The Ultimate South African Itinerary

The Ultimate South African Itinerary

South Africa is a rainbow nation in more ways than one. We’ve travelled from Cape Town, across the Winelands, to savannah plains and found the places where you can experience its many colours. We’ve got affiliate links to our experiential friends at Nemo Travel throughout this article in case you feel inspired to book your trip.

Desmond Tutu may have dubbed South Africa as “the
rainbow nation” in the spirit of multiculturalism, but the
country’s diversity is inherent in its landscape. Burgeoning cities
rub shoulders with craggy mountains and glistening shores, while
vine-carpeted Winelands give way to the rust-hued dunes of the
Kalahari in the north. South Africa is a land of infinite variety
and we’ve spotlighted the places where you can experience the
country at its very best.

Cape Town

Kick off your South African adventure in the country’s bustling
capital, where dynamic city energy is softened by laid-back coastal
living – don’t expect two days the same here. In the foothills of
Lion’s Head, Ellerman House serves as a great base with views
across the city and over Bantry Bay. After a morning spent browsing
the hotel’s 1,000-piece collection of South African art, stroll
along the seafront to Lily’s Restaurant for an Insta-worthy breakfast
– we’re ordering the pancakes with raspberries, lime, coconut and
crème fraîche.

There’s nothing like a few afternoon activities to work off your
brunch – though we do recommend grabbing treats for the road from
; the hybrid “doughssant” is a must-try. Beach lovers
should make a beeline for Clifton 2nd, where prime-time sunbathing
is best interspersed by shoreline strolls to pick up an ice cream.
Thrill-seekers, meanwhile, should forego Table Mountain in favour
of Lion’s Head, where there are fewer people to cramp your style
and vistas over the city are even more jaw-dropping. Feeling brave?
Try paragliding from the top.

Come evening, The Test Kitchen is the hottest dinner ticket in town
– book in advance for global dishes prepared with local South
African ingredients. Sophistication and drama characterise the
restaurant’s Dark Room, where cocktails and small plates are
served, while more formal courses are enjoyed in the
semi-industrial Light Room. Saunter back to Ellerman House for a
nightcap from the hotel’s 7,500-bottle cellar.


Trade in city lights for country nights at Leeu Estates,
where sun-drenched terraces are neighboured by towering mountains
and a bubbling river. Wineries are unsurprisingly the main draw in
this region; days here are best spent hopping from one to another
in the rich and ripe areas of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. As you
sip on South Africa’s best bottles, expect to be serenaded only by
rustling vineyard leaves and the pleasing clink of wine

A sunrise hot air balloon ride makes an early wake up well worth
it, but, should you want a lie in (wine tastings are hard work,
after all), an afternoon bike ride through the vineyards is equally
sublime. Come sundown, book a table at Babel at Babylonstoren, one
of the oldest Cape Dutch farms in South Africa. Pop into its
renowned spa before dining on farm-fresh in the light-filled


Of course, a trip to South Africa wouldn’t be complete without
an attempt at spotting the Big Five. Fly to Madikwe Game Reserve
and transfer to your safari lodge of choice. Opt for Madikwe
Safari Lodge
for muted colours that melt into the wilderness,
or Jaci’s Tree Lodge for a sanctuary above the treetops. Early
risers should join sunrise game drives for the best chance at
spotting animals, while those who like get up close (but hopefully
not too personal) with South Africa’s big cats can try a walking

For a more under-the-radar experience, set your GPS to the
Waterberg region. Sure, you’re less likely to see South Africa’s
big cats, but floating along on a boat safari while spotting
colourful birds perched atop mud-wallowing hippos is nothing short
of serene. Bed down amid mountain streams, gorges and rolling hills
at Marataba Mountain
, where open-plan design makes for idyllic sunset-watching
post-game drive.

The Lowdown

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