November 29

13 Unique Places to Visit for South African Travel in 2023

November 29, 2022

We have a special place for South African travel in our hearts. And who can blame us, as it’s our home country and where our Rhino Africa HQ is located. South Africa is a very popular destination requested by our guests, and we totally get why. It’s so diverse and offers many unique experiences, so there really is something for everyone! Whether you’ve been to our rainbow nation or not, we recommend adding these unique destinations to your South African travel itinerary in 2023.

The Most Unique Places to Visit for South African Travel in 2023

South Africa offers more than spectacular safaris and beaches...

Our Favourites for South African Travel in 2023

You can see vastly different landscapes within a short drive on your South African travel journey. From rugged rock formations to stretches of powdery white sand and winding lush vineyards to imposing fynbos-carpeted mountains, it’s all about variety here! Here are our favourites off-the-beaten track destinations you might not know about.

1. Unique Tswalu Private Game Reserve

You get a safari, and then you get a Tswalu safari. As South Africa’s largest private game reserve, Tswalu Private Game Reserve offers conservation-based luxury safaris like nowhere else on earth. And then, it makes sense that such a special destination is also home to some scarce species.

The game reserve is located on the southernmost edge of the Kalahari, featuring a seemingly never-ending arid savannah and iconic rippled ochre dunes. Against all odds, the wildlife here has not only survived but thrived in the desert climate, and today you can see over 80 mammal species throughout the reserve. Unique and endangered species like the desert-adapted black rhino, cheetah, black-maned lion, aardvark, pangolin and more all call Tswalu home.

To make it even better, you can feast at one of the top fine dining restaurants, Klein Jan, headed up by Michelin star chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen here. 

Game drive in the beautiful landscape of the Tswalu Game Reserve

Safari game drive in Tswalu Private Game Reserve

Why we love it

  • Truly remarkable landscapes and rare wildlife 
  • Completely flexible itinerary, so you can enjoy Tswalu at your own pace
  • Malaria-free area, making it perfect for families with the elderly or children, or pregnant travellers 
  • Exclusive-use accommodation for those who prefer privacy 

Who’s it for?

Great for conservationists at heart, those seeking a romantic getaway in the wilderness or fine dining enthusiasts. Also the perfect family holiday destination as children of all ages are welcome, and Tswalu offers exclusive-use accommodation. 

A family of meerkats in the Tswalu Private Game Reserve

Experience meerkats and other animals at Tswalu

2. Historical Stellenbosch 

Stellenbosch in the Cape Winelands is South Africa’s second-oldest town and a hub of good food, wine, culture, art and history. It’s also a well-known student town with a vibrant nightlife. 

Whether you love the outdoors or prefer sipping bubbly from a crystal flute in an art gallery, Stellenbosch has it all. If you appreciate a good glass of wine, you’ll be in heaven here, as the Stellenbosch Wine Route is South Africa’s oldest and most established wine route dating back over 300 years. 

We recommend you set aside enough time when planning to stay here during your South African travel. We can promise from personal experience that you’ll want to visit as many of the plus 150 wineries found here as possible!

View over the Stellenbosch Winelands at Delaire Graff

View over the Stellenbosch Winelands, Image Credit: Delaire Graff

Why we love it

  • Plenty of wine farms and restaurants to indulge all your senses  
  • Many great hiking and mountain biking trails to explore
  • Thriving art scene: Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden, Rupert Museum, Spier Mosaic Kraal, MOK Gallery, and more
  • Cultural and music events often hosted in the charming town 

Who’s it for?

Art, wine, food and history aficionados will love this town. Also great for families.

Wine tasting in Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch is a great place to go wine tasting

3. Safari Capital Kruger National Park 

Okay, yes, perhaps this one is not as new to you as some other destinations on this list. However, we simply could not leave the Big 5 safari mecca Kruger National Park out!

The ultimate safari destination for anyone and everyone, you can’t go wrong with Kruger. But if you want the best of the best it offers, we suggest you go to a private reserve like Sabi Sand, sharing an unfenced border with Kruger National Park. 

When staying in a private reserve, you’re privy to experiences you can’t get in the public national park. Therefore, you will find more exclusive and immersive safari experiences, including night safaris, bush walks, driving off-road, and more. 

