best fly fishing in South Africa,” says Bongani Mahlangu. “Walkersons’ trout dams are fed by streams and run off from the mountain. This makes for some of the best rainbow and brown trout fishing waters in the province.”

I visited The Walkersons Hotel & Spa near Dullstroom three years ago to celebrate my birthday. It is a blend of elegance and charm located in the countryside that boasts unspoiled scenery, trout dams, as well as hiking and cycling trails. Bongani gave us a quick lesson in fly fishing, needless to say I will have to return to try land a bite. We ordered a gourmet picnic basket filled with locally-sourced goodies and delectable country fare from the kitchen to enjoy beneath the shade of the pine trees alongside the water. After a scrumptious four-course dinner menu by the fireplace I jumped into the bath tub before bed.

Walkersons has 27 private hotel rooms and six self-catering family cottages that look out onto the trout dams. Its luxurious spa is perfect for some spoils followed by high tea overlooking the water.

Book on: [email protected] or (013) 253-7000

Abelana Game Reserve by Nicky Arthur

South African getaways

Abelana Game Reserve is a new 15,000-hectare Big Five game reserve adjacent to the Greater Kruger National Park and the Selati Game Reserve in South Africa’s beautiful lowveld.

Owned by the Mashishimale community, Abelana derives its name from the Northern Sotho word meaning “to share among each other”. This spirit of sharing underpins the relationship between the Mashishimale and the lodge operations partner which leases the land for eco-tourism purposes.

The game reserve, which is located within the country’s prime big game region, has two accommodation options for visitors. The Abelana Safari Camp is an intimate eight-bed tented camp in a style redolent of the classical African explorers. Its stunning 100m2 viewing deck constructed on top of a koppie affording spectacular views of the northern reaches of the Drakensberg Escarpment. Meanwhile, along the banks of the Selati River, lies Abelana River Lodge, a luxury lodge that combines sleek, contemporary African design with organic décor.

Book on: [email protected] or (061) 952-4302

Mkuze Falls Private Game Reserve by Lichelle Govender

If you’re a nature lover, head to the five-star Mkuze Falls private game reserve found between the Kruger National Park and the Zululand Coast. Mkuze Falls is only one of two private game reserves in the region. It offers thrilling experiences from morning and afternoon game drives to birding walks. Make sure to carry your binoculars and have sight of more the than 430 species of birds in the nature reserve, which is home to Fish Eagle, Giant Kingfisher, Narina Trogon and the spectacular purple-crested Lourie. End off your day with a scented oils and hot stones to massage away your stress.

Book on: [email protected] or (034) 414-1018


Becks Safari Lodge, Karongwe Portfolio by Sondy Mathole

Becks Safari Lodge

Limpopo Province is a beautiful place because of its landscape, the Limpopo River, the chance to see the Big Five and its friendly people, who share their culture through song and dance. Most people travel here to visit the Kruger National Park, but there’s much more to explore. We smile and laugh with our guests, especially when they see animals up close. Our guests say that our lodge is less crowded than other game reserves. And they love our traditional dancing and singing during the buffet dinner in the boma.

Book on: [email protected] or (011) 817-5560

Read my post: Stalking leopards on safari

Marataba Conservation Camps in Marakele National Park

Marataba Conservation Camps are situated within Marakele National Park on the north-western edge of the 2.5-billion-year-old Waterberg Massif. This is where the bushveld gives way to the Kalahari sands, shadowed by a colourful backdrop of sedimentary cliffs, buttresses and bulwarks.

Marakele National Park is home to a critically important, medium-sized population of white and black rhinos. Marataba Conservation Camps offer an interactive three-day rhino conservation experience, where each guest is given a responsibility to help add the rhino to the national Rhinoceros DNA indexing system and monitor its condition, alongside the wildlife conservation team on the ground.

Founders Camp has four suites that can be booked on an exclusive-use basis. Each suite’s wooden decks overlooks the Matlabas River, which is ideal for game watching – as is the infinity pool that overlooks the water.

Explorers Camp has five canvas tents and one family tent and is available on a semi-exclusive use basis. It overlooks a waterhole with the dramatic Waterberg Mountains in the background where herds of elephants come to drink at sundown, about 10 metres away.

