The Ultimate South Africa Itinerary: 2 Weeks
You’re in for a surprise if you think South Africa is only about wildlife safaris. The country truly has it all: beautiful beaches, cosmopolitan cities, phenomenal wildlife, spectacular coastal drives, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Delicious local wine, delectable cuisine, and some incredible adventure sports all contribute significantly to the overall experience. This one-of-a-kind African vacation should be on your bucket list. South Africa is Africa’s most tourist-friendly country, and you’re in for an exciting adventure. Even though two weeks would not be enough to fully explore South Africa, you can fit in the majority of the country’s highlights during this short period. This 2-week itinerary is an excellent introduction to South Africa.
South Africa Itinerary for 2 weeks
There are numerous ways to spend two weeks in South Africa, and no itinerary can be perfect. The suggested itinerary begins in Johannesburg and ends in Cape Town and is undoubtedly one of the best ways to see all of South Africa’s major attractions in 14 days.
South Itinerary Day 1: – Fly Into Johannesburg
Arrive in Johannesburg to begin your South African adventure. If you arrive in the city late, you can simply relax and recover from jet lag. You don’t want to be too exhausted to hit the road the next day. If you have time, spend the day exploring Johannesburg’s museums and historical sites. You can visit the Apartheid Museum, the Wits Art Museum, the township of Soweto (Nelson Mandela’s House), and neighborhood markets, to name a few. Public transport is good and taxis have to be pre-booked. Driving is the most convenient and secure way to get around the city. You can also take a self-drive safari in Kruger National Park. Johannesburg is not the safest city, so exercise caution while venturing out of your hotel.
South Itinerary Day 2-4: – Kruger National Park
A safari in Kruger National Park is definitely the highlight of any trip to South Africa. The Kruger National Park is Africa’s largest and one of the world’s largest game reserves. The park is extremely popular among visitors due to its easy accessibility and high density of wildlife.
The distance between Johannesburg and Kruger National Park is 283 miles and takes approximately 5-6 hours. You have the option of renting a car or hiring a private transfer. Kruger has no direct bus service. If you leave early, you can go on your first game drive on the same day. The National Park offers fantastic opportunities to see the Big Five (elephant, lion, leopard, rhinoceros, and buffalo) in their natural habitat. Besides the Big Five, you can spot zebras, giraffes, cheetahs, hippopotami, hyenas, crocodiles, deer, and countless species of birds.
Spend the following two days taking safaris, going on dawn bush walks, unwinding in your camp or lodge, touring the cultural village, and enjoying the regional cuisine and dances. The safaris take place in the early morning, late afternoon, and night. Don’t pass up the opportunity to go on a night safari because this is when the nocturnal animals are moving around looking for prey. You should plan to go on at least three safaris during your stay, as each one will be exciting and unique. You might be lucky enough to witness lions mating, a leopard pouncing on a deer, animals fighting amongst themselves, and other rare wildlife encounters.
Where to stay in Kruger National Park?
Kruger National Park is split into two parts. One section is a state-sponsored national park open to the public. Accommodation in the Kruger National Park is reasonably priced and includes everything from campsites and safari lodges to guesthouses and bungalows. You can drive your own car, but you have limited mobility and cannot drive off-road. There are strict hours of operation and visitors are not permitted to explore after sunset.
The other portion, known as ‘Greater Kruger Park,’ is located adjacent to Kruger National Park. The fences that divided the two parks were removed in 1993, allowing animals to freely move between the two wilderness areas. The sightings in both parks are equally impressive; the difference is the overall experience. Guests staying in the Greater Kruger Park can visit the Kruger National Park, but not the other way around.
Greater Kruger Park is divided into several private game reserves, each with its own territory. The game reserves share their domain with each other and the guided tours can take you anywhere within the unfenced protected park. Additionally, the vehicles are permitted to go off the beaten path, do night safaris, and set up bush breakfasts and dinners, all of which provide much better viewing opportunities. Private reserves provide exclusive, authentic, and less crowded safaris.
