Country of Contrasts Road Trip: Cape Town, Garden Route, Wild Coast, Kruger National Park & More - 20 Days
- Drive the scenic route out to the Cape of Good Hope
- Learn about the political history of Robben Island
- Delve into the Cango Caves and ostrich farms in Oudtshoorn
- Watch for wildlife in Addo Elephant National Park
- Relax in the scenic towns of the Wild Coast
|Day 1||Arrive in Cape Town||Cape Town|
|Day 2||Cape Town City Tour & Table Mountain||Cape Town|
|Day 3||Atlantic Seaboard & Cape Peninsula||Cape Town|
|Day 4||Cape Town Township & Robben Island Museum||Cape Town|
|Day 5||Cape Town to Oudtshoorn||Oudtshoorn|
|Day 6||Oudtshoorn to Sedgefield, Cango Caves||Sedgefield|
|Day 7||Sedgefield to Jeffreys Bay, Active Adventures||Jeffreys Bay|
|Day 8||Free Day in Jeffreys Bay||Jeffreys Bay|
|Day 9||Jeffreys Bay to Chintsa, Addo Elephant National Park||Chintsa|
|Day 10||Free Day in Chintsa||Chintsa|
|Day 11||Chintsa to Coffee Bay, Nelson Mandela Hometown Visit||Coffee Bay|
|Day 12||Free Day in Coffee Bay||Coffee Bay|
|Day 13||Coffee Bay to Drakensberg||Drakensberg|
|Day 14||Hiking or 4x4 Ride in Drakensberg||Drakensberg|
|Day 15||Drakensberg to Dundee, Culture & Nature||Dundee|
|Day 16||Dundee to Nelspruit, Historical Tour||Nelspruit|
|Day 17||Nelspruit to Kruger, Game Drive||Kruger National Park|
|Day 18||Kruger to Hazyview, Sunrise Bush Walk||Hazyview|
|Day 19||Hazyview to Johannesburg||Johannesburg|
|Day 20||Depart Johannesburg|
Day 1: Arrive in Cape Town
Welcome to South Africa! Arrive at Cape Town International Airport and transfer to your accommodation to unpack and unwind. After you settle in, spend the rest of your day exploring the city.
Known as the 'Rainbow Nation,' Cape Town and South Africa have a long and complicated history involving a multitude of ethnic and cultural groups. The area's history starts with the indigenous Khoisan and Bantu people, who were the primary residents of the area until the Portuguese and Dutch arrived in South Africa, beginning a centuries-long occupation.
These days, South Africa is home to a diverse population. Roughly 80% of South Africans are of Bantu ancestry from a variety of ethnic groups, each with a distinct language. The remainder of the community is made up primarily of European, Asian (Indian, Chinese, and others from the formerly enslaved and indentured population), and mixed-race (Cape Coloured) ancestry.
After checking in to your accommodation, spend the afternoon relaxing, taking in the views, and exploring the town. In the evening, head to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. Shop for art and crafts at the expansive Watershed market, visit the Two Oceans Aquarium to explore underwater life, or enjoy a harbor cruise as you watch the sunset. Other options include the Diamond Museum, which explores the history of the diamond rush in South Africa, or a helicopter flight to see Cape Town's sights from the sky.
For dinner, choose from a variety of restaurant and bar options.
Day 2: Cape Town City Tour & Table Mountain
In the morning, meet your local guide in the city center for a 4-hour walking tour of the historic city. You'll explore the different eras of Cape Town and learn about South Africa's history, as well as the people who shaped it. Stops along the tour include the Company's Garden, Parliament, Green Market Square, The Castle of Good Hope, and the Slave Lodge.
The Company's Garden dates back to the 1650s when European settlers farmed the land to grow fresh produce to replenish ships rounding the cape. Around the corner is the Iziko Slave Lodge, a national history museum dedicated to exploring the history of slavery at the Cape. Since its construction in 1679, the building has functioned as a center for the bustling slave trade (primarily operated by the Dutch East India Company) as well as a government building and supreme court.
