South Africa’s natural and scenic beauty, good climate, abundant wildlife, diverse flora and fauna, stunning landscapes and fascinating history and culture are major tourist attractions that have grown globally to make this country an iconic, ‘must visit’ tourism destination and experience. Infused with a multicultural vibrancythat makes it welcoming to people from around the world, South Africa is also comparatively easy on the pocket and is an affordable tourist hot spot.
South Africa is ranked sixth among the world's seventeen mega diverse countries and is home to a variety of animal life, including manyat the Kruger National Park, one of the largest game reserves in Africa. For cultural connoisseurs, some of the significant cultural attractions include the fossil-bearing caves forming part of the Cradle of Humankind in Gauteng, the ruins of the Kingdom of Mapungubwe in northern Limpopo and more. For those in love with adventure, there are a variety of activities such as hiking, mountaineering, scuba diving and much more, while for those desiring a commune with nature, there are plenty of options from landscape and game reserves, diverse cultural heritage, to beautiful and unspoilt beaches such as found in KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Western Cape provinces.
Here we provide a summary of major tourism destinations and experiences in each of the nine provinces of South Africa
Boasting a fantastic climate and extraordinary scenic beauty, combined with some of the worlds' greatest beaches, the Western Cape has a remarkably rich history, fabulous food and wonderful people. Some of the major attractions include the iconic Table Mountain, Cape Point at the tip of the African continent, the beautiful Kirsten bosch Gardens, District Six with the first masjid built in South Africa over 200 years ago and the infamous Robben Island that once housed former President Nelson Mandela. For Jazz lovers the annual Cape Town Jazz Festival is not to be missed.
Home to Kimberly Mines, one of the world’s most important diamond mining towns, Northern Cape, the largest province of South Africa is also a land of wide open space, desert landscapes, wild flower blossoms and Africa’s big cats, including the famous black-mane lions. In August and September the stark landscape of Nama kwaland, where the popular Richtersveld National Park is located, is transformed into a brilliant carpet of wild flowers consisting of wild daisies and other spring time flowers. The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, along the border with Botswana, is one of the largest nature conservation areas in southern Africa and at two million hectares in area is one of the largest protected natural ecosystems in the world.
Starting at the Tsitsikama National Park, the Eastern Cape extends all the way up the golden Sunshine Coast, which includes Jeffery's Bay, St. Francis Bay and the Algoa Bay, continuing along the wild coast to Port Edward. The long expanses of sun-drenched beaches interrupted by rocky caves and secluded lagoons makes it a paradise for surfers, angler's and holiday makers from all over the world. From village tourism to miles of white sandy beaches to the incredible, yet unforgiving terrain of the Baviaanskloof, the Eastern Cape is an adventure destination par excellence. The Addo Elephant National Park, with the densest elephant population in the world; the dramatic Wild Coast; and, of course, Mandela’s home at Qunu are among the attractions of the region.
North West: Aptly called Platinum Province, the North West produces more platinum than any other single area in the world. Boasting two of South Africa’s major wildlife parks, the Pilanesberg National Park and the Madikwe game reserve, the province offers worlds of endless African Savannah, breath-taking wildlife scenery and an authentic African Bushveld experience. However, the province is not just about wilderness, lying in the bowl of an extinct volcanic crater is the country’s world renowned tourist attraction, Sun City Resort Complex, the continent’s answer to Las Vegas. The province is also home to the well-known Sterkfontein Cave Complex, a World Heritage site famously called the Cradle of Mankind for its ancient fossil finds.
Known as the granary of South Africa, the Free State province is an immense display of glassy savannahs and seemingly never-ending fields of maize, sunflower and wheat, dotted with windmills and farmsteads. The Golden Gate National Park with its spectacular sandstone formations bring out the spectacular scenic beauty of the eastern highlands, while the King Rose Park with its more than 4000 rose bushes gives the province’s capital, Bloemfontein,the moniker of City of Roses. Free State is also where one finds the Vredefort Dome, the oldest and largest meteorite impact site in the world formed more than two billion years ago when a giant meteorite hit Earth.
A melting port of Indian, European and Zulu cultures the KwaZulu-Natal province is also known as the garden province due to its lush, green subtropical environment. A premier holiday destination, the KwaZulu-Natal offers a truly exciting African adventure spanning everything from the dramatic and imposing cliffs of the Drakensberg Mountain Range to the golden beaches of the coast. From its mountains, rolling hills and pristine beaches to world heritage sites, battlefields and a perennially warm climate, Kwazulu-Natal welcomes the thousands of tourists who visit the province each year. The imposing mountain range of uKhahlamba- Drakensberg Park is celebrated for its San rock art as well as its beauty. More than 30,000 symbolic paintings adorn the walls and overhangs of 500 caves scattered throughout this exclusive and ancient landscape.
Popularly known as the Place of Gold, the history of gold in South Africa spins around Gauteng province. Shantytowns developed during the Gold-Rush years transformed into some of Africa's largest metropolitan cities; Johannesburg, the capital of the province; Soweto, the heart of the freedom struggle; Pretoria, the administrative capital of South Africa and the Vaal Triangle, an industrial heartland. Geographically the smallest province, Gauteng is an urban playground of large shopping malls, the gold reef theme park, hotels, casinos, and a vibrant cultural and entertainment scene. It is also South Africa’s fast-paced economic powerhouse. Meanwhile, in Soweto Township, Mandela House is a museum dedicated to civil rights leader Nelson Mandela and the struggle against Apartheid.
The ‘place where the sun rises’ lies in the eastern part of South Africa and embraces the southern half of Kruger National Park, a huge nature reserve with abundant wildlife including the Big Five — lions, elephants, rhino, leopard and buffalo. The climate and topography varies from cool highland grasslands at 1600 meters above sea level, through the middleveld, to the subtropical lowveld towards the famous Kruger National Park and many private game reserves. The province's iconic Blyde River Canyon, a 26 km long gorge and among the world’s largest, is one of the natural wonders of Africa and is known as a green canyon because of its subtropical foliage. The province with its sheer splendour, its immense beauty and some of South African's most diverse and vibrant cultures, has it all.
A landscape of dramatic contrasts, the Limpopo province is characterised by hot savannah plains and mist-clad mountains, age old indigenous forests, ancient mountain fortresses and contemporary infrastructure and modern day facilities. Limpopo houses a large number of game farms, private and provincial game reserves, adjoining the northern part of the renounced Kruger National Park at its eastern border. The province has become a sought-after tourist destination for its big game, exceptional birding, untamed bush landscapes and an ancient African kingdom, the centre of which was located at Mapungubwe National Park. Also located in the province are the Mapungubwe Hill, a World Heritage site and one of the world's most important cultural and archaeological venues and the BelaBela with its hot mineral springs famed for their healing properties.