Exploring South Africa’s Provinces
Each of South Africa’s provinces has something fascinating to offer visitors. For
international and local travellers alike, the South African landscape presents breathtaking
scenery, rich culture and a host of beautiful attractions.
Below, discover some of the highlights of each of South Africa’s provinces. This guide will
help you to plan your ideal South African holiday, and to choose your preferred
accommodation venues in South Africa.
South Africa Travel Highlights
• Western Cape
The Western Cape is best known for the scenic grandeur and laid-back ambience of its
capital city, Cape Town. While the ‘Mother City’, with its perfect beaches, Mediterranean
climate, vineyards and vibrant lifestyle should not be missed during your visit to South
Africa, the Western Cape is home to countless other hidden jewels.
No trip to South Africa is complete without a journey
to the Southern-most point of the African continent.
While you won’t find the glitzy sophisticated Western
Cape accommodation you’d find in Cape Town, the
town offers convenient self-catering chalets, small
hotels and bed and breakfasts.
The desolate, haunting landscapes of the Cape
Agulhas give no hint of the fact that this area is a
haven for fisherman - the nutrient-rich waters off the
Southern tip of Africa provide some of the best
fishing opportunities in the country.
If you’re looking for an attractive coastal village in closer proximity to Cape Town,
Hermanus is an ideal destination. Located within a two-hour drive of Cape Town,
Hermanus offers Western Cape accommodation ranging from 3-star lodges to sumptuous
Hermanus is best known for its whale-watching opportunities. A ‘whale crier’ alerts the
town when whales come into sight, and visitors to the town can either view the whales
from chartered boats or enjoy excellent views of these
animals from atop the cliffs on which the town is built.
The Karoo is an arid semi-desert that that lies to the
north of Cape Town. The area is the home to a number
of well kept travel secrets, with its quaint desert towns, scenic mountain passes and vast
expanses of open wilderness.
A great destination in the Karoo is the town of Oudtshoorn. Once the hub of the ostrich-
feather industry, this town lies in the foothills of the majestic Swartberg Mountains,
offers first rate Western Cape accommodation. Oudtshoorn also offers easy access to
game parks, the famous Cango Caves and numerous ostrich farms.
• The Garden Route
If you have time on your hands, avoid simply flying into the Eastern Cape. Instead give
yourself the chance to explore the magical Garden Route, a national road that leads from
the popular Western Cape into the Eastern Cape.
Along the Garden Route you’ll find Eastern Cape accommodation to suit all tastes, from
sophisticated 5 Star hotels to homely bed & breakfast lodges run by friendly locals. The
route is a scenic experience in its own right, opening unending vistas of natural beauty.
The Eden District
The aptly named Eden District is home to some of South Africa’s most beautiful coastal
reserves and tourist destinations. The Eden District hugs the Eastern seaboard of the
Western Cape, and can be easily access by road via the N2 – South Africa’s famous
Only a road trip down the Garden Route can unlock the numerous wonders that this area
has to offer. Highlights include the town of Knysna, with its world-class seafood and
lagoon, and the Wilderness Nature Reserve, with its spectacular coastal scenery and
• Eastern Cape
The Eastern Cape is home to abundant scenic and natural beauty, ranging from miles of
unspoilt white sand beaches to rugged untamed wilderness, where the legendary Big
Five roam free.
Here are just a few places you must visit exploring the Eastern Cape:
The ‘Friendly City’ is an ideal destination if you’re looking to enjoy a relaxed beach
holiday away from the crowds that plague Cape Town and Durban during the tourist
season. Port Elizabeth boasts some of the
finest beaches in the country, as well as
warm sea temperatures.
Walk the Donkin Heritage Trail to take in
the history and culture of this South
African city, or spend relaxed afternoons at
the trendy Boardwalk waterfront complex.
Port Elizabeth stands out amongst the
Eastern Cape accommodation experiences, with superb, but affordable beachfront
Addo Elephant Park
If it’s more rugged terrain you’re after then you can head to the Addo Elephant National
Park. This elephant sanctuary is situated within a short drive of Port Elizabeth, and is the
home to over 400 majestic African elephants.
You needn’t limit your visit to the Addo Elephant Park to a day trip. Eastern Cape
accommodation facilities include a central camp which overlooks a water hole and offers
numerous facilities, as well as a selection of additional bush camps dotted around the
The southern foothills of the Drakensberg Mountain Range extend into the Eastern Cape
region, giving visitors to this province an opportunity to explore an untouched paradise.
Icy mountain streams meander through valleys where you’ll find hidden bushman
paintings and untouched natural splendour.
