This guide will show you all the highlights from the beaches to the bush of South Africa. 2 Weeks or just under is the perfect amount of time to visit and explore the varied landscape of this beautiful destination.
South Africa Itinerary 2 Weeks or Less
South Africa is one of my favorite places to travel to and I am confident it will quickly become yours. Before I visited this amazing destination, to be wrong about everything I thought South Africa was going to be is an understatement. It is no surprise to me now why Cape Town was voted the best city in the world, and is one of the most beautiful cities on the continent of Africa. Much like my hometown of LA, the auspicious mountains, breath-taking beaches, and the bustling, cosmopolitan city life offer a little something for everyone. To top it off, South Africa is extremely affordable for Western travelers making it an ideal destination to have a luxury experience for a standard cost. This flexible 2 week South Africa Itinerary can also be squeezed down to 10 days if time is limited. In just two weeks or less, you will be able to see all the best of what South Africa has to offer.
4 – 6 Days Cape Town Itinerary
Begin your trip in the capital of South Africa and settle in to the daily life of South African city living. There is so much to see and do in Cape Town from brilliant hikes and sandy beaches to world-class shopping, dining, and entertainment. Cape Town is one of South Africa’s best and most bustling cities, and should definitely not be missed.
Top things to do in Cape Town
Hike Lion’s Head – Lion’s Head is one of Cape Towns most monumental natural landmarks and most popular hike. To fully enjoy Lion’s Head’s most impressive views, start the hike at 4:00 or 5:00AM to catch the sunrise at the top. (Don’t forget a flash light because it will be dark when you start!) This hike is moderately challenging with areas of light climbing assisted by chains/ladders. The views at the top are worth the challenge as the sun rises over the city where vast oceans meet steep mountains. It is quite literally, and also figuratively, breath-taking!
Take the cable car to the top of Table Mountain: As Cape Town’s other most prominent landmark, Table Mountain’s peak can either be reached by cable car, or by hiking. Hiking Table Mountain is extremely challenging and not for the faint of heart. No matter which way you choose to go up, the views at the top are inconceivably beautiful.
Visit Cape Point: Cape Point is the area in which the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. It is the tip of the peninsula found at Table Mountain National Park. Beautiful sceneries are found along the picturesque walking paths and a must for its natural beauty.
Paraglide off of Signal Hill: This exhilarating activity should not be missed. Jumping off in tandem with an experienced pilot, you’ll be able to paraglide over the ocean and admire Cape Town’s vast beauty from high above. Even if not paragliding, the views from Signal Hill are fantastic and is a great place to enjoy a picnic or catch the sunset.
Explore Hout Bay: This picturesque fishing village is a perfect place to explore and buy souvenirs at the craft market that takes place every Sunday. Stop for a fish & chips lunch at Fish on the Rocks before heading to Chapman’s Peak.
Drive Chapman’s Peak: The iconic Chapman’s Peak drive is an iconic coastal road known to be one of the most beautiful in the world. There are various lookout points to stop and admire with astonishing sea-side views that give California’s Pacific Coast Highway a run for its money. The above mentioned Hout Bay is the perfect starting point to access the Chapman’s Peak drive.
Hit the beach: Cape Town has some of the most beautiful white sandy beaches that are home to a very prominent surf culture. The top 4 recommended beaches in Cape Town are:
Clifton is the most luxurious beach area in Cape Town and is known to have the most beautiful beaches loved for their calm waters and sandy coves. Clifton is also a great area to grab a cocktail or dinner at one of the many seaside venues and witness the beautiful Cape Town sunsets.
Bloubergstrand Beach offers picture-perfect views of Table Mountain and lots of good restaurants and shops.
Boulder’s Beach Penguin Colony- This beach in Simons Town is unofficially known as “Penguin Beach.” Here you will share the beach with warm-weathered penguins as they swim and frolic in the ocean. This beach is one of South Africa’s most unique treasures.
Muizenberg Beach is the famously Instagrammable beach best recognized by the colorful little houses on the sand. This beach is also a surfer’s paradise.
*Note: Boulder's Beach and Muizenberg Beach are a good 45 minutes outside of Cape Town. If you wish, you can visit these beaches when you begin the garden route.
Go Shark Cage Diving: Dive with Great White Sharks via a boat tour. Dive in a cage as sharks are fed around you for an exhilarating experience. The company recommended is ethically responsible (not all cage diving companies are!)
Visit Bo-Kaap: Explore the colorful, Central Cape neighborhood of Bo-Kaap and immerse in the cultural history of the township. It is a great place to take Instagram photos, however is best appreciated via a guided walking tour.
Where to stay in Cape Town:
The iconic Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel is a luxury favorite in Cape Town. Even if not staying there, it is highly recommended to book a table for high tea!
The Westin Cape Town is a good affordable luxury option and also an excellent choice as the hotel is in a walkable area, and has one of the most stunning spas and indoor infinity pools over-looking the Victoria & Alfred (V&A) waterfront.
