Planning Your Trip to South Africa
For a satisfying South Africa holiday, most travelers should plan on spending two weeks in country. This gives you enough time to explore outside of the main cities, take your time, and drive through some beautiful parts of the country. With nine provinces to explore, there's plenty to keep you busy.
In two weeks, you can easily fit in a Big Five safari, wine tasting in Franschhoek or Stellenbosch, a few days exploring Cape Town, time at the coast, and even a couple of days experiencing the best of Johannesburg. If you're lucky enough to have a third week to spare, consider adding Drakensberg or some of South Africa's Wild Coast.
A shorter stay in South Africa is possible too, especially as part of a longer, multi-country Africa itinerary. Five days gives you enough time to explore Cape Town and its surrounds; with 7-10 days you can add a few days of safari as well.
South Africa in 5 Days
Spending less than a week in South Africa can be a challenge—depending on where you're coming from, flight time alone can take multiple days, making such a short trip impractical for many travelers. That said, spending five days here can be a good option as part of a longer itinerary that includes neighboring destinations like Botswana, Zimbabwe, or Namibia.
One option for a five-day stay is to base yourself in Cape Town, a gorgeous, glittering city sandwiched between mountains and ocean. Beyond exploring the city itself, with its renowned Botanical Gardens, neighborhoods steeped in history, and hiking trails on prominent Table Mountain, there are a number of doable day trips from here. Head east to the lush Winelands to sip on Chardonnay and Shiraz at private vineyards. Or make the scenic coastal road to Hermanus, famous for the Southern Right Whales it attracts during whale season (July to November), and Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet.
In five to six days, you can also complete a quick Garden Route loop starting in Cape Town, with overnights in Cape Agulhas, Oudtshoorn, Sedgefield, and Wilderness. Along the way, you can stop in the aforementioned whale-watching mecca of Hermanus, go sandboarding on Africa's largest dune, safari through Addo Elephant National Park, and experience the subterranean beauty of the Cango Caves.
South Africa in 7-10 Days
With a week or longer, you can see more of South Africa, including two or three days on safari. Most visitors either tag their safari onto the beginning or end of their trip and then focus on Cape Town and the surrounds. The nearby Garden Route, also part of the Western Cape, is one of the most scenic stretches of the country and incorporates dramatic river gorges and forests with swimming-friendly beaches and beautiful, quaint seaside towns.
From there you can travel to your Big Five adventure. Many visitors will fly into OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg, and from there you can either explore the city for a couple of days or head straight to Kruger National Park. This iconic national park exceptional game viewing, and is home to a variety of accommodation options from camping and self-catered to five-star lodges with private game vehicles and experienced trackers to up your chances of clocking some up-close-and-personal sightings.
South Africa in 2 Weeks
Two weeks is a good amount of time to spend in South Africa; you can experience the country fully, fall in love with the dramatic landscapes and melting pot of cultures and fit in some longer road trips and more off-the-beaten-path destinations. You'll be able to spend five days to a week visiting Cape Town and do some wine tasting and sightseeing, before fitting in a drive to Cape Point; the southernmost tip of Africa.
During your two week trip, be sure to reserve some time to see the best of South Africa's seaside towns and more local holiday destinations, including the Garden Route. Jeffrey's Bay is famed world over for it's surfing and supertubes, and the town itself is a gorgeous retreat from the city life, jam-packed with quirky cafes, coffee spots, and incredible factory shops where you can buy branded clothing at a fraction of the price offered in major stores. Knysna and Storms River offer plenty of activities, from kayaking to abseiling.
It's also possible to combine a trip to some neighboring countries into your two-week trip to South Africa; Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe are all within easy reach and offer some incredible sightseeing including the mighty Victoria Falls.
Have a generous three weeks to spare for your holiday? You shouldn't forsake the Wild Coast; full of craggy cliffs, untamed wilderness, and untouched coastline. It takes a 4x4 and some patience to reach Coffee Bay, but your camera will thank you after laying eyes upon the Hole in the Wall—strong swimmers can take a dip in the ocean and swim through the hole.