- Visit a family-owned spice shop since 1946
- Collect and create with farm-fresh ingredients in Elgin
- Sample the famous oysters of the Knysna Lagoon
- Hear the complex history of Soweto Township
- Sample modern and historic brews at SAB World of Beer
|Day 1||Arrive in Cape Town||Cape Town|
|Day 2||Guided Cuisine & Culture Tour||Cape Town|
|Day 3||Wine Tour in the Cape Winelands||Cape Town|
|Day 4||Elgin Railway Market||Elgin|
|Day 5||Elgin Food Tour||Elgin|
|Day 6||Wine & Dine on the Garden Route||Knysna|
|Day 7||Farm-to-Table Cooking Class||Knysna|
|Day 8||Knysna Heads Oyster Tour||Knysna|
|Day 9||Knysna to Johannesburg & Storytelling Around the Fire||Johannesburg|
|Day 10||Soweto Township & Cooking Class||Johannesburg|
|Day 11||The Cradle of Humankind, Sterkfontein Caves, & African Dinner||Johannesburg|
|Day 12||Yeoville Culinary Tour & Dinner in the Sky||Johannesburg|
|Day 13||World of Beer, Carlton Center, & Dinner in a Power Station||Johannesburg|
|Day 14||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: Guided Cuisine & Culture Tour
Spend the day exploring Cape Town's incredibly diverse cultures through an international medium: food. South Africa's multi-cultural culinary influences are as vibrant as the communities where they originate. A lot of the food in South Africa is sourced fresh, so the tastings will depend on the time of year and season.
To understand South Africa's cuisine, you need to understand the country's history. From the indigenous Bantu and Khoisan people to the Dutch and English colonists, the formerly enslaved Indonesian, Madagascan, and East African peoples, and the Indian and Chinese indentured workers and immigrants, the country has a wide variety of ethnic and culinary diversity.
It was South Africa's colorful cultures that prompted Nelson Mandela, a leader of the anti-apartheid movement and the country's first black president, to coin the term 'Rainbow Nation' to describe the country.
One of South Africa's many ethnic groups are the Cape Malays, a name that's derived from the Cape of Good Hope and the Malay people, originally from Southeast Asia and the East Indies. The Cape Malays are the only cultural group of their kind in the world. Originally brought to South Africa from Dutch colonies as enslaved people, political prisoners, or exiles, they trace their origins to communities from India to Eastern Indonesia.
Multiple groups make up the Cape Malay ethnicity, but the commonality which ties them all together is the maize (corn) that serves as the primary food staple. You'll spend part of the day exploring Cape Town's Cape Malay cuisine, as well as others.
Start your guided tour with a walk through the Company's Gardens, established by Dutch colonists as a supply station, to sample Rooibos Tea and Rusks, an Afrikaaner biscuit. Continue to the Earth Fair Market on St. George's Mall to sample local treats from a variety of vendors, then head to the Bo Kaap, the colorful Cape Malay district, for a traditional Cape Malay lunch. Stop in and visit Atlas Trading, a family-owned spice shop that's been in operation since 1946.
From here take the city bus to the trendy suburb of Woodstock to sample craft beer and locally produced gin, then round out the day with a visit to an artisanal chocolate factory.
Return to your accommodation in the late afternoon to enjoy a free evening in the Cape Town city center.
Day 3: Wine Tour in the Cape Winelands
Start the morning with a pick up from a local guide for a laidback, full-day wine tour through the Cape Winelands. From the minute you step out the door, your experience today is perfectly curated so you don't have to worry about a thing—besides sipping wine.
The Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve, which extends from the Kogelberg Reserve in the south along the Cape Fold Mountain Chain to the north, is an internationally recognized area within the Western Cape's Floral Kingdom.