Game drive at Silvan Safari in Sabi Sand, Kruger

Meet the majestic African wildlife at Silvan Safari, the World's Leading Luxury Lodge

Why we love it

  • South Africa's prime safari destination offers some of the best safari experiences in the world 
  • Home to many luxury lodges and private reserves like Sabi Sand, offering more exclusive up-close safari experiences 
  • Over 1,982 plant, 517 bird, 120 reptile, 52 fish, 147 mammal and 35 amphibian species 
  • There’s so much to do (depending on where you stay), from traditional game drives to walking safaris, horseback safaris, photo safaris, and more. 

Who’s it for?

Anyone who wants to go on a Big 5 safari, particularly couples, small groups of friends and families. It's also the perfect honeymoon destination! 

Man and woman looking at view from Silvan's pool

Luxury in the middle of the African bush

4. Untamed Coffee Bay Coastline 

Coffee Bay is a bit of a hidden gem, kept secret among us locals. However, we thought we’d let you in on it! Picture untamed coastline featuring rolling green hills, silky sandy beaches dotted with free-grazing cows, and delightfully warm Indian Ocean turquoise water. Coffee Bay on the Wild Coast will take your breath away.

It’s also a great spot for water sports in the Eastern Cape, with the warm waves inviting you to partake in all kinds of activities. Whether you want to kayak, surf, fish, snorkel, swim, dive…the list goes on.

The whole region is rich in culture and history, and you  can get a glimpse into Zulu traditions during village tours. 

The famous hole in wall in Coffee Bay, Wild Coast

Hole in the Wall in Coffee Bay, Image Credit: Vincent van Oosten

Why we love it

  • Ideal location for watersports in the warm Indian Ocean
  • Rich local culture to explore and it's the birthplace of Nelson Mandela 
  • Natural beauty is astounding, and there are many sights to see, like Hole in the Wall, Mapuzi, and Mdumbi
  • Great fresh seafood is available at the many beach restaurants and pubs

Who’s it for?

There’s so much to do, so it's an excellent South African travel destination for active nature lovers.

Cliffs of Coffee Bay in the Eastern Cape, South Africa

The cliffs, beaches and ocean in Coffee Bay

5. Wild and Wonderful West Coast National Park 

The West Coast National Park flourishes into vibrant patchworks of colourful wild flowers adorning its seaside landscapes between August and September, luring tourists and locals alike to marvel at its spring blooms and take Instagram photos. 

But even when it’s not at the height of spring, there are incredible hiking trails to explore the area’s natural beauty on foot. Bird watching is also great here, as the national park is home to over 300 bird species.

Between August and October, the whales are in town, and we enjoy visiting during this time to watch them breach and bob in and out of the water.

Zebra standing in field of flowers on the West Coast in South Africa

The West Coast in South Africa is a great place for South African travel in September 

Why we love it

  • Bird watching is incredible 
  • Plenty of outdoor activities like hiking 
  • Seasonal whale watching and spring blooms 
  • Visit Preekstoel and pose in front of the unique rock formation and enjoy the sheltered beach 

Who’s it for?

Ideal for outdoor enthusiasts and families who want a day out in nature.

Flowers on the West Coast

Our wild flowers in full bloom

6. Seven Worlds of Wonder, Phinda Game Reserve

For a unique conservation safari experience, Phinda Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal is a must-visit destination for South African travel.

We personally love it because there’s an accommodation option and experience for anyone from the solo traveller to couples and families. The reserve houses no less than seven distinct ecosystems, sheltering a host of wildlife, from the Big 5 to over 380 bird species. 

The nearby Sodwana Bay coastline also gives you the unique opportunity to experience both bush and beach in one destination! Here you can play in the warm waves, sunbathe on the white sandy beaches, or dive deep into the blue sea to admire more than 1,200 species of colourful fish and coral formations.

Sundowners on a Phinda safari during South African travel

Sundowners on safari at Phinda are magical

Why we love it

  • Seven distinct unique ecosystems
  • Perfect if you want a Big 5 safari in KwaZulu-Natal
  • Home to 1,000 hectares of rare dry sand forests 
  • Children of all ages are welcome, dedicated activities keep little ones entertained and give parents a break

Who's it for?

Anyone and everyone, but especially good for remote romantic or fun-filled family holidays.

&Beyond Phinda Homestead Lodge

&Beyond Phinda Homestead Lodge, Image Credit; &Beyond Phinda

7. Most Scenic Route 62 

The ultimate road trip awaits! Route 62 is a long, scenic, winding route that starts in Cape Town in the Western Cape and continues until Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) in the Eastern Cape.

