South Africa is the 25th largest country in the world, and the idea of seeing more than one of its cities in a single visit may seem daunting. But, if you’re up for some adventure, renting a car (or taking your own if you are local) is a fantastic way to see much of the country’s diversity all in one go. If you have a couple weeks of vacation time and don’t mind putting a couple thousand kilometers of road behind you, here is our six-city road trip itinerary.
Visit These 6 Cities On A Road Trip In South Africa
This is your starting point
Suggested Number of Nights: 3
Although safety can be a concern when visiting Johannesburg, conscientious and cautious travelers shouldn’t skip this major city. JoBurg has a burgeoning art scene evident in its impressive street art, particularly in the Maboneng precinct. This hipster haven is also home to Market on Main, a Sunday food market featuring local vendors serving international cuisine, and selling their artwork, fashions, and handicrafts. You also won’t want to miss a visit to Collector’s Treasury, the largest used bookstore in the Southern Hemisphere with more than one million books in stock. Bibliophiles could get lost for days navigating the seemingly endless stacks and shelves, which are deceptively well organized. Visitors who like more traditional touristic activities like museums will not be let down; venture to the Soweto Township for a visit to Mandela House or the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum to learn more about South Africa’s political history.
Suggested Number of Nights: 1
Miles from Johannesburg: About 600km
When road-tripping South Africa, Colesberg is the ideal stopover town as it sits conveniently about halfway between major metropolitans Johannesburg and Cape Town. This cute agricultural town features a variety of well-preserved architectural styles spanning from Cape Dutch gables, to Victorian, and Georgian structures that can be viewed on the town’s walking tour. You can also ditch your car for the local mountain bike trail before making for your next destination.
Suggested Number of Nights: 2
Miles from Colesburg: About 400km
Rumored to have been J.R.R. Tolkien’s inspiration for Middle-earth, Hogsback is a bohemian town in South Africa’s Eastern Cape that is well known for its mystical vibe. This is the perfect place to get in touch with your inner hippie on a hike along The Three Waterfall Trail, absorb some healing power at the Crystal Corner shop, or meditate as you traverse the local labyrinth. If you want to go fairy hunting or get a tarot reading, nobody will judge you here. But, beware, many of the people who are initially just passing through Hogsback find themselves feeling very welcome and at home in this mountain village.
Suggested Number of Nights: 2
Miles from Hogsback: About 200km
Of course, no trip to South Africa is complete without a safari. If you are interested in a park a little bit more off the beaten path than the monolithic Krueger, then you will definitely appreciate a visit to Addo Elephant National Park. Don’t let the name fool you, though, there are a lot more than elephants to see here. One of the best parts about road tripping here is that you can take your own vehicle through the park and search for animals at your own leisure. If you need a break, there is a restaurant near the park’s entrance, but you’re also welcome to bring your own car snacks, or purchase some at the gift shop. After dark, only official safari tours are allowed in the park, but you should definitely consider taking a night safari. It is a badly kept secret that once the general public clears out of the park, the rangers are inclined to take you off-road for more up-close encounters with the local residents.
5. Bloukrans Bridge
Suggested Number of Nights: 1 (in a nearby town)
Miles from Addo: About 200km
What’s better than the view from Africa’s highest bridge? Let’s just say: the adrenaline rush from bungee jumping off of it. Not for the faint of heart, Bloukrans Bridge is the world’s highest bridge bungee jump. Be sure to book in advance with Face Adrenalin, the operating company, to guarantee your spot. No need to panic if one of your traveling companions is acrophobic; The Cliffhanger restaurant and pub is a great place to chill right next to the bridge, and it even has a live video feed of the jumpers.
6. Cape Town
Suggested Number of Nights: 4
Miles from Bloukrans Bridge: About 550km
Cape Town is the second most-visited city in South Africa (after Johannesburg), most likely due to its familiar European feel and its natural beauty (ocean views, anyone?), and should not be skipped. One of the very best views in the country is from the top of the infamous Table Mountain. Ambitious visitors can hike their way up, but there is also the less strenuous option of taking the revolving cable car. Once at the top, you can enjoy the scenery, including the more than 2,000 different types of plants, and the local wildlife like the adorable dassies, also known as rock badgers. Cape Town is the perfect place for anyone who likes to have experiences with animals in their natural environments. A visit to the penguin colony at Boulders Beach is unmatched, as is cage diving with great white sharks at Seal Island, off of Simon’s Town. Long Street is the best place to experience Cape Town’s nightlife after a long day of exploring. This famous stretch is packed with restaurants and bars and its wrought iron balconies resemble New Orleans’ Bourbon Street so you know it’s a good place to party (or conclude a road trip).
This article was written by Paula Ashlee Berg.