The camps and lodges in the Greater Kruger Park are more luxurious, intimate, and all-inclusive, and come with more amenities and activities. This is definitely a place where it’s worth splurging on an all-inclusive luxury lodge. A few of the popular private game reserves in Greater Kruger Park are Sabi Sand Game Resave, Klaserie Nature Reserve, Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, MalaMala Game Reserve, etc.
South Itinerary Day 5: – Johannesburg Via Blyde River Canyon
Today we will return to Johannesburg via the breathtaking Blyde River Canyon. The 26km long Canyon is the world’s third-largest canyon and home to a wide range of ecosystems. The canyon follows the path of the Blyde River offering breathtaking panoramic views at every turn, giving the area its name of “Panorama Route”. Stop for gorgeous views of the dramatic landscapes, cascading waterfalls, and epic rock formations. Three Rondavels, The God’s Window, Pilgrim’s Nest, and The Pinnacle are the main highlights. It is one of South Africa’s most beautiful natural landmarks. Stay in Johannesburg for the night.
South Itinerary Day 6: – Port Elizabeth
After a 2-hour flight, you will arrive in Port Elizabeth. An overnight bus from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth takes nearly 13 hours. If you hit Port Elizabeth before 2 p.m., you can visit Addo Elephant National Park. The park is home to elephant herds, and on a hot day, hundreds of them can be seen at waterholes. If you’ve had your fill of wildlife in Kruger, you can explore the area’s other attractions. Take a brewery tour, stroll around town, unwind on the sun-kissed beaches, or have some fun at the Boardwalk Casino Complex.
South Itinerary Day 7-9: – Garden Route
The Garden Route is a 300-kilometer stretch of rocky coastline on South Africa’s southwest coast. It’s one of the most picturesque drives in the world, winding through vast wetlands, sandy beaches, charming towns, indigenous forests, idyllic lakes, ancient mountain ranges, vivid lagoons, and sprawling nature reserves. It is best to rent a car to take in the awe-inspiring landscapes along the way. There are numerous places to visit and rest stops along the Garden Route. The preferred towns are Knysna, Oudtshoorn, Tsitsikamma Forest, Struisbaai, George, Plettenberg Bay, Storms River Village, and Jeffery’s Bay. So, depending on what you want to see and do, you should plan your night’s stops. Here are my suggestions for the three stops – one night in each town.
- Knysna – One of the most popular stops on Garden Route, Knysna is a charming holiday town with an interesting selection of accommodations and eateries. You can enjoy a boat cruise to the ‘Heads’, take a walking tour of the Featherbed Nature Reserve, or hike to watch the jaw-dropping views of the picture-perfect beaches and lush forests.
- Oudtshoorn – South Africa’s ostrich capital, Oudtshoorn, is another favorite stop on the Garden Route. The town is known for its ostrich farms where you can learn all about the biggest birds in the world. Don’t miss the Cango Caves. The stunning natural wonder is an elaborate underground labyrinth and is filled with narrow stone passageways, spacious caverns, gigantic stalagmites & stalactites.
- Mossel Bay – The charming harbor town is one of the many spectacular spots on the Garden Route. Mossel Bay boasts multiple hiking trails, historical sites, and miles and miles of windswept beaches. Cape St. Blaize Lighthouse, Botlierskop Game Reserve, and Santos Beach are the star attractions. Mossel Bay signals the end of the Garden Route.
South Itinerary Day 10: – Hermanus
Leave early as the drive from Mossel Valley to Hermanus takes 3.5 hours (308 km). The idyllic coastal town of Hermanus, known as the Whale Capital, is the world’s best land-based location for whale watching. From July to November, you can spot whales in Hermanus from the shore itself. Gearing Point is an ideal spot for viewing southern right whales. To see whales and dolphins up close, you can also reserve a spot on a whale-watching tour. An alternative to whale watching is visiting the Fernkloof Nature Reserve and enjoying amazing views of Walker Bay If you are up for the challenge, you can try Great shark-cage diving in the Gansbaai, a nearby town. Stay the night in Hermanus.
