South Africa Itineraries

Want to discover South Africa? Keep reading to explore our exciting South Africa itineraries that will take you through this fascinating country with genuine spirit and zeal, whether it's the vibrant Johannesburg, the serene splendor of Kruger National Park, or the historic significance of Cape Town.

Itinerary tips from Zorica V: your South Africa Travel Expert

Our South Africa travel expert Zorika believes that mapping out an itinerary for South Africa is a journey in itself. She emphasizes the critical importance of a well-thought-out plan.

South Africa is a diversity of cultures, landscapes, and experiences. From the vibrant streets of Johannesburg to the tranquil expanse of Kruger National Park, each place boasts its unique appeal. That's why a customized itinerary will enhance your visit and lead you to the undiscovered wonders and rich cultural attractions that distinguish South Africa.

With Zorika's extensive knowledge and wealth of experience, she will guide you through every step of the planning process. Whether you want to visit vast wildlife parks, sample dynamic local cuisine, or stroll through breathtaking scenery, a carefully designed itinerary ensures a seamless and rewarding journey.

Let's work together to create an itinerary that suits your tastes, rhythm, and interests and make your South African adventure truly unforgettable.

If you're planning your own trip to South Africa, use these expert-craft itineraries as a starting point. For more inspiration, dive into our itineraries for different durations: 7 days - 10 days - 14 days

7-day South Africa itinerary

Begin your introduction to the country on a 7-day adventure through South Africa, starting in vibrant Johannesburg, and exploring its rich history and markets. On day two, head to the Cradle of Humankind to marvel at our ancestral roots. 

Day three takes you to the majestic Drakensberg Mountains for hiking and breathtaking views. On day four, head to the scenic Garden Route to enjoy coastal scenery and outdoor activities. 

On day five, head into the heart of the Winelands to sample exquisite local wines. Day six will then introduce you to the unique landscapes and biodiversity of the Cape Peninsula. 

Conclude your journey in historic Cape Town on day seven by climbing Table Mountain, exploring the colorful Bo-Kaap and Robben Island, and immersing yourself in the cultural and scenic beauty of South Africa.

Matjiesfontein wild flowers, South Africa © Shutterstock

Matjiesfontein wild flowers, South Africa © Shutterstock

10-day South Africa itinerary

Begin your 10-day South African odyssey in Cape Town, where you'll explore Table Mountain and the historic district of Sixth. On day two, travel through the Cape Wine Lands, sampling wine and local cuisine. Travel around the Cape Peninsula, visiting Cape Point and Boulder's Beach on day three. 

On the fourth day, fly to Durban, where golden beaches and lively street markets await. On day five, you'll head to the Drakensberg Mountains for hiking and viewing San rock art. On day six, the wild shores of the Eastern Cape await you with its unspoiled beaches and traditional Xhosa culture. On day seven, head into the heart of the Garden Route for adventure sports and nature walks. 

Spend the eighth day at Addo Elephant National Park enjoying a safari. On the ninth day, explore the historical richness of Johannesburg's Soweto neighborhood and visit the Apartheid Museum. End your journey with a visit to the Cradle of Humankind to reflect on the origins of humanity.


Surfing in Durban, South Africa @ Shutterstock

14-day South Africa itinerary

For a more in-depth introduction to the country, embark on a 14-day journey through South Africa, starting in Johannesburg, where you'll learn about its history and vibrant life. On the second day, visit the Apartheid Museum and Soweto. Then visit the Cradle of Humankind, marveling at the ancient history of mankind. On the fourth day, head to the Panorama Route for breathtaking scenery.

On the fifth day, go on a safari in Kruger National Park to see wildlife and natural beauty. Continue your adventure to Eswatini, Swaziland, exploring its cultural heritage on day six. Then head to the coastal city of Durban to relax on the beach and experience Indian-African culture.

Midway through, head to the Drakensberg Mountains for hiking and artwork. On the ninth day, head to the Eastern Cape Wild Coast for unspoiled nature. On the tenth day, explore the Garden Route, enjoying the beaches and forests.

On the eleventh day, spend the eleventh day in Oudtshoorn, visiting ostrich farms and Kango Caves. On the twelfth day, head to the Cape Wine Lands for wine tasting. On the thirteenth day, take in the sights of Cape Town, including Table Mountain and Robben Island. End your trip with a tour of the Cape Peninsula, visiting Cape Point and the penguin colony at Boulder's Beach.

Namaqualand, South Africa © Marie-Anne AbersonM/Shutterstock

Namaqualand, South Africa © Marie-Anne AbersonM/Shutterstock

South Africa's Garden Route

Begin your charming South African adventure along the famous Garden Route by traveling to the historic town of Mossel Bay. Here, step back in time at the Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex and laze on sun-drenched beaches. Head inland to the ostrich capital of Oudtshoorn, where you can visit ostrich farms and immerse yourself in the subterranean wonders of the Cango Caves, marveling at their ancient stalactites and stalagmites.

Then head to the heart of the Garden Route, the town of Knysna, nestled between wooded hills and a sparkling lagoon. Take a leisurely ferry ride to Featherbed Nature Reserve for unspoiled beauty and panoramic views. Continue on to Plettenberg Bay, a serene seaside harbor where you can spot dolphins and whales and relax on expansive sandy beaches.