Book on: [email protected] or (021) 201-3869

Kings Walden Garden Manor by Bridget Hilton-Barber

Kings Walden was born of great romantic spirit. It was here in the 1930s that a beautiful young woman stood spellbound at the mountain views and said to the man beside her: “It’s so beautiful I never want to leave”. “Marry me”, he replied, “and you will never have to”. And so Billo Tooley, owner of Kings Walden married Elsie Dickson who went on to create King Walden’s beautiful gardens.

Many, many years later, on the night Elsie died, lightning struck the enormous blue gum tree at the viewpoint. It is still standing today – a symbol of Kings Walden Garden Manor’s magical romantic spirit.

Enjoy incredible mountain views, famous country gardens and luxury accommodation in a century-old heritage home, which is led by travel-writer-turned hotelier Bridget Hilton-Barber, whose family has owned this property since 1904. All five luxury rooms at Kings Walden face onto the luscious manicured gardens.

Book on: [email protected] or (015) 307-3262

Read my post: Garden of my Ancestors with Bridget Hilton-Barber

Mhondoro Game Lodge by Sara Essop of In Africa and Beyond

The name “Mhondoro” means “Spirit of the Lion” and this family-friendly lodge certainly lives up to its name. Situated in the malaria-free, Big Five Welgevonden Game Reserve in Limpopo, just under 3 hours from Johannesburg, it promises bold animal encounters on game drives and at the lodge.

The game-viewing begins from the time you park your vehicle and your ranger transports you to the lodge, where the staff sing to welcome you.  The wooden deck in front of the main lodge overlooks a swimming pool where elephants come to drink and a waterhole set in an open savannah, where there is constant wildlife activity. Another wonderful feature at Mhondoro is the game-viewing hide. A nature photographer’s dream, it is accessible via a tunnel leading from the main lodge, bringing one at eye level with the wildlife drinking from the waterhole. The views are mind-blowing and I would have spent all my time there if I could!

If you’re looking for a luxury safari experience near Johannesburg, with excellent game-viewing, deluxe accommodation, delectable cuisine, then head off to Mhondoro Game Lodge.

P.S South Africans get special rates.

Mapungubwe National Park by Roxanne Reid of Africa Addict

Mapungubwe National Park lies in the far north of Limpopo, where the Limpopo and Shashe rivers meet. You’ll find wildlife and giant baobabs, tenacious wild fig trees growing through red rocks and a cultural significance that has made Mapungubwe a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Mapungubwe predates Great Zimbabwe further north. Between 1220 and 1290 about 5 000 people lived here, the royal family on top of Mapungubwe Hill. Items uncovered from the royal graves – including a famous golden rhino – show that the people traded with other parts of the world like Egypt, China and India.

See wildlife like elephant, giraffe, zebra, eland, waterbuck and klipspringer on your game drives. Don’t miss the wonderful treetop walkway, a guided walk to the top of Mapungubwe Hill, and the series of sunset decks with superb views over the Limpopo River into Zimbabwe and Botswana. Other things to do at Mapungubwe include 4×4 routes and a hiking trail; you can also visit the hide and an interpretive centre to explore the rich cultural history of the area.

Book on: (015) 534-7923/4 or [email protected] 

Northern Cape

The Diamond Coast by Hitekani Mbatsana of Blacks Do Swim

As you travel along the coast to the Northern Cape Province, the roads get more rugged, the landscape untouched and the people fewer but friendlier. Noup is a property along the coast between the small mining towns of Kleinzee and Koingnaas. The sea-facing, basic stone huts were once home to diamond mine divers before the diamonds dried up. While there, we joined Namaqua Coastal Expeditions on a shipwreck and sand dune tour which is great fun. There are also opportunities for hiking, 4×4 drives, sand boarding and fresh seafood. 

It’s a great place to go to if you need a break from the world. Although the huts have basic amenities, the electricity only comes on for a couple of hours in the morning and evening and the cellphone signal is largely non-existent.

Just beauty, stillness, dark skies and bright stars – perfect combinations for  a South African Getaway. A 4×4 is recommended (you might still get stuck in the sand but all getaways need an adventure!)