South Itinerary Day 11-14: – Cape Town
Cape Town, our final destination, will take about 1.5 hours to reach. Crowned by the majestic Table Mountain and fringed by the pristine white beaches of the southern Atlantic Ocean, Cape Town is unarguably one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Cape Town, also known as the “Mother City,” is a cosmopolitan city with scenic beauty, interesting historical sites, scrumptious cuisines, and lively nightlife. An incredible city where diverse cultures, landscapes, and cuisines blend naturally and beautifully. Uber is easily accessible. If you’re looking for an affordable way to get around town, the MyCiti Bus is a good option.
From exploring Robben Island, Table Mountain, and Cape Point to visiting nearby wineries, cafes, and shops, Cape Town has plenty to keep you busy for a few days. We only have three days to explore the city. I’ll list some of the most popular activities in Cape Town for you to choose from. You can plan them so that you can visit 2-3 attractions in a single day. On the 14th day, fly back home from Cape Town International Airport.
Top Things to Do in Cape Town
- Take a cable ride to the plateau at the top of The Table Mountain. You can enjoy fantastic panoramic views of Cape Town, Robben Island, Table Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean from the iconic mountain.
- Explore Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. It is an island in Table Bay and a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Plan a day trip to the Cape of Good Hope – a rocky headland on the Atlantic Coast of Cape Peninsula. The picturesque Chapman’s Peak Drive will take you all the way to Cape Point where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. En route, take a stop-over to admire the African penguins at Boulder’s Beach.
- Visit Western Cape Winelands – one of the world-renowned wine regions that produce excellent, distinctive wines. There are three main regions – Stellenbosch, Paarl, and Franschhoek. Pick one of them, take a tour of the different vineyards in that area, and indulge in some wine tasting.
- Head to the colorful neighborhood of Bo Kaap, take some striking pictures, and grab dinner at a Cape Malay restaurant.
- Take a boat ride to admire the Cape Fur seals at Hout Bay. On weekends, local vendors and artisans come to the Bay Harbor Market to sell their products.
- Relax, eat, and shop at the V&A Waterfront – home to South Africa’s oldest harbor. It is a favorite hangout for locals as well as visitors.
- Hit the beaches. Camps Bay is lined with palm trees and is one of the most popular beaches in Cape Town. You can relax on the white sand, enjoy a picnic, visit the tidal pools, and enjoy the scenic views.
Things to know before visiting South Africa
- November to May is the best time to visit South Africa. November–February is the summer month in the Southern Hemisphere, but the temperatures are moderate and pleasant. If you want to avoid the crowds plan your trip from March to May. The winter months (July-November) are good for whale-watching. The drier winter months from May to October are the perfect time for game viewing. It gets cold but you don’t need thermals and stuff. So, overall South Africa is a year-round destination.
- South Africa is quite a safe destination. Just use your common sense, be vigilant, and don’t walk around at night or flash your valuables.
- Renting a car makes life easier in South Africa. Roads are generally in good condition, all signposts are in English, and the traffic is quite organized and manageable. You can drive in South Africa with any license as long as it is printed in English. South Africans drive on the left-hand side of the road.
- Carjacking and petty thefts from cars are quite common in South Africa. Never leave valuables in your car and use the services of ‘car-watchers’ who can be found in the parking spaces. They basically guard your cars informally.
- Uber operates in most places in South Africa. It is cheaper than metered taxis, yet quite reliable and convenient.
- South Africa has a tipping culture and 10-15% is an acceptable amount in most places.
- Zulu is the most common language spoken in South Africa, followed by Xhosa and Afrikaans. Most South Africans are multilingual. English may not be spoken, but it is widely understood in urban areas.
- The South African Rand (sign: R; code: ZAR) is the country’s official currency. One dollar is around 14 ZAR as of now.
- You can safely drink tap water in South Africa.
- Carry insect repellent with you. Many areas within South Africa are malaria risk zones, so consult your doctor and carry the necessary medication.
- Contrary to popular belief, Cape Point is not the southernmost tip of Africa. Cape Agulhas, located around 200km to the southeast, is the most southerly tip of the African continent.