We love this route because it takes you through so many different attractions. You'll travel through small farming towns like Calitzdorp and Ladismith and your fruit and wine growing regions of Barrydale, Montagu, Ashton, Bonnievale, Robertson, McGregor, Rawsonville, Worcester, Ceres, Wolseley, Tulbagh, Wellington and Paarl. Your eyes will hungrily drink in the views, and your taste buds will thank you for stopping at the many wineries, restaurants, farm stalls, and more on the way.

Reminiscent of the United States' Route 66, the South African Route 62 combines well with the Garden Route. It's a must on your next road trip through our rainbow nation!

Driving along the Route 62 from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth - one of the most underrated places for South Africa travel in 2023

Driving along Route 62

Why we love it

  • Stunning scenery ranging from red soil, rugged cliffs towering above you, rivers, fruit farms, vineyards, and fynbos
  • Many roadside stopovers like wine farms, farm stalls, restaurants, galleries, and more
  • Combines well with your Cape Town and Garden Route South African travel trip
  • Indigenous flora and fauna to admire include over 500 different species of succulents 

Who's it for?

Excellent alternative route from Cape Town to the Eastern Cape and vice versa. Also ideal for couples or families looking for a serene small-town experience.

Barrydale along the Route 62 - One of the Most Unique Places to Visit for South African Travel in 2023

Discover Barrydale and other charming towns along Route 62

8. Dramatic Drakensberg 

One of the more hidden gems for South African travel, the Drakensberg is one of our favourite destinations to visit and recommend to our guests. If you're a nature lover, you'll be in awe of the majestic Drakenberg. 

The highest mountain range in South Africa and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it offers the opportunity for a good challenge if you're a hiker, but simply witnessing its majesty will make anyone gasp in awe. The name Drakensberg means "Dragon Mountains" in the Afrikaans language, and it forms a natural border between Lesotho and South Africa.

In between and along the steep mountain ranges, you'll find many waterfalls and rivers, ideal for water-based activities like river rafting, kayaking, tubing, and more.

The majestic Drakensberg Mountains are a must for South African travel in 2023

The surreal Drakensberg Mountains

Why we love it

  • Incredible lush green valleys and the impressive Drakensberg Mountain range
  • Perfect for active travellers who want to go hiking, kayaking, tubing, zip-lining, etc.
  • Home to the largest collection of rock art in the world and unique flora and fauna 
  • Tugela Falls is the second-highest waterfall in the world, with a drop of around 948m! 

Who's it for?

Active travellers who want to explore the area's natural splendour.

Man on canopy tour through Drakensberg

You can go on exhilarating canopy tours in the Drakensberg, Image Credit: Jody Simpson

9. Southernmost Tip of Africa, Cape Agulhas

Cape Agulhas, or L'Agulhas, is the southernmost point of the African continent and where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet.

It features a jagged coastline, crashing waves, and the iconic Cape Agulhas lighthouse. Photographers will take plenty of great photos here! It also has that small-town charm, with little coffee shops, restaurants, galleries, and more to explore. 

Agulhas is also a famous fishing destination, and there are plenty of great beaches at the nearby Struisbaai, about a short 10-minute drive away. 

The southernmost tip of the African continent - one place you should add to your African Travel list for 2023

The southernmost tip of the African continent

Why we love it

  • Standing on the tippy point of Africa is a bucket list experience
  • Nearby Struisbaai beaches are great for families or anyone who enjoys sunbathing or swimming 
  • Visiting the Cape Agulhas Lighthouse and climbing all the way up for a different perspective 
  • Fishing, snorkelling, diving, boat rides and more

Who's it for?

Families or anyone looking for a small seaside escape away from the busy city. 

Lighthouse at the Cape Agulhas in South Africa

The Cape Agulhas lighthouse

10. Plettenberg Bay 

Plettenberg Bay, or "Plett" as we like to call it, is the perfect holiday destination for South African travel because it offers something for the whole family. Located on the Garden Route, there's so much to see and do, from visiting Robberg Nature Reserve, Nature's Valley, and all the many white sandy beaches. There's even a hidden gem wine route!

The nearby Tsitsikamma Forest also promises scenic hiking trails, including the multi-day Otter Trail, for those up for the challenge. Over the summer months, families from all over flock to Plett to enjoy its great weather, warm ocean, and plenty of activities on offer.