Your adventures will peak in Tsitsikamma National Park, a paradise for nature lovers and thrill-seekers. Hike among ancient trees, cross the Storms River suspension bridge, and if you dare, bungee jump off the world's highest bungee jump at Bloukrans Bridge. End your journey in Port Elizabeth, where cultural heritage and vibrant city life come together.

South Africa, Tsitsikamma National Park, wooden bridge suspended above Storms River on Garden Route

South Africa, Tsitsikamma National Park, wooden bridge suspended above Storms River on Garden Route

South Africa Itinerary 1 - The Frontier

Discover the dry interior of the Great Karoo and the contrastingly verdant Wild Coast. Allow three weeks to explore these historic stomping grounds of Dutch trekboers, English settlers and Xhosa herders.

Start your three-week journey in Port Elizabeth, where English settlers arrived in 1820 and enjoy its safe sandy beaches. Then head to Big Game Country near Addo, home to the Big Five and top game reserves such as Shamwari and Kwande.

Next visit Graaff Reinet, an 18th-century Cape Dutch settlement surrounded by Camdeboo National Park, famous for its Valley of Desolation. Continue to Cradock, a frontier town on the banks of the Great Fish River, marking the historic boundary between the English colonies and Xhosa lands.

Head to Grahamstown, a university town rich in colonial history, and then on to Hogsback, a highland resort reminiscent of Little England above the valleys.

Experience Madiba country with a visit to Qunu, Nelson Mandela's childhood village, and learn the story of his life at the nearby Mthatha Museum.

Finish your Wild Coast journey with a stay at Bulungula Lodge, immersing yourself in Xhosa culture amidst unspoiled traditional villages, rolling hills, dense forests and vast unspoiled beaches.

South African lions © Shutterstock

South African lions © Shutterstock

South Africa Itinerary 2 - Western Cape circuit

South Africa’s oldest urban centres are in the Western Cape, a province that packs a huge variety. You could cover its highlights in three weeks, but four would be more comfortable.

Start in Cape Town, the oldest city in Southern Africa, known for its stunning natural setting, historic architecture and vibrant city life.

Next, head to the Wine Lands, where Cape Dutch estates nestled among vineyards and mountains offer some of South Africa's best restaurants and accommodations.

Continue to the Whale Coast, visiting De Hoop Nature Reserve with its monumental dunes, wild surf and exceptional whale watching opportunities from land.

Follow the iconic Garden Route along the N2 highway, experiencing the charm of coastal towns like Sedgefield and Knysna and exploring national parks known for their ancient forests and dramatic coastlines.

Head inland along the R62 through the semi-arid Little Karoo with its mountain passes, sculpted rock formations, hot springs and historic villages.

Explore Swartland, especially Darling, to see the old-growth forests bloom with wildflowers in spring - it's the closest place to Cape Town for such views.

End your journey in the Cederberg region, famous for its San rock art sites and striking rock formations that create an otherworldly atmosphere in the Western Cape's mountainous wilderness.

The tropical Diaz beach, also known as Cape of Good Hope © Shutterstock

The tropical Diaz beach, also known as Cape of Good Hope © Shutterstock

South Africa Itinerary 3 - The East

The eastern flank of the country most easily conforms to stereotypical Africa: game reserves, beaches, and ethnic culture. You’ll need three weeks for this tour.

Begin your journey in Johannesburg, Africa's bustling economic center, where a thriving art scene, café culture, and the lively town of Soweto await.

Then immerse yourself in the vast wilderness of Kruger National Park, one of Africa's premier game reserves teeming with a variety of wildlife.

Continue to Swaziland, an absolute monarchy rich in tribal traditions and cultural ceremonies offering a unique perspective on local life.

Explore iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for excellent diving in Sodwana Bay, and nesting sites for loggerhead and leatherback turtles.

Head to KwaZulu-Natal game reserves such as Hluhluwe-Imfolozi and see big cats, rhinos, and elephants, as well as other reserves such as Ithala, Mkhuze, and Phinda.

Immerse yourself in the culture of the region in the heart of the Zulu people, where you can admire geometrically patterned baskets and take part in local festivals such as Shaka Day.

Head to the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg, where dramatic landscapes offer breathtaking hikes and the chance to see ancient San rock paintings.

Finish your adventure in Durban, a city with subtropical vegetation, a lively beach, and a unique blend of Zulu, Indian, and English colonial influences, ensuring an unforgettable stay.

Reddish Mountains across Orange River in Richtersveld National Park © Geoff Sperring/Shutterstock

Reddish Mountains across Orange River in Richtersveld National Park © Geoff Sperring/Shutterstock

The best time for a South Africa holiday

The best time to vacation in South Africa depends largely on your activities and destinations in the country. Generally, the most favorable times are the South African spring (September to November) and fall (March to May). 

These periods are characterized by moderate temperatures and less rainfall, which is ideal for wildlife watching, outdoor activities, and beach visits. The spring season is particularly interesting for watching the vibrant wildflower blooms in the Western Cape and whale watching on the coast. 

Autumn, on the other hand, is ideal for exploring the bustling cities and enjoying the wine lands, as temperatures are comfortable and the scenery is stunning with autumn colors. There are also fewer crowds during these seasons, making for a more relaxed and enjoyable vacation. 

Wildlife enthusiasts may prefer the dry winter months (June to August) for safaris in the northern regions, as animals congregate near water sources, making them easier to spot.

Rough Guides Editors

written by
Rough Guides Editors

updated 20.03.2024

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