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SA travel destinations

Top 10 hidden holiday destinations South Africa

After a month of heavy topics ranging from nationalisation of mines in South Africa to the cabinet reshuffle that never was, Wonkie thought it would be great to cover a more fun topic – holidays in South Africa!

Today’s article is by guest author Tania, from who has kindly agreed to share her list of top off-the-beaten path travel destinations in South Africa.

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South Africa is a vast and varied landscape with beautiful accommodation and amazing places to visit. But instead of telling you about places you probably already know about I thought we could dive into a few places that are slightly off the beaten track, haven’t been given favourite spot status yet but are so fantastic they need to be shared. So, in no particular order here they are:

1. Marakele National Park, Limpopo
When people think of South Africa they often think of the Kruger National Park, however, there are a few other game reserves that are as magnificent and special. One such place is the Marakele National Park in Limpopo. One goes to a national park to see animals in their natural habitat and there is no shortage of those here. This is a wonderful alternative to the Kruger National Park and you might just catch a glimpse of the elusive leopard.

2. The Swartberg Pass, Little Karoo
27km long and considered to be one of the finest passes in the world, be prepared for a zigzagging journey that will offer you the most glorious views. One way for you to access it is through the Knysna Forest and as my friend describes the journey you will be “spat out in Prince Albert”. Be prepared however, the road is untarred and you do need to be careful or your car might not be very forgiving.

3. Gariep Dam, Free State
Only 30 kilometres east of Colesberg this beautiful manmade lake is over 24 kilometres wide and 100 kilometres long. A multitude of popular water sports and boating activities take place here and it is an ideal stop over if you’re driving the journey from Cape Town to Johannesburg. I would suggest spending more than one night here as you will find more than your average share to keep you busy all day. Even if your idea of being busy is sitting with a box of tackle and your fishing rod, this is the spot to be…

4. Rosendal, Free State
Still in the Free State, Rosendal is fast becoming a popular stop over and attracts visitors with its rustic charm. It might not seem like much upon arrival but there are a number of special places that will capture your heart and have you coming back time and again to this little dorp. With a theatre, a few art galleries, restaurants and Die Ou Handelhuis, this little town is certainly making a name for itself and deserves a stop-over whether it be for lunch or for an overnight stay. You will be delighted by its charm!

Vanrhynsdorp photo5. Vanrhynsdorp, Western Cape
300km north of Cape Town on the N7 this is the perfect base to explore the Namaqualand flower region. If you’ve got a green thumb, then a visit to the Kokerboom nursery is a must as it has the largest variety of indigenous succulents in the country. Vanrhynsdorp is a delightful town to visit to get a little bit of history and plant knowledge and well worth a bit of your time.

6. Nature’s Valley, Garden Route
This small town is approximately 30 kilometres from the popular tourist destination of Plettenberg Bay. It is home to long stretches of white beach and is, I think, the most beautiful part of this coastline. This area is seemingly untouched – there are no shopping malls or the usual city conveniences so you will immerse yourself in nature and the gorgeous surroundings. After a few nights here you will learn something about yourself and begin to appreciate life with a new spring in your step.

7. Amatola Hiking Trail, Eastern Cape
If hiking is your thing, then the Amatola hiking trail is without a doubt something you should put on your to do list. The trail begins close to King Williams Town and takes you all the way to one of my favourite places, Hogsback. This is a six day hike and just over 100 kilometres, but with a stunning forest and plenty of waterfalls and mountain pools you will enjoy yourself tremendously. I’d recommend staying a few nights in the town of Hogsback at the end of your journey.

Velddrif photo8. Velddrif, Western Cape
I am a huge fan of the smaller towns on the West Coast that are not as well known, but are easily as lovely as the more popular ones. Velddrif, which is just a bit further than Langebaan is very small and you may just drive right through it if you blink! There is a laid back atmosphere that is synonymous with holiday towns making this an ideal breakaway from the city. If you are on the West Coast, you are sure to find a place that resonates with your heart and that will become a firm favourite holiday destination.

