Travel South Africa! After all, the country we are lucky enough to call home is considered one of the most beautiful in the world. Beach holidays, safari tours, adrenaline adventures and culture trips are all on offer in your own backyard. In the Western Cape, the Mother City, with magnificent Table Mountain as its backdrop is a must-visit destination for every South African, whether on a family holiday or Cape Town honeymoon. A short drive away, there’s the breathtaking Cape Winelands, where you can sample some of South Africa’s legendary wines and gourmet food, while further south, there’s Hermanus, the whale watching capital of the world.
The spectacular Garden Route is the ultimate South African road trip, serving up wide beaches, rocky cliffs, ancient forests and bustling seaside towns along its breathtaking coastline. The wild Eastern Cape is where you can see the Big 7 in the Addo Elephant Park, a fantastic malaria-free safari tour option for families. The province is also home to South Africa’s surfing capital, Jeffreys Bay and a treasure trove of hidden gems along the coast, from small holiday towns to the famous Hole in the Wall.
The sun always shines in KwaZulu-Natal, home to the port town of Durban and popular holiday destinations like Umhlanga, a favourite for families because of its easy access from Gauteng. Magical Mpumalanga, the gateway to the Kruger National Park, boasts some of South Africa’s most incredible landscapes, from God’s Window to the Three Rondavels. But Mzansi's awe-inspiring vistas are not limited to the Panorama Route. The towering peaks of the Drakensberg Mountains, endless horizons of the Northern Cape and incredible man-made feat of the Kimberley Hole will amaze and inspire you.
Inland there’s bustling Johannesburg and Pretoria, with plenty of shops, restaurants, museums, galleries and historical and political sites to keep urban adventurers and culture-vultures entertained for days. And when you go off the beaten track, you’re in for a treat. Quaint Karoo towns, towering Limpopo baobab trees, archaeological attractions and more are yours to explore.
Why choose to holiday in South Africa
South Africa’s natural beauty is extraordinary – and it’s all within driving distance!
Each season brings with it unique charm and experiences in every province... hot, dry summers in the Western Cape, mild winters along the temperate KZN coast, or the occasional snowfall in the Northern Cape around the Sutherland area.
We have some of the most unique wildlife destinations in Africa, most of them only a short drive from major cities like Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban. Think Kruger National Park, Sabi Sands Game Reserve and Pilanesberg National Park.
Family fun is the order of the day at one of South Africa's holiday resorts, such as world-famous Sun City.
You can take a journey through our country’s fascinating political history in Soweto, Pretoria and Cape Town. Or delve into the days of the Diamond Rush in Kimberley, the Gold Rush in Johannesburg or the days of the Spice Route in Cape Town.
With our many diverse cultures, it’s no surprise that you will discover unique and surprisingly delicious cuisine on your South Africa travels.
From camping grounds to 5-star hotels and resorts, you can experience South Africa’s best destinations in any travel style you choose.
Even though it’s home, there are parts of South Africa that can make you feel as if you have travelled to a different country, such as pockets of India in Durban or Mediterranean feels along the West Coast.
South Africa promises experiences to suit every type of traveller. From nature lovers and sports enthusiasts to keen photographers, foodies and wine fans, not forgetting sunseekers and history and culture buffs. You can enjoy a beach break or try adrenaline sports, go game viewing, see spectacular scenery, dine out in style or live in the lap of luxury. So, what are you waiting for? Explore more of your own backyard with a holiday package from Thompsons Holidays.
What to do in South Africa
Adventurers, nature lovers, urban explorers, luxury-seekers, safari-goers, culture vultures and more... we’re a diverse nation with an equally diverse country to explore. With 2,850km of coastline to discover, you can take your pick of world-class beaches along the cold Atlantic Ocean shores or warm Indian Ocean coast. The semi-arid interior and dramatic escarpment invite off-the-beaten-track adventures. At the same time, adrenaline-addicts have a choice of activities that run the gamut from windsurfing, diving and surfing along our shores, to hiking and mountain biking on some of the best trails in the world. Not forgetting bungee jumping, abseiling, skydiving, white-water rafting and hot air ballooning, and there’s no doubt that South Africa knows how to serve up the thrills!
If you’re in search of gentler pursuits, you can immerse yourself in South Africa’s fascinating history, from the earliest days of the Cape of Good Hope to the history of apartheid. Cultural explorations abound, whether you’re on an inner-city walking tour or perusing one of South Africa’s fascinating museums. Get some retail therapy at a choice of destinations, from sprawling shopping malls that are tourist attractions in their own right, to craft markets.
When last did you explore your home city? How long have you been promising the family a beach holiday somewhere new? There’s no better time than the present to explore more of South Africa.
Things to do in South Africa
Visit one of South Africa’s 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town, the Vredefort Dome in the Free State, and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park in KwaZulu-Natal.
Visit the dramatic promontory where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, at Cape Point.
Explore some of the most popular tourist attractions in Cape Town, including the V&A Waterfront, Two Oceans Aquarium, Company’s Garden, Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, Cape Point and the Cape Winelands.
Go whale watching in Hermanus between June and November, or catch the action of the sardine run in KwaZulu-Natal between May and July.
See the Big 5 on safari in a world-class game reserve such as the Kruger National Park, Hluhluwe Game Reserve, or Addo Elephant Park.