The Southern Drakensberg offers a wide variety of tourist activities, ranging from trout
fishing in crystalline mountain lakes, to hikes and trips to the Rhodes hamlet, a historic
town located beneath the highest peak in the Eastern Cape. You can even visit South
Africa’s only ski resort, Tiffendell, located a short drive from the Rhodes hamlet.
• Northern Cape
The Northern Cape is an ideal destination if you wish to escape the tourist crowds while
travelling around South Africa. As the country’s least populated area, the Northern Cape
offers travellers the opportunity to reflect and slow down, while sampling some of the
region’s quaint and fascinating tourist attractions. A host of Northern Cape
accommodation options are within easy reach of its leading attractions.
The Namaqualand Daisies
The Namaqualand is located within close proximity to the
urban metropolis of Cape Town, and is one of the most
accessible attractions in the Northern Cape. Usually a dry
and desolate landscape, the area is renowned for the
displays it puts on during spring, when yellow and orange
flowers carpet the Namaqualand terrain.
The Namaqualand daisies are only part of the appeal of this
area. Like much of the Northern Cape accommodation on
offer, places of rest in the Namaqualand are rustic but
friendly, offering one the opportunity to reflect on one’s place in the universe amidst the
seemingly endless expanses of space and wilderness.
The Kimberley Big Hole
Kimberley is the capital of the Northern Cape, and a stopping point on the N12 highway
from Cape Town to Johannesburg. While this sleepy urban centre may lack aesthetic
appeal, it conceals one of South Africa’s most famous man-made landmarks.
The Big Hole lies in the middle of Kimberley. This abandoned diamond mine is the second
largest hand-dug hole on the planet, and was once relentlessly probed for diamonds by
up to 50,000 diamond miners at a time. Almost half a kilometre wide, and quarter of a
kilometre deep, the Great Hole’s bottom is now covered in brackish water.
The Augrabies Falls
One of South Africa’s biggest rivers winds through the desolate landscape of the
Northern Cape. The Orange River connects with several tributaries in this province,
offering tourists the opportunity to explore the river on chartered tours.
The Augrabies Falls is one of the Orange River’s most famous features. Located in the
Northern Cape, the waterfall drains the Orange River over a 60-meter rock ledge,
creating a thunderous noise and casting spray and mist hundreds of meters up into the
The Kalahari Gemsbok National Park
Like many of South Africa’s provinces, the Northern Cape is home to a national park –
the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park. The park lies on the border of South Africa and
Botswana, with much of its area located within the borders of South Africa’s neighbour.
Despite its arid, desolate terrain, the Kalahari Gemsbok Park is home to hundreds of
species of wildlife, and the absence of trees makes for excellent game-viewing
opportunities. As is the case with other areas in the Northern Cape, accommodation is
rustic, with visitors housed in a selection of functional but atmospheric rest camps.
• Kwa-Zulu Natal
Located on the Eastern seaboard of South Africa, Kwa-Zulu Natal is one of South Africa’s
most popular holiday playgrounds. The mild climate, lush vegetation, warm seas and
perfect beaches make this an ideal destination for vacations during South Africa’s winter
The City of Durban is an ideal place to begin
exploring the Kwa-Zulu Natal province. This
buzzing metropolis is separated from the warm
waters of the Indian Ocean by golden sand
beaches fringed with palm-trees, and offers and
assortment of interesting attractions.
These include the Ushaka Marine Park, South
Africa’s largest marine theme park and
aquarium, the Umgeni River Bird Park and the
Natal Botanical Gardens. If you’re looking for
Kwa-Zulu accommodation in Durban, look no further than the luxurious hotels that line
the city’s famous ‘Golden Mile’.
The Umhlanga Coast offers some of the finest Kwa-Zulu Natal accommodation options
for travellers looking for a base from which to explore the province. Located a short drive
North of Durban, this area is best known for its long, clean beaches and luxurious beach-
Relaxation is the name of the game on the Umhlanga coastline. Once you’ve booked
your Umhlanga hotel accommodation, you can amble down the famous O’Connor
Boulevard that stretches from the Durban View Park to the Breakers Resort, or simply
find a secluded spot on a beach to soak up the rays of the South African sun, and swim
in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.
The Natal Drakensberg
The Kwa-Zulu Natal province has more to offer than some of the country’s finest
beaches. Head inland and you’ll soon find yourself standing in the foothills of South
Africa’s most majestic mountain range – the Drakensberg.
The Drakensberg is one of South Africa’s premier hiking destinations. Visitors willing to
ascend the Drakensberg’s lofty peaks are greeted with incredible views, waterfalls that
plunge into icy mountain pools, and the revitalizing effects of this area’s crisp, clean air.