Nearby sits the historic Green Market Square, which has served as a slave market, vegetable market, and center for political protests under Apartheid. These days it hosts a flea market with African souvenirs and crafts for sale.
Just down the street is the Castle of Good Hope, South Africa's oldest existing Dutch East India colonial building. On the way, you'll pass by several memorials and monuments, including the We Are Still Here Street Memorial to destitute children and the District Six Museum, which commemorates forced relocation under apartheid.
After strolling the streets of Cape Town, stop for lunch in the city center. In the afternoon, give your legs a rest with a hop-on-hop-off tour aboard the distinctive red open-top bus. Start at the Cape Town City Center Terminal, then take the bus to Table Mountain. From the bus stop, continue to the summit on the cable car for spectacular views of the city, mountains, and ocean.
Return to Cape Town in time for dinner at the bustling downtown area near Greenmarket Square.
Day 3: Atlantic Seaboard & Cape Peninsula
Hit the road with your guide for a full-day adventure on this Cape Peninsula Tour. The Cape Peninsula is a rocky peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean at the south-western extremity of the African continent. At the southern end of the peninsula are Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. On the northern end is Table Mountain, overlooking Cape Town. The southernmost point of the Cape Peninsula has outstanding flora and fauna and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Cape Floral Region.
Afterward, head to Simon's Town (half-hour to the north) and visit the penguin colony before breaking for lunch at a local seafood restaurant along the water in the sleepy fishing town. Head over to Chapman’s Peak Drive along the scenic roads of the Atlantic Seaboard. You'll pass by Llandudno and Camps Bay beaches, then stop at the iconic Maidens Cove (located an hour to the north) for a quick dip in the water before ending the day.
Day 4: Cape Town Township & Robben Island Museum
Get an early start today for a full day of sightseeing. You'll start your day at one of Cape Town's iconic townships to get to know the local history and meet with residents. Visit with key community leaders to discuss history, culture, politics, as well as current and future socio-economic challenges facing the township.
If it's a Sunday, you're in for a treat—on Sunday mornings, the tour includes a stop at a local church where you can join the congregation in a joyful celebration of community and faith. The South African spiritual experience emphasizes music and gratitude for the people around you—a powerful start to the day.
After lunch, make your way to the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V&A Waterfront to catch the ferry across the water to Robben Island, located 4.3 miles (6.9 km) west off the shore of Cape Town. Here, the tour guides are former political prisoners who served time at Robben Island.
Robben Island, which means "seal island" in Dutch, has a long and complicated history that spans millennia. Historic use of the island dates back to the indigenous Khoikhoi and Bantu people, with Dutch settlers using the island as a prison since the 17th century. Later, it was used as a whaling station and as a colony for people diagnosed with leprosy, and as a defense station during World War II. The island is also home to a religious pilgrimage site for Muslims—the Moturu Kramat, built to commemorate Sayed Abdurahman Moturu, Prince of Madura, one of Cape Town's first imams who was exiled to the island in the 1740s.
From the middle of the 20th century until the 90s, Robben Island served as a prison for criminals and anti-apartheid political prisoners during South Africa's apartheid years. Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black president and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, was imprisoned on Robben Island for 18 years of his 27-year term for his anti-apartheid activism. Two other Robben Island political prisoners—Kgalema Motlanthe and Jacob Zuma—have gone on to become President of South Africa.
In addition to being a political and cultural site, the South African National Heritage Site and UNESCO World Heritage Site is also a recognized wildlife sanctuary and serves as a safe haven for about 132 species of birds, including some endangered species. Crowned cormorants and black-crowned night herons breed on the island in large numbers.
Tour the prison to learn about the island's history. You'll see Nelson Mandela's former prison room and go for a short drive to see other notable landmarks, like the rock quarry and outbuildings.
After the 3.5 hour tour, return to the mainland in time for dinner.
Day 5: Cape Town to Oudtshoorn
Get an early start in the morning, then head east on the famous Route 62 towards Oudtshoorn, a five-hour drive from Cape Town. Modeled after America's Route 66, Route 62 brings its own unique South African flair and distinct local character.