Book on: 083-652-5489

North West

Madikwe Game Reserve by Sara Essop of In Africa and Beyond

South African getaways

The malaria-free Madikwe Game Reserve in the North-West province is the fifth largest game reserve in South Africa. A successful conservation partnership between the government, the local community and the private sector, the game viewing here is phenomenal, as it is home to an abundance of the Big Five, as well as wild dogs and cheetahs.

We’ve stayed at a few lodges in the reserve. Madikwe Safari Lodge is one of our favourites. Perched on the side of a mountain, the lodge is home to three intimate camps, designed to blend in with the environment and make one feel immersed in nature. The spacious suites have outdoor decks facing the bushveld and feature private outdoor showers, plunge pools and sunbeds.

I loved relaxing at the swimming pool, which provides uninterrupted views of Madikwe’s signature plains. It overlooks a waterhole which attracts all types of exciting wildlife, giving guests a front-row experience from the pool. If you enjoy safaris, you will love Madikwe Safari Lodge. Here, you can expect starlit dinners, surprise bush picnics, and ellies walking past your suite, making for an unforgettable stay.

Book by: sending them an inquiry

Kameel by Heather Mason of 2Summers

The tiny hamlet of Kameel, in the sparsely populated centre of North West Province, makes a perfect stopover for road trippers travelling between Joburg and the Northern Cape, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, or further afield into Namibia. Known for its ubiquitous grain silos and thick groves of indigenous camelthorn trees, Kameel is a quick, 30-minute hop off the N14.

Kameel’s quaint B&B, Kameel Rust en Vrede, has several rooms in the main house and a smattering of beautifully restored, retro campovans. Rust en Vrede’s charming proprietors, Hercules and Patrick, cook up a storm for breakfast and dinner and cater to your every need.

Don’t leave town without taking a dip in Rust en Vrede’s inviting swimming pool, built from an old windmill pump. Patrick’s sister, Sandra, lives just across the road and operates accommodation with her husband, Hennie, with several cottages for rent along the train tracks. The old stationmaster’s house, filled with beautiful period antiques, is also available for guests. Sandra serves as the unofficial town historian, with an endless supply of stories about the quirky history of Kameel.

Book on: 076-548-8035 or [email protected]

Groot Marico by Jay Jay Gregory

Authentic and bohemian is the best way to describe the hamlet of Groot-Marico in North-West province. Located about 2.5 hours from Gauteng, this town offers a unique bushveld experience. Escape into nature and stay at one of the several guest farms located on the banks of the pristine Groot-Marico river. The town is famous for its link with Herman Charles Bosman (the famous South African short-story writer) who wrote several pieces featuring Groot-Marico. Highly recommended is the annual Herman Charles Bosman Festival, Mampoer tasting and hiking in the Marico Biosphere Reserve to experience the natural beauty of this region.

Book on:

Finfoot Lake Reserve, Elands River Game Reserve by Chelsey Hale

South African getaways

Finfoot Lake Reserve is everything you could want in a weekend break from Gauteng, as it’s located a 90-minute drive from Johannesburg in the greater Pilanesberg area and offers that much-needed slice of peace and quiet.

Bring your bike, go for a paddle on the lake. Try a bush walk or game drive, delight in a sunset barge cruise, or try out a Segway safari if you’re up for a bit of fun. Finfoot Lake Reserve offers two accommodation options: comfortable chalets or a stylish self-catering villa located close to the Vaalkop Dam, which is ideal for families and groups of friends.

Book on: [email protected] or (012) 277-8911

Free State

Reasons to visit the Free State by Letlala Motsoene

The Free State allows tourists to explore nature, culture and experience adventure. It boasts a rich history with San Rock Art and battlefields found in Koffiefontein. Travellers should undertake our Big Five Routes, each offers a range of activities from historical sites and museums to quad biking, horse riding and white-water rafting. Mangaung, formerly Bloemfontein, is the capital of the Free State and South Africa’s judicial capital. The city hosts the Franklin Nature Reserve atop Naval Hill, with a digital planetarium and a towering statue of Nelson Mandela. Numerous museums are dedicated to the Anglo Boer War, and it’s worth visiting ANC sites, such as Mapikela House and Waaihoek.