Once you’ve explored the mountainous terrain of the Drakensberg you may want to
indulge your senses in the pastoral beauty of the Natal Midlands. Venture along the
‘Midlands Meander’ sampling its excellent restaurants and first class Kwa-Zulu Natal
accommodation options as you head back towards the coast.
While in the Natal Midlands, make sure not to miss out on a visit to the area’s ‘capital’ of
Pietermaritzburg. Best seen in spring, when the area’s myriad trees are in blossom, this
historic city is bursting with colonial charm, and is often described as the ‘Last outpost of
the British Empire’.
South Africa’s largest city is the pulsating heart of the
African economy. The region’s up- market urban areas
offer superb Gauteng accommodation options,
providing visitors with a comfortable base from which
to explore the region’s vibrant cityscapes.
Gold Reef City
If you want to get a feel for the early history of
Johannesburg whilst simultaneously enjoying all the
features of a world class theme-park, look no further than the Gold Reef City. Built
around a mine, and featuring a number of historic buildings, Gold Reef City makes an
ideal day trip for visitors to Gauteng.
The Gold Reef City offers a number of theme park rides designed to get your adrenalin
flowing. However, it is the heritage of this site that makes it fascinating, and you can
explore this by taking a trip into the bowels of a gold mine, watching traditional gumboot
dances or wandering through the perfectly preserved miner’s homes that evoke
Gauteng’s early history.
The Sterkfontein Caves are located within a short distance of Gauteng, and are famed as
the source of a number of important archaeological discoveries, including some of the
most ancient hominid remains on the planet.
This World Heritage Site is a working excavation, with paleo-anthropologists continuing
to delve into the hidden mysteries of this limestone cave complex. Scientists consider
this site to be the ‘Cradle of Mankind’, making it a must-see destination for any trip to
If your Gauteng accommodation is located within the city of Johannesburg, and you
don’t have time to venture beyond the city limits to explore a game reserve, you won’t
want to miss out on the Johannesburg Zoo.
Set in the leafy suburb of Parktown, the Johannesburg zoo features a vast selection of
large, natural enclosures featuring a selection of Africa’s most famous reptile and
mammal species. The zoo has a peaceful feel, and makes for a relaxing but fascinating
Politics is central to South African society, and a visit to Constitution is in order once you
have settled into your Gauteng accommodation. This venue is home to the South African
constitutional court, and is built on the infamous Old Fort Prison Complex that once
detained the likes of Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi.
Constitution Hill is an ideal destination for Gauteng travellers wishing to learn more
about South Africa’s turbulent political history. The complex is regarded as a ‘living
museum’ that includes exhibits on the history of the Old Fort Prison as well as South
Africa’s struggle for freedom.
The northernmost reaches of South Africa provide
unending vistas of unspoiled African bush.
Mpumalanga Province, which translates as ‘the
place where the sun rises’, stretches from the
borders of Mozambique in the north, down to the
northernmost reaches of Kwazulu-Natal.
The area is best known for its game-viewing
opportunities and spectacular scenery, which
The Kruger National Park
One of the world’s largest game reserves, the Kruger National Park straddles the
Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces. The southern region of the park lies in the north of
the Mpumalanga province, and features both terrain and species unique to this area of
Many visitors to the Kruger National Park choose to enter the reserve in Mpumalanga,
traverse the park by car, and then depart near the Limpopo town of Phalaborwa.
Numerous Mpumalanga accommodation options are available in the park, including
budget rest camps and more pricey private lodges.
One of South Africa’s most famous cave complexes lies within the borders of the
Mpumalanga Province. These caves are the oldest known caves on the planet, and once
provided shelter to the prehistoric tribes that roamed the area.
Once a month the managers of the Sudwala Caves offer a 5-hour-long ‘Crystal Tour’
which culminates in a magnificent crystal chamber. However, casual visitors can explore
several of the cave’s enormous chambers during a typical day visit, and one chamber is
even used to host musical concerts.
The Blyde River Canyon
The Blyde River Canyon ranks amongst South
Africa’s most magnificent natural spectacles.
Carved out of the hills of Mpumalanga by the
Blyde Rivier, this canyon harbours a number of
attractions, including the majestic Tula Waterfall
and the famous Bourke’s Luck Potholes.
As one of the region’s most prominent tourist
destinations, the Blyde River Canyon offers
excellent tourist infrastructure. This includes
numerous Mpumalanga accommodation options
catering to all budgets, as well as a variety of guided tours to the various natural
features around the canyon.