Gain insight into South Africa’s political history at the Apartheid Museum in Soweto, Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, and the District Six Museum and Robben Island in Cape Town.
Go hiking in the Drakensberg Mountains, Blyde River Canyon, or take on the multi-day Otter Trail, among others.
Drive through the Garden Route and visit quaint towns such as Wilderness, Knysna and Sedgefield, while taking in spectacular scenery in Tsitsikamma, Nature’s Valley and the Crags.
Take part in an exciting sporting event, such as the Cape Epic, Two Oceans Marathon, Cape Town Cycle Tour, Nedbank Golf Challenge and more.
There is no end to what you can do on holiday in South Africa. Whether you want to take the kids to Sun City Resort for endless entertainment, go on safari, celebrate your honeymoon at the beach, or road trip with your friends into the heart of the country, you will soon discover that there really is no place like home. Experience the best of your own backyard with a South Africa travel package from Thompsons Holidays.
You can explore South Africa any time of the year, as the climate varies according to the region, and each province has a special charm in every season.
The Western Cape enjoys a dry, hot summer and cold, rainy winter.
Gauteng experiences a bitingly cold and dry winter and enjoys summer rainfall, with characteristic afternoon thundershowers.
Similarly, the Northern Cape sees two extremes: winter can be freezing with the occasional snowfall near Sutherland, while summer can be unbearably hot. Springtime – the flower season – is a wonderful time to visit the Northern Cape as the landscapes transform into blankets of vividly coloured flowers.
Along the coasts of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, the climate is more temperate, with higher humidity levels. In fact, winter is a great option for cost-effective family holidays in these regions, as the days are warmer than other parts of the country.
If you are planning a safari in the Kruger National Park, the best time of year for game viewing is during the winter, as the animals tend to congregate around water sources. For birding, however, the Kruger Park is at its best in summer.
South Africa is serviced by three main airports: Cape Town International Airport, OR Tambo International Airport and King Shaka International Airport, from which there are daily flights to most destinations across the country.
South Africa’s major cities are all within driving distance from one another. You can drive from Johannesburg to Durban in roughly 7 hours and to Cape Town in about 15 hours.
Depending on your route, expect to pay nominal fees at toll gates.
There are bus and train routes between South Africa’s main cities.
Depending on your destination, it is usually more convenient to self-drive, hire a car, or make use of e-hail taxis or a public service like Uber, than to depend on public transport.
In Johannesburg, the Gautrain offers an efficient and convenient way to get around.
In most South African cities, it is safe to drink municipal water. It may be a different story in outlying areas, in which case you may need to buy bottled water.
The following regions of South Africa are considered Malaria risk areas: Mpumalanga, Limpopo (including the Kruger National Park) and KwaZulu-Natal on the Elephant Coast.
What must I pack?
South Africa’s climate varies according to region. Depending on the time of year and where you visit, you will need to pack the appropriate clothing, which could be anything from beachwear to weatherproof jackets.
If you’re holidaying along South Africa’s coast, the rule of thumb is to plan for four seasons in one day, as the weather can turn in an instant. A favourite saying among Mother City locals is, “If you don’t like the weather in Cape Town, wait five minutes.”
The sun in South Africa is particularly harsh – protect yourself from the harmful effects of UV rays by wearing a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.
In winter, the interior of South Africa becomes very dry, and you’ll find yourself reaching for your lip balm more often than not. Pack extra!
If you are going on safari, some reserves and game parks fall within a malaria-risk area. Be sure to pack the relevant prophylactics and insect repellent.
Always travel with your ID book/card, driver’s licence and insurance information.
Keep a mini first aid kit handy with your regular prescription medication.
From the city to the bush, comfortable walking shoes are a must in South Africa.
Don’t leave home without your hand sanitiser.
If you haven’t noticed before, South Africa is a wildly photogenic country. Don’t forget your camera, and keep your phone charged for those Insta moments.
What can I do to be a responsible traveller?
Ours is a water-scarce country with a history of devastating droughts. Always be water-wise on your travels: have short showers, re-use your towels, and don’t leave taps running.
As South Africans, we are all aware of the significant poverty divide in our country, which is why it is so important to bolster our local economies. As much as possible, only buy local food and souvenirs and support local artisans.
Avoid single-use plastic. Decline the offer of straws at takeaway outlets and restaurants. Carry fabric shopping bags with you and use refillable water bottles.
South Africa has 11 official languages, many recognised religions and countless traditions. Wherever you travel in South Africa, always respect each other’s cultures and customs and avoid imposing your beliefs.
If self-driving, always follow the rules of the road. Avoid driving while tired, or driving alone at night. Plan your route ahead and keep a map (or app) on hand. Remember that in South Africa, we drive on the left side of the road.
Some South African cities are considered dangerous, so it is crucial to be aware of your surroundings at all times. Use common sense: don’t walk alone at night, don’t display cash or valuables, and leave jewellery and expensive watches at home.
Keep your belongings safe – use the hotel safe for passports and valuables and watch out for pickpockets and bag snatchers when out and about.
What do I do in an emergency?
Report the incident to the hotel/police immediately.
Contact the Thompsons Holidays 24-hour care line to assist.
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