There is something to be discovered and enjoyed around each corner in South Africa and you should explore every part of it. Don’t put it off until tomorrow or next year – the time to appreciate our country is now!

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That leaves numbers 9 and 10 for Wonkie readers to suggest – please do leave your thoughts on the best travel destinations in South Africa in the comments section below!

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  1. Featuring favourite destinations such as Kruger National Park and Pilanesburg Game Reserve.

  2. Shaun Folkard says

    Forever resorts Byde River and Golden Gate near Clarens in the Free State get my vote as the top two destinations in South Africa.

  3. Barkly East and Rhodes.

  4. Umngazi River Bungalows near Port St Johns

  5. pietpompies says

    What about the Eastern Cape Wild Coast – unsurpassed for beauty !!!!

  6. The Swartberg pass is one of the most scenic drives in SA. It’s become a legend, as
    nearly everyone knows someone who was killed on that pass. We were on a holiday
    trip down from Gauteng to Cape Town and decided to take a chance on the pass .
    The entrance at Prince Albert is very scenically framed and enticing. It was very
    picturesque on the left as we travelled on the up journey – which safer providing one drives
    slowly, keeps eyes on the road ahead and stays on the left.

    Our greatest concern being, that someone on the way down admiring the scenery may not see us.
    Being a narrow gravel road, vehicles travelling downward at speed, even at moderate speeds,
    would find it very hard to prevent their vehicles from skidding off the road when braking.
    That in my opinion, is probably the greatest cause of accidents on that pass. Most of the bends are
    blind. Imagine what a nightmare it would be when it rains.

    While travelling upwards, we kept a steady slow speed to the very left of the road, and made sure we
    never stopped at any point. Being right on the left verge of the road, one needs to be careful when
    pulling away to prevent the wheels from spinning.

    We had mixed feelings when pulled over into the parking area at the top.
    Much of the joy was lost due to apprehension and we couldn’t really enjoy the scenery.
    On the other hand it felt like a victory. “We survived the Swartberg Pass and lived to tell the tale.”
    No thanks, never again – even if we were much younger. It’s a once in a lifetime experience
    where one has the opportunity to say, “Been there – done that.”

  7. seeing that i am from the Beautiful Natural Eastern Cape,i will have to be biased here.Yes,Hogsback is worth a hundred visits,try it you will never be disappointed by it’s natural beauty.

  8. Anywhere on the “Wild Coast” – Mkambati Reserve, Umtentu Estuary, etc. and anywhere in the “Isimangaliso Wetland Park” in northern KZN – Mabibi, Bhanga Nek, Kosi Bay… too beautiful – your list was obviously compile by someone who prefers holidaying in the Cape.

  9. Molopo Game Reserve about 250KM North West off Vryburg in the North West Province and The TAUNG SKULL in Buxton about 15 KM West of TAUNG in the North West Province

  10. I love all those suggestions and if I were to add to it I would add anywhere on the Wild Coast, little towns like McGregor in the Cape and the Hluhluwe Imfolizi Reserve or Mkuze in KZN. Shew … there are so many, aren’t we lucky to live in South Africa?

  11. Joseph Chinotimba says

    [Deleted by moderators]

  12. Stop writing articles on our natural resources! They are not yours! You want to steal our resources! Stop it right now! This is Africa for Africans, people of 100% African origin! 100% Empowerment! Forward with Black Indigenisation!

  13. Ahh… good to see that you cleared that one up Joseph. Now if you would just give back the wheel and every other useful development / invention since. You are quite capable of wiping out the game, denuding the forests & savannas, and never even knowing what natural resources lie beneath the surface on your “own” (by your own narrow “racist” black African definition). The fact that you are Zimbabwean and support his royal highness, ruler for life (voted out but kept in by his African sycophants) is all the more laughable. Funny how your esteemed leader has lead your country to prosperity, the envy of the world (1st and 3rd)… yes we know it is all lies, an imperialist plot, the Bbbrrittishh colonialists…. (this all said whilst in full military regalia, with his Rolls waiting for him and his royal guard dressed just like the colonial forces of his suppressors). Oh, the irony of it all… there are none so blind than those who won’t see… or are too lazy / stupid / greedy to work and earn things the hard way (by WORKING for them, the way the rest of the world does..). Thankfully, many many of my African brothers and sisters (of all hues and pigments), don’t share your racist, bigoted views…. do us all a favor – you and your troglodyte brethren; get drunk with power, self-importance and Johnnie Walker, then beat each other with sticks… don’t stop until no one is left standing..

