Winter itinerary for South Africa
April 23, 2014 7:39 PM   Subscribe

I'll be spending two weeks in South Africa at the end of August. Where should I go besides Cape Town and Johannesburg?

I'm planning on spending the trip mostly in Cape Town and a bit in Johannesburg. I'll be traveling with my boyfriend. We'd love to fit in another location, and am looking for suggestions about where else we might want to spend the night or three, as well as potential day trips. We love all types of food, cities, walking (but can drive, and are willing to rent a car in ZA as needed), and a good bar.

For spending a few nights, possible candidates so far are Maseru or Durban. Should we be considering Port Elizabeth? St. George?
For day trips, we're definitely planning on playing with lions outside Joburg and seeing the penguins outside Cape Town. I'd like to hit up vineyards in the Cape as well. He wants to go to Pretoria - is there much worth doing?

Thanks very much!
posted by quadrilaterals to Travel & Transportation around South Africa (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The Union buildings in Pretoria are nice, but Pretoria isn't a great tourist destination, so I'd recommend you rather visit elsewhere. If you do go though, visit the Cullinan diamond mine nearby.

Travelling around Lesotho (Maseru), takes a long time as many of the roads are in very poor condition, and a 4x4 is recommended for parts of the routes you may want to visit.

Durban is the closest SA has to a tropical climate, so will be warmer than the rest of the country. There are nice beaches, perhaps not as nice as Cape Town, but the sea is much warmer. As you're already visiting the Cape though, I'd suggest an alternate destination.

If you want to see wild animals, winter is a good time for safaris in the north of the country as there is less vegetation than summer (winters are dry). Pilanesburg or Waterberg are reserves that are closer to Joburg than Kruger.

For hiking in beautiful mountains, the Drakensberg are a 3-4 hour drive from Joburg, with Clarens being a nice town to visit in the area.

Also good for hiking, my favourite spot close to Joburg is the Mountain Sanctuary Park in Magaliesberg (1 to 2 hours drive from Joburg), although the streams may be pretty dry at that time of year (which are otherwise great to swim in). We usually camp, but they also have chalets available (it's worth paying more for the newer units).

Renting a car and driving east from Cape Town along the Garden route stopping at places you like on the way is also a good option. I particularly enjoyed Oudtshoorn, Wilderness in the region. Note that the Cape region has wet winters, so the weather may not be the best at this time of year.

If you're lucky, the Namaqualand region will be in bloom around that time. If you're driving up from Cape Town you'll probably need a bit more than 3 days though.

So, if you're flexible in your plans, you could visit Namaqualand if the timing is right (you won't know until close to the time itself), but otherwise any of the options above would be good. As you're not traveling in summer or during school holidays you should be able to find accommodation on reasonably short notice in most areas. Have fun!
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 8:29 PM on April 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Robben Island prison is now a museum you can tour, and my friend who went said it was well worth it.
posted by colin_l at 8:36 PM on April 23, 2014

Best answer: OK, two weeks is way too long to spend in just Cape Town and Jo'burg, so assuming you hire a car in CT and drop it off in Johannesburg: do Cape Town and environs for a few days - Cape Point, penguins etc; then head east via the vineyards through Robertson, Montagu (great B&Bs), scenery is stunning; over the Swartberg Pass to the Karoo desert and the lovely little town of Prince Albert (B&Bs again); down to the traditional Garden Route and Tsitsikama National Park (amazing scenery, maybe do a little hiking), stay in places like Knysna, Nature's Valley, George (not St. George); heading east to Addo National Park (famous for elephants); now you're at Port Elizabeth which really isn't a very interesting place unless you're a surfer or windsurfer (it's very windy) but might be a good place to do some shopping; head east up the N1 via the lovely little university town of Grahamstown (my hometown); pop in to East London to see their fine museum; (ok from here on I'll need to be less specific) then Transkei and the 'Wild Coast'; a detour through the stunning and friendly mountain kingdom of Lesotho - just wander around and see some 'real' Africa; on to KwaZulu-Natal and Durban; visit the amazing Hluhluwe Park (all of the famous animals, and very well managed) for a night or two; then head west to Jo'burg and do all that stuff. That would be a good couple of weeks to see SA.
posted by Flashman at 8:45 PM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I stayed here, at the Bulungula Eco-lodge, and holy cats it was gorgeous. If you do the Wild Coast, you have to spend at least a night there; it's absolutely everything the website says, and more.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 9:02 PM on April 23, 2014

Best answer: I'm going to strongly disagree with Flashman and say that two weeks in Cape Town only wouldn't be enough to see all of the amazing in the city and region. Wine tasting in Stellenbosch, climbing Table Mountain, seeing Robben Island, visiting Cape Point, riding the train down to Fish Hoek and Simon's Town and getting coffee in one of the cafes, and touring the National and District Six Museums are my favourite things. If you need a place to stay, Cape Town Backpackers is AWESOME. It's just far enough that you won't be up all night listening to the parties, but you can still walk safely to those parties and back again.

However, I would go to Plett Bay and other places along the Garden Route. If you are divers. Sodwana Bay is FANTASTIC, as is Aliwal Shoal. Seeing dolphins play from the beach as the sun rose...those are magical things.

I don't think Pretoria is worth it, and I hate Joburg, so I'm totally biased, but I would spend a week in CT and a week going up the Garden Route. If you want more specifics, either gmail me (same as mefi user name at gmail) or check out my posting history - I answer most of the ZA questions on askme.
posted by guster4lovers at 10:22 PM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

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