South Africa is an exciting place to visit. Cape Town, with its vibrant nightlife, stylish young people and beautiful surroundings, has become one of the most desirable destinations in the world. And the country’s natural attractions are as appealing as ever: the green vineyards and rocky coast of the Cape; the arid landscape of the Karoo; the rich farmlands of Gauteng and Mpumalanga; the snowcapped peaks of the Drakensberg range; and the verdant hills and wide beaches of KwaZulu-Natal. The country also has more than 300 game and nature reserves, along with some of the finest lodges on the continent.
South Africa’s climate is ideally suited to outdoor activities, ranging from swimming at one of the subtropical beaches of KwaZulu-Natal or surfing along the Garden Route, to hiking in the Cape Fold and Drakensberg Mountains or teeing off at legendary golf courses associated with international legends such as Ernie Els and Gary Player. Most hotels offer sporting activities ranging from fitness and swimming pools to tennis courts and access to golfing facilities.
A highlight of any trip to South Africa will be the opportunity to see big game—lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and dozens of grazers ranging from gawking giraffes and striped zebras to the diminutive steenbok and duiker antelopes—whether from a vehicle in the likes of the Kruger Park, or on a guided walk in one of numerous private game reserves. Excellent scuba diving and snorkeling is available off the shores of northern KwaZulu-Natal, and the coast around Cape Town is known for its penguin and seal colonies, as well as seasonal whale-watching. Another important facet of South Africa’s natural heritage is a national checklist of more than 800 species of birds, from outsized ostriches to diminutive hummingbirdlike sunbirds.
Cape Town’s landmark is the beautiful Table Mountain, a flat-topped stone behemoth that rises above the town, dwarfing even the tallest skyscrapers in the business district. But don’t spend too much time gazing at the view. There’s more to the city than its picture-postcard profile.
Since the end of apartheid, Cape Town has led South Africa in developing new attractions to appeal to visitors. Those efforts, along with a post-apartheid vitality, have made Cape Town an increasingly popular destination for travelers. Among its many attractions are the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront (a shopping and entertainment complex), glorious sun-soaked, sandy beaches and a variety of trendy restaurants and nightclubs. Even more important are the city’s history and culture, encapsulated these days in distinctive neighborhoods such as the Bo-Kaap or on Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. In fact, it’s Cape Town’s mix of nationalities and identities—African, European, Asian—and the lifestyle they’ve created that make it one of the world’s most vibrant and cosmopolitan cities.