For the most luxurious of all, check out Ellerman House. With a jaw-dropping cliffside location, it is the perfect accommodation for a South Africa honeymoon.
3 – 4 Days on the Garden Route Itinerary and Stellenbosch Wine Route
Continue your trip by renting a car to spend a few days on the Garden Route: a stretch of geography that encompasses multiple sleepy beach towns alternating with lagoons, mountains, lakes, and forests. The Garden Route begins in Cape Town’s Hermanus, and ends at Storms River. Popular accommodations along the Garden Route are guest houses, ranging from simple bed and breakfasts to ultra luxurious guest homes with 5-star service. Highlights along the Garden Route are the following (in order of the drive):
*Optional* Before hitting the Garden Route, consider making the 45 minute drive to Stellenbosch for a day of wine tasting along South Africa’s famous grape-lined wine route. Highly recommended if you’re on your honeymoon, a romantic trip, or are simply a wine lover!
Where to stay in Stellenbosch:
Delaire Graff Estate: $$$$
Majeka House: $$$
1 hour drive ➝
Hermanus – a beautiful coastal town where the Garden Route begins with seaside views to stop for whale watching and lunch, or breakfast before the long drive.
3.5 hour drive ➝
45 minutes from Mossel Bay is the town of Wilderness. Here you will find “The Map of Africa” which is a viewpoint where water from the river has formed a piece of land shaped exactly like the continent of Africa on the map. Here you will also get an incredible view overlooking the Kaaimans River Basin. The mix of mountains, forest and river make Wilderness a spectacular spot on the Garden Route.
Where to stay in Wilderness / Mossel Bay:
~ 35 minutes – 1 hour drive depending on location ➝
Knysna – A beautiful town surrounded by a lagoon, with this incredible guest house that is the perfect place to break up your garden route trip. Knysna is ideally located in the middle of the Garden Route making it the perfect base for day trips.
Where to stay in Kynsna:
Head Over Hills: $$$
Villa Afrikana: $$$
Villa Paradisa: $$
30 minute drive ➝
Plettenberg Bay – a quaint beach town home to Bloukrans Bridge – which offers the highest bridge bungee jump in the world!
45 minute drive ➝
Storms River – The most breathtakingly picturesque kayak excursion from the river, through bat caves, and into the ocean.
↔ 1 hour drive back to Knysna to sleep (recommended) or straight to George airport to fly to Kruger National Park.
3 – 4 days in Kruger National Park for a Safari
The last leg of the trip involves swapping the beautiful beaches for savannah bushes. A short flight from the George Airport to Kruger will transport you to the primal Africa you’ve always dreamed of. There are many options for how to have your safari ranging from camping or staying in a basic lodge and self-driving, to staying at a luxury lodge on a private game reserve with guided safaris. Whatever you choose, the safari may very well be the highlight of your trip.
Where to Stay for the Best Luxury Safari South Africa
For the ultimate luxury safari experience, I highly recommend staying at Kapama, one of the areas most prestigious and famous luxury safari lodges. The properties at Kapama are all surrounded by wildlife and from the rooms, it is not uncommon to spot giraffe, impala, or other wild animals as close as five feet away. Kapama has several options for luxury lodging to fit all budgets and styles. They are:
Kapama Karula: Most luxurious villas. Perfect for honeymooners – $$$$
Buffalo Camp: Eco-luxury tents. Great for nature-lovers – $$$
Kapama Southern Camp: The absolute best lodge for families – $$$
Kapama River Lodge: Biggest and most social lodge. Excellent for young couples / groups of friends. $$$
During your time at Kapama, your highly knowledgeable guides will take you on two, three-hour safaris a day—one at sunrise and another at sunset. During my time there, each time we went out in our open-top jeep we witnessed new animals in their natural habitat, and were lucky enough to spot all of “the big 5” fairly quickly (rhino, hippo, lion, cheetah, and elephant).
Back at the lodge, the dining, spa, and activities were all outstanding. Imagine swimming in a pool in the middle of the bush watching a pack of rhinos bathe not too far in the distance. And with being so far away from the aritifical city lights, you will get to witness the most epic view of the entire Milky Way galaxy at night. The entire experience is nothing short of magical, and should absolutely be a priority on your South Africa trip.
Note: After your safari, you will likely fly back home out of Johannesburg or possibly Cape Town. Many travelers ask if they should spend time in Johannesburg or if it's worth the visit, and in my opinion, I do not recommend spending time there. Safety is more of a concern in Jo-burg and options to tour and sightsee are limited.
The beauty of South Africa, the people, the animals, the beaches, the mountains, and the savannas all had me wondering why and how I could ever question coming here in the first place. What once was a destination not particularly high on my bucket list made for my fondest memories, and definitely one of my all-time favorite trips. For me South Africa was paradise in every sense of the word; so take a leap of faith and explore somewhere you wouldn’t imagine yourself going, and you may end up finding your own personal paradise, too.