If you’re looking for a window into South Africa’s distant past, look no further than the
ancient mining town of Pilgrim’s Rest. This national monument was once the country’s
most active alluvial gold mine, where thousands of miners sifted river sand in search of
Efforts have been made to preserve the buildings and infrastructure around Pilgrim’s
Rest, providing an authentic sense of what life must have been like for the earliest
settlers in this region. Don’t miss out on the Pilgrim’s Rest graveyard, a haunting
evocation of the danger and uncertainty that plagued the short lives of South Africa’s
early miners. Booking accommodation in Pilgrim’s Rest is well worth the experience.
The Limpopo Province conjures images of the African heartland: vast expanses of
untarnished bush, herds of African game, majestic hills and valleys and the warmth of
the African sun. An ideal destination for travellers looking to get in touch with Africa’s
soul, the Limpopo Province is home to a number of superb game parks:
Polokwane Game Park
Polokwane, the capital of the Limpopo Province, is close to one of the most accessible
game parks in the region. The Polokwane Game Park is located within a half-day drive of
the busy metropolis of Gauteng, making it an excellent destination for a weekend trip.
A large portion of the Polokwane Game Park comprises flat grassland, which means
game tends to be less concealed and therefore easier to spot. Many visitors to the park
tend to choose accommodation in Polokwane, thanks to its numerous hotels and lodges
catering to all budgets, and its proximity to the park.
Kruger National Park
Once you have whetted your appetite for the African
wilderness, you can head towards the world famous
Kruger National Park, which straddles the Limpopo
and Mpumalanga Provinces. This wilderness area is
home to hundreds of species of wildlife, and is one of
the largest game reserves on the planet.
The Kruger National Park can be easily accessed via
the Limpopo town of Palaborwa. One of the
advantages of a visit to the Kruger National Park is
the freedom to traverse the park’s pathways by car, spotting game you meander through
the African bush at your own pace.
Limpopo accommodation tends to range from affordable and rustic rest camps to
luxurious private lodges. The Kruger National Park is no exception, featuring a variety of
rest camps set in the midst of bush, along with high-end private lodges for the well-
The Waterberg Massif straddles the northern-most reaches of South Africa, providing an
authentic taste of wildest Africa. The area is a recognised UNESCO Biosphere area, which
includes native forests and rolling, sun-drenched grasslands.
If you choose the town of Lapalala for your Limpopo accommodation requirements, you
will have the opportunity to visit some of South Africa’s best known cave paintings. This
area, recognised as one of the ‘cradles’ of mankind, is home to a number of well-
preserved rock paintings, which effectively convey the immense antiquity of the region.
• North West Province
The North West Province is one of South Africa’s most accessible wilderness areas. While
not as sparsely populated as the Limpopo and Mpumalanga Provinces, the North West
Province still manages to serve up vistas of virgin bushveld, herds of wildlife and plenty
of African charm.
The Magaliesberg Mountains is one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world. The
ancient area is rapidly developing into one of the most popular tourist destinations in
South Africa, with travellers flocking to the Magaliesberg to explore its verdant hiking
trails and the deep, tranquil ‘kloofs’ created by erosion and mountain streams.
The Hartebeespoort Dam is one of the major attractions located amidst the Magaliesberg
Mountains. Visitors to the area can visit the Hartebeespoort Snake Park, take a boat trip
on the Hartebeespoort Dam or enjoy a relaxed lunch at one of the many quaint eateries
that line the shore of the dam.
Pilanesberg National Park
If it is game viewing you are after, look no further than the Pilanesberg National Park.
The park is situated at the center of an ancient super-volcano, with its slopes offering
excellent views of the wildlife that teems on the sun-drenched savannah of the park’s
The Pilanesberg National Park is home to South Africa’s famous ‘Big Five’, with lions,
elephants, rhino, cheetahs and buffalo to be found amongst the park’s large game
population. Various North West accommodation options are located in close proximity to
the park, including Kwa Maritane and Manyane.
No visit to the North West Province is
complete without a visit to Sun City,
South Africa’s premier casino
destination. This glitzy casino resort
offers premium North West
accommodation, with visitors able to
choose between four different hotel
complexes, including the spectacular
Located in close proximity to the
Pilanesberg National Park, Sun City is as
much a theme park as it is a casino and
hotel. Visitors to this destination can enjoy a world-class water park, a top quality golf
course, superb international live acts in the arena, and the electric excitement of one of
the country’s most glamorous casinos. When visiting South Africa, there are few things
more luxurious than accommodation in Sun City.
Booking accommodation in South Africa
Whichever province you’re travelling to, you’ll be able to find the ideal accommodation
venue online. Browse e-SouthAfrica.com to find a range of South African accommodation
establishments to match your travel style and your budget, and then book online to take
advantage of our easy, quick and rewarding booking facility.