More than just dive bars, farms stalls, or small country towns, Route 62 is also the Western Cape's longest wine tour. Stop along the way to sample port-style wines as you wind your way across the scenic landscape.
One of the highway's legendary attractions is Ronnie's Sex Shop, a roadside bar and restaurant located about three hours from Cape Town. Legend has it that in the 1970s, local farmer Ronald Price set about opening a roadside produce sign, complete with a proudly handpainted sign. Mischevious friends took it upon themselves to amend the sign, ultimately convincing Ronnie to scrap the farm stand idea and open a bar for highway travelers.
Forty years later the bar's quirkiness doesn't end with the sign. Inside, the entire room is decorated with traveler's graffiti, donated neckties and bras, and a random assortment of other oddities. As well as a restaurant, Ronnie's offers overnight accommodation, a pool with landscape views, and good old-fashioned respite from the dusty road.
Arrive in Oudtshoorn in the evening. As you drive along the highway, you'll pass by countless ostrich-filled paddocks, colorful feather stalls, and show farms. Palatial sandstone homesteads dot the landscape, a throwback to a time when ostrich feathers were worth more than gold.
A stop at the Cango Ostrich Show Farm offers a glimpse into the farming industry and gives you the chance to come face-to-beak with the world's biggest bird.
Round out your day with ostrich steaks or kebabs at one of Oudtshoorn's many eateries and experience the region's legendary hospitality for yourself. If you get the chance, make sure to try the Karoo lamb—it's delicious.
Day 6: Oudtshoorn to Sedgefield, Cango Caves
Spend the day exploring the underground limestone chambers of the Cango Caves with one of two guided tour options. Choose the Heritage Tour to check out the cave's stalactite and stalagmite formations, as well as remnants of Khoikhoi paintings. If you're up for a thrill, take the Adventure Tour instead, which navigates a series of tight squeezes and narrow limestone chimneys.
Continue to the nearby towns of Wilderness and George, located an hour away on the coast. Cool off from the drive with an afternoon canoe paddle and breathe in the fresh, clean air. The area borders national parks, and there are plenty of opportunities for bird watching and wildlife viewing.
Tonight's destination is the tranquil coastal town of Sedgefield, a quick 15-minute drive along the coast. Find the perfect place for a sundowner as you watch the sun sink below the watery horizon, then hit the hay for a restful night's sleep.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 7: Sedgefield to Jeffreys Bay, Active Adventures
Beautiful landscapes and adrenaline-filled adventures go hand-in-hand today. Start your day with a relaxing stroll on the beach in Knysna.
Make your way to the postcard town of Plettenberg Bay, an hour away on the coast. From here, continue east for half an hour along the coast to Bloukran's Bridge where daring travelers leap into the gorge on the world's highest commercial bridge bungee jump. If you're feeling adventurous, try the 708-ft (216 m) jump and experience the thrill for yourself.
If you would rather keep your feet on solid ground, head to the thick forests of nearby Tsitsikamma National Park for a hike. The hike to Tsitsikamma’s suspension bridge is short but steep, and it's worth the effort for the panoramic views.
Leave the Garden Route behind you as you drive the hourlong trip to the town of Jeffreys Bay, known as South Africa's quintessential 'Surf City.' Take a surfing lesson, hang with the locals, or hit the shops along the main street promenade for a relaxing evening on the coast.
Day 8: Free Day in Jeffreys Bay
Spend a free day in the coastal town of Jeffreys Bay. With some of South Africa's best surfing waves, it's no wonder that most of the town's leisure activities revolve around the water. Learn to surf at one of the town's many surf schools or test your skills with the locals. For a bargain shopping experience, visit J'Bay's Surf Village's factory outlets, then visit the JB Surf Museum to learn about the evolution of the surfboard.
