Since the end of apartheid in 1994 South Africa has been divided into nine provinces varying considerably in size but each with their own charm and attractions.
The largest province is also the most sparsely populated, but it still packs plenty for the visitor. The desert-like landscape plays host annually to the extraordinary wildflower displays, and the region is famous for its diamonds and dark skies, being home to Kimberley’s Big Hole, and to the Southern Hemisphere’s largest single optical telescope. There are also six National Parks, which offer sights as diverse as daisies, lions, waterfalls & meerkats.
The Highlight: Experience the desert scenery and wildlife of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
Situated on the south-western tip of Africa, this is the jewel in the country’s tourist crown, encompassing as it does magnificent Cape Town, whose attractions include Table Mountain, Robben Island and the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, as well as the stunning Cape wine region – home to picturesque wine estates and the elegant towns of Stellenbosch & Franschhoek. Also within the region are the whalewatching mecca of Hermanus and the scenic Garden Route.
The Highlight: Ride the cableway up Table Mountain and see all of Cape Town
Filled with vast grasslands and endless views stretching from one horizon to the other, the North West province is home to two of the country’s largest Big Five game reserves – the malaria-free Madikwe Game Reserve, and the Pilanesberg National Park. The provincial capital Mafikeng is famous for its role during the Anglo-Boer War and Africa’s largest entertainment playground, Sun City, is also located in the North West.
The Highlight: Experience a world-class safari in the Madikwe Game Reserve
A family-friendly province boasting beautiful beaches, warm and safe seas, spectacular scenery, malaria-free game reserves and a range of outdoor activities. To the west are the big-hitting Garden Route and Addo Elephant National Parks, and the seaside resorts of Jeffreys Bay, St Francis Bay and Port Alfred, whilst to the east is the Wild Coast region – the birthplace of Nelson Mandela and a land of river mouths, unspoilt beaches and rocky outcrops.
The Highlight: Hike Tsitsikamma’s famous 5-day Otter Trail
Predominantly a farming province, this is a land of endless plains and big skies. The south is semi-desert, but the eastern area offers spectacular vistas and a climate which ranges from hot dry summers to snowy winters. The Golden Gate Highlands is an impressive National Park, the town of Bloemfontein has a strong and fascinating history tied to the Boer War, and close to the Lesotho border is the picturesque artist’s haven of Clarens.
The Highlight: Search Claren’s galleries for a unique piece of Free State art
The commercial heart of the country, Gauteng contains two of the major cities - the administrative capital of Pretoria, home to the Union Buildings and the imposing Voortrekker Monument, and cosmopolitan Johannesburg, which has amongst its highlights Gold Reef City and the critically acclaimed Apartheid Museum. The township of Soweto, with the Hector Pieterson Museum and the former neighbouring homes of Nelson Mandela & Desmond Tutu, is also a must-see.
The Highlight: Understand South Africa’s modern history with a tour of Soweto
Named after the mighty river that flows along its border, the northernmost province is famed for its waterfalls, trout-filled rivers, forests and wildlife. The northern section of the Kruger National Park is located here, as is the Waterberg, home to numerous game reserves. The attractive regional capital Polokwane is surrounded by cattle ranches and farms, whilst Tzaneen is often referred to as the country’s fruit basket.
The Highlight: Spot the Big Five in the world-famous Kruger National Park
Meaning ‘the place where the sun rises’, Mpumalanga is home to the large southern section of the Kruger National Park and to many private game reserves, but away from the wildlife the province is well known for its breathtaking beauty and for the Panorama Route and the spectacular Blyde River Canyon. God’s Window, Bourke’s Luck Potholes and the gold-mining town of Pilgrim’s Rest are all popular sights.
The Highlight: Take a break from safari and explore the pretty Panorama Route
Affectionately referred to as KZN, this subtropical province is a unique blend of sophistication & cultural diversity, and plays host to two breathtaking World Heritage sites – the mountainous uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, and the iSimangaliso (Greater St Lucia) Wetland Park, as well as South Africa’s oldest proclaimed game reserve; Hluhluwe-Imfolozi. The historic Battlefields, Big Five game reserves, rich Zulu and timeless Indian cultures, warm climate and ocean, and endless beaches make it an irresistible destination.
The Highlight: Be enthralled at the Rorke’s Drift Battlefield
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