  14. South Africa’s best kept secret – Bosbokstrand.

  15. Night Lights Wholesale says

    Uncrowded crags, an amazing variety of good rock and endless sunny days make South Africa and ideal adventure climbing destination…

  16. Well said Phred.
    Seems Joseph’s post killed the atmosphere of this forum. It filled at least me, with
    dejection at the way civilisation has deteriorated during the past 50 years,
    worsening during the past decade. Most people are too young to note the change.

    I wince whenever I hear the word ‘culture’ these days. Like all other things, it’s become based on
    racism. Culture is no longer a matter of refinement, character, charisma, personality and
    the improvement and furthering of those qualities.

    It’s doubtful these days that many children know any nursery rhymes or play the children’s games
    of yesteryear. It’s very sad to watch the world growing more towards politics and racial hatred.
    During my young days in Port Elizabeth, children of all races played together in the streets.
    Racism did exist, as it always has during past centuries, but it was never this bad.

  17. cool

  18. Joseph Chinotimba

    These natural resources are not yours either! if they do belong to somebody, they belong to the white man who first saw the potential and developed and nurrished it. If it was not for the presence of the white man you hate with such passion for being your supperior intelectually, there would be nothing to even mention like is the case with the rest of africa.

    The most important thing I noticed from you is that you are a typical african idiot who can’t even see that those who write articles about your “natural resources” promote them to your advantage.

    It’s because of people like you that we have a zimbabwe where there once was a Rhodesia and it will be because of people like you that we will see the same here when South Africa turns into mzanzi or azania within the next ten years!

    Tania, from

    Don’t forget to mention the fact that there is a black murderer or rapist behind every tree at all these top ten destinations! Maybe that will get the brave at heart to come here just to see if they can survive a trip to mzanzi!

  19. Praise to you Ol’ Pliny for mentioning the fact that racism is now worse than what it ever was! ( you are not exactly following eglishspeaker tradition by making such a statement openly! To stick to englishspeaker tradition, you should have called this deklerk-hell-hole “HEAVEN” ) By speaking the truth about the past, you honnor Hendrik French Verwoerd ( the gariep dam’s real name is the Hendrik Verwoerd dam ) who knew this would happen UNLESS you make the distance between black and white so wide that discrimination no longer exist.

    Those who have more than just one braincell, please take note that things will just get worse because the ANC can’t get anything right the first time they TRY it, nor the second and third and fourth try….and those who are able to see/plan ahead will just look down on the gambling “triers” more and more as time goes by – Verwoerd was a genius and makes it more and more clear every day! Thanks Wonkie! 😉

  20. Aahh dirk… just when I was feeling a tad remorseful for being slightly “unChristian” in my reply to Joseph (whose original disgusting post was removed by the moderator) you come on with your white supremacist twaddle and make me feel clean again. Where have you been lad? soaking your “just one braincell” in witblitz for a few weeks? Marching ’round in khaki kortbroek whilst savoring the remains of the previous evening’s binge, the remnants of which are caught in your snor…

  21. Johnna Selvage says

    Love your site man keep up the good work

  22. Etienne Jacobs says

    I personally sugest Sondela Game farm in Warmbad better known as Bella Bella.
    With the private chalets and quite atmosphere and the animals roaming arround not affraid of us and getting close enough for the kiddies to touch them and pet them. They also have a animal rescue centre, quad bike rides, swimming pools, cow milking etc,etc. Nice outdoor restaurant, very nice bar, a playground for the kids. It is a definate must see and must go for a very, very relaxing getaway!

  23. Goa Holidays says

    looks nice. South African holiday destinations are worth visiting.


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