You'll spend the day exploring the rolling hills of the Winelands, visiting wineries in the Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl, or Elgin Wine Regions. Today will be spent eating mouthwatering foods and drinking some of the best wines South Africa has to offer. The region's wineries offer a variety of whites and reds, as well as their own blends and styles. Enjoy the scenery and the beautiful vineyards and white-gabled farmsteads that dot the landscape, then return to Cape Town in time for dinner.
Day 4: Elgin Railway Market
In the morning, leave Cape Town and drive through the countryside to the town of Elgin, about 1.5 hours away. Explore the Elgin Railway Market, a steampunk train station filled with local vendors and live music. The market is the brainchild of businessman Roger Orpen, who converted an old apple warehouse into an artistic community space.
Drawing inspiration from the barn's railway-side location, the market features elements of steam locomotive history and Victorian influences. A few times each month, a steam locomotive arrives to pick up visitors for a ride around the countryside. The whistles and steam of the arriving train are a must-see for kids (and adults).
Spend the day shopping for local produce, browsing crafts, and sampling food and home-grown wines. As you wander through the market, enjoy live music and people-watching. Other options for the afternoon include wine tasting, seeing the town, and exploring the area's food culture.
For dinner, head to The Hickory Shack for Texas-style BBQ. Indulge in award-winning meats, carefully slow-smoked over a wood fire for optimal flavor and juice. For a taste of local produce choose The Barn at Old Mac Daddy, where you can enjoy free-range and organic fare in a relaxed environment.
Day 5: Elgin Food Tour
Spend the morning at Rosenhoff Farm, an organic farm-to-table establishment that features vegan options and sustainable agriculture. After an educational walk through the farm, enjoy vegan snacks and a cooking demonstration.
Afterward, head to the next-door food stall where you'll learn about the local process of smoking meat and sausages. Combining slow-smoking, blue smoke methods, and local wood chips with heritage breeds of meat, the result is a mouth-watering barbecue with the perfect amount of flavor. Enjoy a cooking demonstration, then dive into ribs, brisket, pulled pork, and plenty of sides.
In the afternoon, head to one of Elgin's elite wine farms for a salt curing cooking course. The focus of this method is on authenticity and quality ingredients. Start with a welcome of warm bread, followed by an explanation of the various salts and their flavor profiles. Depending on the season and what's available, feast on local produce and home cooking. Enjoy appetizers like fresh tomato slices, wasabi cream pine nuts, and crispy onions. Don't miss the cured trout with salmon mousse and horseradish emulsion, as well as the braised pork belly sourced from a neighboring farm. Follow up with seared hake, mussel veloute, and squid ink tagliatelle, then round out your meal with Thai spiced custard or a banana split for dessert.
Return to your accommodation in the late afternoon for a relaxing evening.
Day 6: Wine & Dine on the Garden Route
Start your morning with a hotel pickup, then head to Knysna on the coast for a 5-star wine and food tour. You'll follow the Garden Route from vineyard to ocean, experiencing the best of the region.
Spend the day sipping sparkling wine and eating snacks on the beach, learning about South African wine history, and relaxing on a horse-drawn carriage ride through boutique vineyards. Enjoy a wine and chocolate pairing, then tuck into a South African platter lunch. In the afternoon explore the exquisite rose gardens, then end the day with a venison biltong platter paired with some more wine and sunset views.
Day 7: Farm-to-Table Cooking Class
Spend the day sourcing local ingredients and learning how to prepare an authentic South African meal. Kick off the morning with a visit to an artisanal bakery to enjoy fresh-baked bread and treats while listening to local stories and history.
From here, you're off to source ingredients from local artisans. Spend the day visiting with owners, sipping on sparkling wine, and listening to stories of regional and national food culture.
In the afternoon bring it all together for a cooking class, then sit down to feast on your creation with a glass of wine.
Day 8: Knysna Heads Oyster Tour
In the morning, head to the Featherbed Nature Reserve on the Western Head in Knysna. Spend the first half of the day enjoying the scenery, including indigenous fynbos and a multitude of wildflowers and shrubs.
