Travel Bloggers Recommend the Best Cities to Visit in South Africa (Besides Cape Town & Johannesburg)

South Africa is already known for being home to the most beautiful city in the world, Cape Town, and the infamous Kruger National Safari Park. Whereas things to do in Cape Town have been covered extensively (also by me), a natural second choice for travelers is often Johannesburg, also referred to as the New York of South Africa. But is South Africa’s biggest city really worth it or as dangerous as people say? Read these two blog entries and decide for yourself – but I definitely recommend it:

Is Johannesburg dangerous for tourists?

11 things to do in Johannesburg

And because a lot of people choose to road trip the Garden Route from Cape Town or Johannesburg, here are the best cities to visit in South Africa, recommended by travel bloggers (list will be updated constantly).

 

DURBAN

recommended by Sabine from The Travelling Chilli | Follow her on Instagram

With seemingly endless golden beaches, year-round tropical weather and a very chilled atmosphere, Durban is one of my favorite cities in South Africa. Durban offers an abundance of activities for its visitors of all budgets, one of the most popular activities being surfing. Thanks to the warm water of the Indian ocean, surfing and swimming is possible all year round. Other interesting activities in Durban include getting an adrenaline rush at the Durban stadium, an immersive cultural experience at the Victoria Street market, a visit to the oldest African Botanic gardens, and some wild water fun at Ushaka marine world.Along with countless other cultures, Durban also has the largest Indian population outside of India. It is this Indian heritage that makes Durban the best place to eat Indian curries, and the ‘bunny chow,’ which was invented in Durban itself.

The best place to stay in Durban is along the beachfront, or the golden mile as it also known. It provides easy access to the various beaches and is in close proximity to some great restaurants and shopping opportunities.

Our favourite place to hang out is around the Ushaka beachfront and the Moyo pier. You can see some of the best sunrises here, and in the evening it’s a great place for sundowners while overlooking the Indian ocean and the silhouetted city skyline.

Travel Bloggers Recommend the Best Cities to Visit in South Africa (Besides Cape Town & Johannesburg) Durban

 

GRAFF-REINET

recommended by Elaine and Dave from Show Them The Globe

Known as the gem of the Karoo, the charming town of Graaff-Reinet is one of our favourite towns in South Africa. It’s the oldest town in the Eastern Cape and the fourth oldest in South Africa and is home to over 200 National Monuments. The atmospheric town is surrounded by the Camdeboo National Park and has retained many of its original features including beautiful Cape Dutch, Victorian and Karoo architecture.

The highlight of Graaff-Reinet is the incredible geological phenomenon known as the Valley of Desolation – the vertical cliffs and the freestanding hundred metre high columns are breathtaking and the sunsets over the Karoo Plains are spectacular. We also loved the Agave Distillery which produces tequila from the agave plant. We stayed at the beautiful Drostdy Hotel, built at the beginning of the 19th Century and often described as one of the finest hotels on the Eastern Cape.

Travel Bloggers Recommend the Best Cities to Visit in South Africa (Besides Cape Town & Johannesburg) Graff Reinet

 

KNYSNA

recommended by Chlio from Your Next Big Trip | Follow her on Facebook

Knysna is a large town on South Africa’s famous Garden Route. Its sleepy, laid back atmosphere make it a perfect overnight stop whether backpacking or driving the Garden Route.

I spent one night at Island Vibe backpackers, conveniently located on the Baz Bus route. My first stop was a night time visit to Knysna Heads. The Heads are a pair of cliffs overlooking Knysna Lagoon and are one of the most famous Garden Route landmarks.

At night it was the perfect place to look at the stars- it was one of the few places in South Africa where I could perfectly make out the Southern Cross.

If you are interested in religion or culture, a visit to the Rasta Village is a must. The village began when a number of Rasta families decided to buy neighbouring plots of land. Now Judah Square has a creche, school and temple. For me it was interesting to learn more about the Rasta faith and to hear about how they have expanded so much that their school now even provides education for non-Rasta children in the area. However, a word of caution- you will not be permitted to enter the temple if you are dressed “inappropriately” (for me this meant workout leggings and a baggy hoodie so bring something to wrap around you if unsure.)