If surfing isn't your thing, head inland to explore the multitude of hiking trails that line the coast. Other options include horseback riding on the beach, stand up paddle boarding, and scuba diving. If you're an avid beachcomber, visit Jeffreys Bay Shell Museum to see one of South Africa's largest collections.
Day 9: Jeffreys Bay to Chintsa, Addo Elephant National Park
Leave the coast behind today as you drive inland for an hour. Your first stop is Addo Elephant National Park, the third-largest of South Africa's 19 national parks. Keep an eye out for Africa's giants as well as other members of the Big 5 as you navigate the dusty dirt roads in search of wildlife.
After departing Addo, head further northeast into the Eastern Cape province. Cross the last of the scenic Cape Fold Mountains, then continue into the arid landscape of the east. These mountains criss-cross South Africa from Cape Town to the Eastern Cape and are distinguishable by their sandstone curves—a tell-tale sign of tectonic plate activity 350 million years ago.
The drive from Addo to the coastal town of Chintsa takes around three hours. As you near the coast, the landscape changes to grassy, rolling hills peppered with herds of cattle and clusters of round homes. This region is known as the Wild Coast, one of South Africa's most undeveloped areas, and is famous for its remote landscapes and laid-back vibes.
Day 10: Free Day in Chintsa
Enjoy a quiet and leisurely free day in Chintsa. It's the perfect opportunity to slow down: no commitments, nowhere to be, no errands to run. While away the hours in a hammock with a good book or go for a stroll or a run along the picture-perfect coastline.
More active options for today include horseback riding on the beach, learning to surf, practicing yoga in the forest, and hiking in the area. Meet with a traditional healer to learn more about the local Xhosa culture or spend the afternoon taking in the ocean views.
Day 11: Chintsa to Coffee Bay, Nelson Mandela Hometown Visit
Hit the road today for a journey through South Africa's history and politics. Head to Qunu, a quiet rural area where Nelson Mandela—South Africa's first black president—spent his childhood. The drive there takes about two hours from Chintsa. Tour the region and hear stories from a local guide as you learn about the legacy of one of the country's most influential men.
After the tour, drive through the former Xhosa homeland as you ponder the legacy of Madiba (Mandela's tribal name). Your destination for the night is the town of Coffee Bay, another postcard town located 1.5-hours away on the coast.
Day 12: Free Day in Coffee Bay
Spend the day taking in the laidback vibes of the quiet, coastal town. While most visitors to Coffee Bay are in search of peace and quiet, others arrive with adventure in mind. This section of the coast is one of the country's most enchanting landscapes with easy access to hiking.
Enjoy a tranquil day in town or opt for a more active experience. Hit the trail for the hike to the Hole in the Wall (esikhaleni, 'place of sound' in Xhosa) a natural geological formation where the sea passes through a hole in the cliffside. The walk there is quite easy with views of the open ocean as you hike. The trek to the Hole in the Wall takes approximately three hours one way, so you'll be back in town in time for dinner and sunset.
Day 13: Coffee Bay to Drakensberg
Sweeping landscapes define South Africa's Wild Coast, and you'll get the full experience of its diverse landscapes today. Wake up overlooking a river estuary and the Indian Ocean, then hit the road for the six-hour journey through wild hills, remote villages, and increasingly lush farmlands. Your destination is the foothills of the mighty Drakensberg Mountain Range (known as uKhahlamba in Zulu and Maluti in Sotho).
Stop along the way at the Nelson Mandela Museum in Qunu. Learn more about the South African hero and view a collection of Mandela's presidential gifts before heading north to Sani Pass in the Drakensberg.
Day 14: Hiking or 4x4 Ride in Drakensberg
Spend the day exploring the area's spectacular scenery. Whether on foot or on a 4x4, the views are incredible. Meet up with a local guide to explore the area's scenic trails on foot, or head up to Sani Pass with a 4x4. Here, where South Africa meets Lesotho, you can look out over two countries and take in the beauty of the Drakensberg Mountains.
Enjoy local cuisine for dinner.