Start your trip with a ferry ride across the Knysna Lagoon, then board a 4x4 vehicle for a drive through the forest. Stop to see spectacular viewpoints, then stretch your legs on a short (1.4 miles/ 2.2 km) walk through the coastal forest and fynbos to see ancient sea caves. Afterward, enjoy a buffet lunch at an outdoor restaurant under a canopy of milkwood trees.
In the afternoon, take in the sights from the water on an oyster cruise on the Knysna Lagoon. Learn all about one of the world's most loved delicacies and enjoy a tasting of wild and cultivated oysters while cruising around the lagoon. Round out the experience with a glass of white wine on the deck.
In the evening, transfer back to your accommodation.
Day 9: Knysna to Johannesburg & Storytelling Around the Fire
In the morning head to the airport for your domestic flight to Johannesburg. After arriving take some time to settle in, then head out for a storytelling evening in the Soweto Township.
Soweto's history stems back to the early 1900s when the government began forcibly separating blacks from whites by removing the black population from the city and relocating them into separate areas. These were separated from the white neighborhoods by a cordon sanitaire (sanitary corridor) like a river, road, or industrial area.
Several prominent individuals have called the district home including Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and the South African comedian Trevor Noah.
The area experienced civil unrest during the Apartheid era, with the most notable riots occurring in 1976. The riots followed a rule that Afrikaans should be the official language for schools of black Africans in the area (most of whom spoke indigenous African languages). Tens of thousands of black students took to the streets to protest the decision. The demonstrators were met with police violence and brutality; several hundred students were killed, and many more were injured.
One of the murdered students was 12-year-old Hector Pieterson. His story became the face of the student uprising after a photo of his body being carried by an older student gained international fame. The Hector Pieterson Memorial Site commemorates the students' bravery.
Spend the afternoon exploring on your own. In the evening, experience first-hand accounts of Soweto's history from the township's residents. You'll listen to stories of freedom fighters, students from the 1976 uprising, and other key historical figures. Enjoy live art performances and music as you feast on a traditional African dinner under the starry night skies.
Day 10: Soweto Township & Cooking Class
In the morning head out for a half-day tour of the Soweto Township. Take a bicycle or yellow tuk-tuk, or stroll around the Orlando West area with your local guide. You'll pass by historical sites and learn the history of this vibrant community.
Stop by the Hector Pieterson Memorial, then enjoy a quiet stroll down Vilazaki Street to see the former homes of Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu. Visit the Nelson Mandela Museum to learn about the legacy of South Africa's first black president, then continue exploring the area. Along the way, you'll pass street vendors selling fresh fruit, snacks, and various African art—the perfect excuse to stop for a mid-morning treat and a quick shop for souvenirs. Enjoy lunch at a relaxed outdoor restaurant.
In the evening, join the chefs of the outdoor kitchen and restaurant and learn to cook the traditional way: in potjies (cast iron pots) over a fire. Combine the fresh vegetables and herbs from the on-site garden with local ingredients from the market, then blend it all with spices to stir up a typical Sowetan braai, a South African take on the barbecue. Enjoy your dinner under the starlight at the community park around the boma (an outdoor dining enclosure with a fire at the center)
Day 11: The Cradle of Humankind, Sterkfontein Caves, & African Dinner
In the morning, make your way to the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, one of ten similar sites in the country. The area is famous for its complex of fossil-bearing caves, many of which contain a superbly preserved record of the evolution of humankind over the past 4 million years. It's the world's richest early hominin site, and boasts around 40% of all known human-ancestor fossils. The recent discovery of Homo naledi, a previously unknown species, in a remote and hard-to-access cave put the Cradle of Humankind back in the global spotlight.
Learn about all this and more at the Maropeng Visitor Center, which features award-winning exhibits that explore the development of humans and our ancestors through time. View fossils, learn about the history of humankind and see million-year-old stone tools as you journey through human history.