Clarens along the picturesque Highlands Route exudes a village ambiance, it’s the perfect place to slow down. Here you’ll find streets with names like Berg in honour of the picture-book landscape of mountains, tolling church bells and crowing roosters that welcome morning. This is the place to learn how to forge your own knife, do a beer tasting at the Clarens Brewery or hike the surrounding sandstone mountains in the town.

Grab a free copy of the free Clarens Art Route map and explore the town’s art collection on foot. Most of the 16 art galleries along the route will see you walk around the town square and along Main Street. The Johan Smith Art Gallery proudly displays artworks by Old Masters. Then there’s The Gallery with its African artworks, as well as Smudge, where you’ll find contemporary artworks hanging on its walls.

Read my post: How to survive the Clarens Beer Fest

Golden Gate Highlands National Park


The golden-hued sandstone cliffs of Golden Gate Highlands National Park in the eastern Free State are part of the Maluti mountain range that expand throughout Lesotho. The national park stretches over 340km2 of grasslands and Afromontane forest. It is home to various mammals, such as black wildebeests, blesboks, elands, as well as 257 bird and 117 beetle species. But perhaps it is best known for its towering sandstone peaks that have been carved by the elements over millennia.

Of the eight hiking routes, the Ribbok Trail is the longest and most difficult. This 28km hiking trail takes around 4-5 hours on day one and 6-8 hours on day two, when it ascends a 600-metre gradient. We overnighted in the Ribbok Hut, alongside the river, which has no electricity, though firewood is available to make a fire in the donkey shower to heat the water. At the end of the well-marked route you pass Langtwoon Dam, where you can take a refreshing dip in the rock pools.

Book on: [email protected] or (058) 255-1000


Rosemary Hill Farm in Pretoria by Lauren Melnick of Wanderlust Movement

South African getaways

Romance. Seclusion. A private cabin in the woods. That’s what you can expect at Rosemary Hill Farm in Pretoria, plus so much more!

The property offers an unbeatable weekend getaway in Gauteng and it’s perfect for adventurous couples (or solo travellers) who want to escape the city life without driving too far. The property boasts a sunset deck bar with a pool, a private gym and over 30km of MTB and hiking trails.

When it comes to food, you can feast on delicious wood-fired pizzas, vegan burgers, freshly baked croissants and a good cup of coffee. For something more romantic, you can book a picnic for two or a plant-based high tea while you tuck into an assortment of treats as you watch the sunset.

Not enough to entice you? Rosemary Hill is a top eco-travel getaway. Sustainability is found in almost everything they do – from planting 30 000 trees and buying local whenever possible to only using biodegradable toilet paper, coffee cups and cutlery so as to keep their footprint on the environment as small as possible.

Book on: [email protected] or (012) 802-0052

Planning a trip around South Africa? Pin it, save it for later.

Iga Motylska

Iga Motylska is a Johannesburg-based freelance writer, photojournalist, sub-editor and blogger. She is published in numerous local and international publications, including: Forbes Africa, Forbes Woman Africa, Forbes Life Africa, CNBC Africa, Ventures Africa, Marie Claire, Sawubona, AA Traveller, Fastjet inflight magazine and Seoul Magazine among numerous others. Her editorial interests range from documenting the entrepreneurial spirit to women's and human rights issues, environmental affairs and of course travel writing.


  1. Soooo many beautiful spots! I can’t wait to visit!

  2. What a spectacular list. Makes me wanna pack my bags for SA now

  3. Lots of inspiration. I hope to get to South Africa soon.

  4. Oh my gosh, aren’t these some amazing experiences to have in S. Africa. I am dying to go to do all of these, but I think the Samara Private Game Reserve looks particularly appealing. I love the combination of sustainable luxury and nature.

  5. South Africa is on my bucket list and this guide is being pinned for when I visit! Thank you so much for the information!

  6. Great informative guide! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Sandra and Hennie Cronje

    Thank you to Heather for adding Kameel to you post. Much appreciated
    Sandra @deoudehuize

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