Day 15: Drakensberg to Dundee, Culture & Nature
Leave the mountains behind today and drive through one of South Africa's favorite weekend playgrounds, the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. The area is mostly used for farming, with dairy, beef, and maize farms dominating the landscape. Small family-run farm stalls offer plenty of opportunities to stop along the winding country roads.
Before heading out on your drive today, stop and visit a Zulu family. Although the Eastern Cape is historically home of the Xhosa people, KwaZulu-Natal welcomes you into Zulu territory. The two cultures and languages are similar, so you might recognize a few words. Nevertheless, key differences set these two groups apart, and this morning is your chance to learn about different traditions and local customs.
The full drive time is around 3.5 hours, and you'll break up the journey with a stop at Howick Falls, in the heart of KwaZulu-Natal. The falls are incredible any time of the year, but if you visit after the annual rainfall you'll be treated with a roaring cascade of water. Nearby is the famous Capture Site, the location of Nelson Mandela's 1962 arrest by the Apartheid government. A large sculpture marks this site, and it's worth making the quick detour.
Round out your road trip with a visit to the sleepy town of Nottingham Road for a beer tasting, then continue north to Dundee.
Day 16: Dundee to Nelspruit, Historical Tour
Spend today exploring the region's history. Northern KwaZulu-Natal, particularly the area surrounding Dundee, has a bloody history of conflict. At various times throughout history, the British and Boer colonists and the local Zulu tribes clashed in violent battles in an effort to control the area. Local guides will bring the bloody past to life as they narrate the area's history and explain the events that led to the creation of South Africa as it exists today.
Start the day at the Talana Battlefields in Dundee, the site of the first battle of the Anglo-Boer War. Tour the impressive museum complex, then move on to the nearby monument that marks the Battle of Blood River.
Leave the battlefields behind and head north as you pass by the border with Swaziland and make your way into the Lowveld. This low-lying area is dominated by open woodland, grassy plans, and thorny trees—the stereotypical African landscape.
The total drive today will take just over five hours. Your destination this afternoon is the town of Nelspruit, on the south end of the massive Kruger National Park.
Day 17: Nelspruit to Kruger, Game Drive
Wake up this morning in Nelspruit in Mpumalanga, South Africa's easternmost province. The area derives its name for the Zulu phrase for 'place where the sun rises' , which is appropriate for an early start to the day. After a quick breakfast, hit the road for the hourlong trip to Kruger National Park.
The sprawling national park covers nearly 8,000 square miles (that's the same size as Slovenia) of diverse landscapes and is home to vast numbers of animals. White rhinos, hippos, antelope, kudu, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, impala, lions, elephants, and more call the park home.
Travel Kruger's roads on two separate game drives today. In the morning, head out in your tour van as you make your way to your lodge. After a relaxing lunch, head out for another game drive in a 4x4 safari vehicle to catch a glimpse of local wildlife. Fall asleep to the nighttime sounds of the African bush.
Day 18: Kruger to Hazyview, Sunrise Bush Walk
The best way to experience the African bush is to walk through it, and that's exactly how your day will begin. Grab a quick cup of pre-dawn coffee, then head out into the bush with an armed ranger to look for signs and tracks of animals. After a full morning of tracking, return to the camp for a filling breakfast.
Leave Kruger behind as you make your way to the town of Hazyview, on the southwest side of the park. Keep an eye out for animals as you drive through the park—you never know what you might spot. Enjoy a relaxed afternoon.
Day 19: Hazyview to Johannesburg
Today's 4.5-hour drive is the ultimate ending to your South Africa road trip. The journey from Kruger to Johannesburg brings you through some of the country's most diverse landscapes and scenic points.
Start your day with a morning visit to Shangaan Village to brush up on local culture and customs, then hit the road for the drive west. Along the way, stop at viewpoints and natural features to take in the views. Notable stops include God's Window, Bourke’s Luck Potholes and the Three Rondawels.
Reach the big city lights of Jozi in the evening, then enjoy a quiet dinner near your accommodation.
Day 20: Depart Johannesburg
Transfer to the airport for your connecting flight home.