After lunch, visit the Sterkfontein Caves, famous for their fossils and easy visitor access. Tour the caves on the modern walkways and boardwalk that passes by the excavation site. Here, dozens of notable discoveries took place, including the unearthing of the fossils of Mrs. Ples and Little Foot—a nearly complete Australopithecus skeleton that dates back more than three million years.
For dinner head to the Chief's Boma Restaurant for an interactive culinary experience that spans the African continent. Enjoy sundowners or craft beer on the deck overlooking the Boma Dam, then meander through the herb garden before sitting down to enjoy your meal to the music of the African Marimba Band. With over 120 options ranging from North African Moroccan Dishes to a "Big 5 Game Kebab" made from five kinds of antelope, you're sure to find something to suit your tastes. After dinner, enjoy a glass of wine and roasted marshmallows over a cozy fire.
Day 12: Yeoville Culinary Tour & Dinner in the Sky
In the morning, meet your guide and driver for a full-day culinary experience. Start in the 54-story Ponte Building, in an apartment on the top floor, for sweeping views of the city. Learn about the remarkable story of this building, which was once considered one of the most luxurious high-rise properties in Africa. After falling into decay in the 1990s the building is being revived, with a story that reflects the turbulent history of Johannesburg as a whole.
From here continue to Rockey Street in Yeoville, a pan-African neighborhood that's famed for its Congolese bars and West African eateries. Learn about the area's history, including its past as a whites-only community and transformation to a cultural melting pot for everything African.
Experience Ghanaian cooking at a Yeoville street market and browse local stalls, where everything from yams, fresh and dried fish, and a variety of fruit crowd the vendors' tables. This market is where many of the local restaurants source their ingredients for mouth-watering dishes.
Visit a Nigerian bar and restaurant to sample a selection of yams, breadfruit, beans, goat stew, their take on spaghetti bolognese, and succulent fish. For a different cuisine stop at an Ethiopian restaurant where a variety of meats and vegetables are served atop injera, an Ethiopian sourdough flatbread. Follow up the meal with Ethiopian coffee—a cultural as well as a culinary experience.
Transfer back to your accommodation to freshen up before you head out for your evening meal. Dinner tonight is an adventure at Dinner in the Sky, a unique restaurant experience that lifts a dinner table and its guests 200 ft (60 m) into the air for the duration of the meal. With enough seating for 22 people and three staff (chef, waiter, and entertainer), the intimate and exhilarating experience is sure to leave a lasting impression.
Day 13: World of Beer, Carlton Center, & Dinner in a Power Station
Start your morning with a bird's-eye view of the city from the 50-story Top of Africa viewing platform at the Carlton Center. It stands next to the Carlton Hotel, a formerly lavish hotel and event venue that once hosted the world's rich and famous. These days the hotel stands empty, while the Carlton Center is home to a shopping center and offices.
In the afternoon, head to the SAB World of Beer in the Newtown Cultural Precinct, a museum that combines history, beer, and local culture. In South Africa, traditional beer (known as umqombothi, a Xhosa word) is made from maize, maize salt, crushed sorghum malt, yeast, and water. It's always prepared by women in a process that takes several days to complete and can be physically demanding. Once it's prepared, the beer is poured into a large calabash or ukhamba (shared communal pot) and enjoyed by the community.
The social and cultural associations of umqombothi vary from region to region, but in general, the drink features prominently at weddings, funerals, rites of passage, and various official meetings. Prior to drinking, a little bit of beer is always spilled on the ground so that the ancestors don't go thirsty.
Afterward, transfer back to your accommodation to freshen up before dinner at Turbine Hall, a massive 1920s power station that's been restored to a lavish event space. The hall sits in the heart of the Newtown precinct and formerly served as the Jeppe Street Power Station—the largest of Newtown's three steam-driven power stations.
These days the hall serves as a high-end meeting space and hosts international events, such as South African Fashion Week and the prestigious annual Turbine Art Fair.
After dinner, return to your accommodation for a restful evening.
Day 14: Depart Johannesburg
Transfer to the airport for your connecting flight home.