Plettenberg Bay coastline

Dreamy beaches in abundance

Why we love it

  • Perfect family holiday destination 
  • Do as little or as much as you'd like, with something for everyone 
  • A great destination for watersports 
  • Hiking in the nearby Tsitsikamma Forest is magical, as well as visiting the Storms River Suspension Bridge

Who's it for?

Families or adventurous couples, groups of friends – anyone, really. 

bridge over a river in tsitsikamma forest

Tsitsikamma suspension bridge

11. Home of the Quiver Tree, Gannabos 

If you want something remarkably remote, an off-the-grid escape from the crowds, and a place to look inward, then Gannabos is for you. It's located in Nieuwoudtville, a small town in the Namakwa District Municipality of the Northern Cape Province.

Gannabos is probably most famous for its quiver trees, housing the largest quiver tree forest in the world. Photographers will love capturing this unique tree set against the arid backdrop. At night, stargazing is incredible because you're so far away from city lights. 

There are also a couple of other attractions in the area, like the Hantam Botanical Garden and Oorlogskloof Nature Reserve.

Gannabos

Home of the quiver tree, Image Credit: Gannabos Farm and Guest Houses

Why we love it

  • The remote setting is refreshing and will recuperate you 
  • Home to the Quiver Tree Forest, the largest in the world 
  • Part of the Rondekop/Naresie wildflower route, a must-visit when in season, especially for photographers 
  • Oorlogskloof Nature Reserve, located about 10km south of Nieuwoudtville 

Who's it for?

Gannabos is ideal for nature lovers, hikers and photographers.

Gannabos

Small town farm charm, Image Credit: Gannabos Guest Farm and Houses

12. Hemel-en-Aarde Wine Valley 

The Hemel-and-Aarde Wine Valley means "Heaven and Earth" in Afrikaans, and the name certainly fits because this is truly a heavenly destination. 

And, if you love your wines, this will indeed be your version of heaven, as the area is home to some of the top award-winning wines. This valley is famous especially for its chardonnays and pinot noir cultivars. With 15 wine farms to visit, we recommend you set aside enough time to sip your way through their many fine wines! 

It's also a great destination for whale watching and fun-filled days on the beach, exploring the mountains, or enjoying watersports in nearby Hermanus.

Hemel-and-aarde wine valley

Where heaven meets earth, Image Credit: Stonehaven

Why we love it

  • It's the pinot noir capital of South Africa, and on 18 August every year, this valley celebrates International Pinot Noir Day – not to be missed!
  • Art galleries like the Lembu Gallery and Studio, located in a century-old fisherman's cottage 
  • Whale watching along the Cliff Path in nearby Hermanus
  • Plenty to do, from kayaking to hiking and mountain biking

Who's it for?

Wine and art lovers, as well as those interested in whale watching.

Woman doing whale watching in Hermanus

Whale-watching in Hermanus is a magical experience

13. Cosmopolitan Cape Town 

Of course, we had to add Cape Town, our home city, too! No trip to South Africa is complete without witnessing why it's consistently voted one of the best cities to visit in the world.

You've probably heard about the famous flat-topped Table Mountain and the adorable penguins at Boulders Beach. However, there's so much to see and do, from art galleries to wine tasting, watersports, museums, fine dining, adrenaline-fueled adventure, and much, much more. 

We love Cape Town for too many reasons to mention here. So, we guess you're just going to have to come and see for yourself…

Bird’s-eye-view of Cape Town - one of the best places to visit in 2023

Come and explore our cosmopolitan home

Why we love it

  • Hiking or taking the cable car up Table Mountain or going on a private helicopter tour to see it from the sky
  • Paragliding off Lion's Head or Signal Hill 
  • Driving along Chapman's Peak Drive and visiting the Cape of Good Hope
  • Shopping and feasting at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront 

Who's it for?

Anyone! From multigenerational families to couples, solo travellers, groups of friends…whatever, whomever, whenever – Cape Town has something for you. 

Aerial view of the beautiful rocky Clifton Beach in Cape Town

Aerial view of the beautiful Clifton Beaches

Start Planning Your South African Travel in 2023

Are you excited about these South African travel opportunities? We are too! We can't wait to plan your dream holiday. All you have to do now is to reach out to our African Travel Experts, and look forward to visiting our stunning home country! 

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About the author 

Tania de Kock

Tania has always been an avid reader, which ultimately led to her life-long dream of becoming a best-selling author. She loves travelling, super spicy food, South African wine, and cats! When she's not reading with a glass of wine, you can find her at the nearest beach or camping, running or hiking in the mountains.

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