I find it rather silly to write this kind of list, as “top” in my opinion totally depends on personal preferences. Therefore, this is MY list on top 6 places to visit in South Africa. Those of my readers who know me, also know I like it active, authentic, real and off-grid. I don’t do resorts, nor do I do game reserves, unless they’re National Parks.
Despite all the negatives South Africa still is the most amazing, versatile and stunning country on earth. In my opinion. You get so many in one, especially if you like active travelling.
TOP 6 PLACES TO VISIT IN SOUTH AFRICA
This time in a very particular order. Please keep in mind this list has been compiled by a person who is a keen hiker, loves of off-grid and no mobile reception places, and who values more people and activities than ease of holiday making.
The main reason I’m not too excited about game reserves is I’ve been to so many, and none of the most spectacular ones are located in South Africa. However, I still do think South Africa is a perfect game viewing destination for people visiting Africa for the first time.
Most of the places listed below are located in Western Cape. I don’t actually know why. We’ve travelled extensively in all the provinces, and there are so many beautiful and interesting places from Kimberly to Blyde River Canyon, Soweto to Durban beachfront, Kosi Bay to Coffee Bay, a few to mention. Still, nothing compares to the arid landscapes of Karoo, Cederberg valleys and mountains, and Cape Town beauty.
Finally, back to the list:
1. Biedouw Valley – my happy place #1
Where the sirens and deadlines and back pains and bills and meetings all melt away. Where you can sit and just be content where you are in that moment and not want to leave for many moments to come. Where you look around and go Wow, this is lovely, I’m lucky.
2. Back Table of Table Mountain – my happy place #2
In the middle of Cape Town there is this tranquil plateau, the area sSouth of the dam area, away from the crowds, full of interesting rock formations, fynbos and breathtaking views to East, West, and South (with imagination all the way to Antarctica).
3. Tankwa Karoo – nothingness in the middle of nowhere
Tankwa is a travel back in time. There is nothing, making little things count. A yellow flower in the middle of dry soil. Mountains far away. Dry river bends. Off-grid houses and campsites. Candle light dinners lit by stars (in our case a 12 hour thunderstorm).
4. Elundini Backpackers – the rural side of South Africa
Located in a tiny Xhosa village near Hogsback in Eastern Cape. Elundini Backpackers is one of the life changing places I’ve encountered during my travels. Real rural South Africa. Very basic. For a privileged one mentally and emotionally extremely hard. A place filled with realistic optimism, everyday joy, and quiet desperation. People with stories and laughter. Different. So different. In almost every way I can imagine.
5. Sea Point – piece of diversity in Cape Town
Sadly rapidly going through gentrification, Sea Point is the only suburb in Cape Town where people of all colours and backgrounds are neighbours. A vibrant place with excellent casual restaurants, promenade, access to Lion’s Head trails, sea views. This is where I’d buy my flat should I be moving to Cape Town now, and had I money to pay almost double prices compared to 2013.
6. Hout Bay – a microcosm of South Africa
Last but not least. My troubled other home. Beautiful outside, dealing with complex issues inside. South Africa in a small valley. A place with a future that never happened.
Where people from different backgrounds (read: black, coloured and white) live together, yet so far from each other. Where people are weird (in Finnish terms and apart from the occasional Brit/Swede/German), expressive, and opinionated. Where anything goes and nothing is too much.
A place blessed with the most spectacular scenery I’ve ever seen. A place where a part of my heart will always be.