Possibly the most relaxing part of my whole South Africa trip was the morning I spent canoeing on Goukamma River, a nature and marine reserve. I can highly recommend Southern Cape Tours for this – the owner, Renee, was a mine of information on birds, wildlife and South African politics. We spent about 4 hours canoeing down the river, stopping on the banks for a picnic lunch where we even saw an eagle flying overhead! While it wasn’t the most exciting stop on my trip (the bungee at Bloukran’s Bridge takes that prize!), Knysna was the perfect place to move at a slower pace and be immersed in nature.

Travel Bloggers Recommend the Best Cities to Visit in South Africa (Besides Cape Town & Johannesburg) Rasta village Knysna

 

PATERNOSTER

recommended by Erin from Sol Salute | Follow her on Facebook

We saw a lot of South Africa on our month long road trip from Kruger to Cape Town, but Paternoster really stood out. I wanted to end our long trip relaxing on the beach, not in a city, and not waking up at 5 am for safari.

The small fishing village of Paternoster was just what the doctor ordered. It’s located two hours west of Cape Town and was an easy getaway from the Mother City. The village is made up of adorable white stucco cottages with accents in shades of blue, almost like a Greek island. The beach seemed to be endless.

We went for a long walk along the coast and I collected opalescent dark purple shells that were left behind by seagulls who had broken them open looking for dinner. We watched the birds pick them up and take them into the air, dropping them over and over until they finally broke open. Why am I telling you this? Because that’s how relaxing our weekend in Paternoster was. We sunned ourselves on the beach, drank delicious South African wine and watched seagulls.

The restaurants book up in advance so it’s a good idea to reserve your meals ahead of your trip. I recommend reserving a table for dinner at Voorstrandt, right on the beach, listen to the waves and watch the gorgeous sunset. If you want to disconnect, definitely add Paternoster to your South African itinerary.

Travel Bloggers Recommend the Best Cities to Visit in South Africa (Besides Cape Town & Johannesburg) Paternoster

 

STELLENBOSCH

recommended by me, Jenny from Discovering Legacies

I always compare Stellenbosch to Santa Barbara in California because of its college town vibes. A forty-five minute drive from Cape Town, the town founded in 1679 is the “second oldest European settlement in the province, after Cape Town” (Wikipedia). Because of the many colonial style buildings, you may feel like you’re in Europe. Stellenbosch is full of cute and delicious restaurant and bakeries you should check out. The Village museum gives you a glimpse into the life during the early 18th century.

Stellenbosch is also one of the most famous wine regions; therefore, you can’t leave without visiting Meerlust, for example. Try their Rubicon and thank me later. Have lunch or dine at Delaire Graff Estate because the views are unmatched!

Luhambo Tours

 

For additional (instagrammable) beach stops of top cities to visit in South Africa, go to

HERMANUS – for whale watching

Wine Flies Hermanus

Unfortunately, I went towards the end of the season and didn’t see any whales. But I would go to Hermanus again anytime! But definitely have to go mid-whale-season!

 

KLEIN BRAK RIVER – a local’s secret

Travel Bloggers Recommend the Best Cities to Visit in South Africa (Besides Cape Town & Johannesburg) Klein Brak River

 

MOSSELBAAI – lunch by the beach

Travel Bloggers Recommend the Best Cities to Visit in South Africa (Besides Cape Town & Johannesburg) Mosselbaai

 

PORT ELIZABETH – the windy city

The beautiful beach town of Port Elizabeth, also called “The Friendly City,” but while we were there it was more “The Windy City.”

 

WILDERNESS – breathtaking views

Travel Bloggers Recommend the Best Cities to Visit in South Africa (Besides Cape Town & Johannesburg) Wilderness

What’s your favorite, must-see city in South Africa? Is it on this list? If not, let us know!

 

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7 comments

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  • Ok now I think I need to go back to South Africa as I didn’t see half of these places!

  • Ooh, love this round up! I’ve never been to South Africa and only thought to go to Cape Town or Durban, so this is perfect!!

    • Jennifer Schlueter

      Reply

      Thank you 🙂

  • Michelle

    Reply

    I haven’t heard of many of these so thanks for all the great ideas! We haven’t been to South Africa yet but I need to go!

    • Jennifer Schlueter

      Reply

      #1 country I’d recommend to everyone! If you do go, enjoy 🙂

  • I have to admit, if I think of visiting South Africa, I think of wilderness and animals rather than cities. These all look like brilliant places to visit though. 🙂

    • Jennifer Schlueter

      Reply

      Definitely don’t miss out on the smaller cities and getting to know some locals there 🙂

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