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South Africa's Top 10 Attractions

South Africa has so much to offer in the way of beautiful sights, exciting activities and world-class facilities. Every year, between 8 and 10 million tourists enter South Africa’s borders, about a fifth of whom are from other African countries. A trip to South Africa is not complete without experiencing its top 10 attractions:

1. The Kruger National Park

The Kruger National Park is a world-renowned reserve and, at almost 2 million hectares, one of the most prolific in terms of the fauna and flora to which it is home. It was established in 1898, making it the country’s oldest national park too. This history means that Kruger is more than just a natural wonder. It boasts rock art sites as well as important archaeological areas that resonate with those with a keen interest in the ancient history of this land.

Kruger is home to an impressive number of species. There are 147 types of mammals, 507 recorded bird species, 114 reptiles, 34 amphibians and 49 different fish species. These can be seen while on game drives, walking safaris or hiking trails throughout the vast reserve. Exploring the reserve with an experienced guide adds enormously to the experience, as they are able to point out spoor, droppings and elusive species that may otherwise be missed. The Kruger National Park offers plenty of accommodation facilities.

2. The Garden Route

The Garden Route’s official borders are Storms River in the Eastern Cape and Heidelberg in the Western Cape. This is part of the N2, and is so named for its lush beauty and magnificent jade-green setting. The Garden Route boasts hundreds of kilometres of pristine coastline, sheer cliffs, dense forests, abundant valleys and mountain ranges that tower over those in the coastal towns below.

The towns along the Garden Route are some of South Africa’s most popular in terms of holiday hotspots. They include Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, George and Mossel Bay. Most of the route and its towns are flanked by the Indian Ocean on one side and impressive mountain ranges (the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma) on the other. As a whole, it has the world’s second most temperate climate.

3. The Beaches

South Africa boasts thousands of kilometres of beautiful beaches. The Eastern Cape, parts of the Western Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal benefit from the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. The West Coast has the icy Atlantic Ocean waters. Most of the beaches are safe for swimming, and are ideal for family vacations spent under the warm African sun. Some of the best beaches in the country are Kosi Bay (KwaZulu-Natal), Kings Beach and Humewood Beach (Port Elizabeth), Noordhoek, Llandudno and Clifton beaches (Cape Town), Mdumbi (Transkei), and Durban North Beach (Durban).

4. Table Mountain

This magnificent mountain has become an icon for Cape Town, characterised by its flat top and flanked by Lion’s Head and Devil’s Peak. It looms over the City Bowl, and some of the most luxurious homes are perched on its slopes. Visitors can enjoy breath-taking views of the Mother City and Robben Island from the top of the mountain, accessible via a modern rotating cable car or a number of hiking trails. This flat top is about three kilometres in width.

There are restaurant and ablution facilities on the mountain, as well as curio shops.

The mountain has a great variety of plant and animal life, including stunning fynbos, which is endemic to the area. Even critically endangered fynbos species can be found on the peaks of Table Mountain. Wildlife includes plenty of hyraxes (rock rabbits or dassies), as well as porcupines, mongooses and tortoises. The rooikat is a rare sight, but is known to live on these peaks too.

5. Sun City Resort

This resort is one of the best and most popular in the country, comprising an awesome casino and no fewer than four different hotels. These range from opulent 5-star resorts to more affordable options for families to enjoy. Sun City is all about fun, and visitors will find no shortage of things to do and see. It is situated in the North West Province, about two hours away from Johannesburg.

While the casino has always been a major draw card, the resort is very popular amongst those that want to relax, or enjoy an exciting holiday with family and friends. Its facilities include water parks, an aviary, golf courses, restaurants, shops, a cultural village and nightclub.

6. Robben Island

Although Robben Island was the place at which a number of well-known figures were imprisoned for many years during the Apartheid regime, it is best known for being the home of Nelson Mandela between 1964 and 1982. Other prisoners included Jacob Zuma, Govan Mbeki, Dennis Brutus, Tokyo Sexwale and Walter Sisulu.

The island is just a few kilometres from the Cape Town coast and is accessed via ferries that depart from the Robben Island Museum at the V&A Waterfront six times a day. Tours of the island and the prison are conducted to give visitors a real sense of life as a political prisoner, and the trials endured by the men that are, today, such revered political figures in the country.

The island has an interesting faunal and floral value too, home to a huge population of both penguins and rabbits.

7. Cape Town's V&A Waterfront

Cape Town’s Waterfront is more than a busy harbour. It is a shopping Mecca and an entertainment hub that is simply not to be missed. Its offering includes boutiques, retail outlets, speciality stores, jewellery shops, restaurants, cinemas and cocktail bars. It is always abuzz with visitors from all over the world, making it a cosmopolitan hotspot with international appeal.

The V&A Waterfront is home to the Two Oceans Aquarium as well as the Robben Island Museum and the handy Tourism Information Bureau.

8. The Drakensberg Mountains

These mountains are some of the country’s most beautiful, historical and exciting ranges to explore. The scenery is breath-taking, making for stunning photographs and even more special memories. The Drakensberg is ideal for those that love the outdoors and want to get a real taste of the local countryside. Activities here include hiking, walking, white water rafting, quad biking, mountain biking, rock climbing, abseiling, ziplining over the forests, and camping. The Royal Natal National Park can be found here too. The Drakensberg comes with a warning - once you have experienced this beauty, you may never return to your homeland.

9. Soweto

Soweto is the biggest township in the country and one of its most politically and socially significant. It is just outside Johannesburg and is currently home to about 3.5 million people, although it covers only about 90 square miles (or 233 square kilometres).

A formal township tour of Soweto is fascinating, fun and exciting. Some of the famous sites that you are likely to see are the former home of Nelson Mandela, the Hector Pieterson Memorial, Freedom Square, schools, a typical home of one of the locals and a shebeen (a traditional informal pub).

10. The Cape Winelands

Many of the wines that come from the winelands in the Western Cape are internationally renowned for their beautiful flavours and excellent quality. This area is steeped in colonial history and is one of particularly beautiful landscapes, making the Winelands a delight, no matter how many times they are visited. Most of the farms offer wine tastings, as well as tours of their cellars and on-site purchasing facilities. Surrounded by the magnificent mountains and vineyards, a visit to any of these wine farms is truly spectacular.