I’ve been wanting to make a trip to South Africa ever since I met friends while traveling in Vietnam that were from South Africa! They have the coolest accents and a pretty interesting culture. When I had Bianca, a local South African, write about her favorite hikes in the country, I was aching to go. I still haven’t been, but when my friends Meghan and Brandon went to South Africa for 2 weeks, I had to have them write a post for the blog so I could copy the itinerary in the future. They also took a detour to Zambia & Zimbabwe to see Victoria Falls on their trip (jealous). Luckily they’ve included all of the juicy details below.
Since our trip to South Africa is still one of our all-time favorite trips, we wanted to share what we believe to be the perfect 2-week itinerary!
Technically, we spent some time in Zambia and Zimbabwe to see Victoria Falls as well, but the majority of our trip was in South Africa.
South Africa is an amazing vacation destination as there is so much variety in what you can see and do – Safari, Winelands, and the gorgeous Cape with stunning beaches! Renting a car was super easy, and they had Uber (get $5 off your first ride) in Cape Town for really cheap as well!
You do not need a rental car when visiting Cape Town. You can book most of your day trips through tours. Renting a car is preferred for those wanting to drive the garden route and explore South Africa at their own leisure. It is truly up to you!
We traveled in November and our basic itinerary included:
3 nights in Zambia where we crossed into Zimbabwe a couple times
4 nights Safari near Kruger National Park
2 nights in Winelands (we stayed in Stellenbosch)
6 nights in Cape Town (we stayed 4 nights in Camps Bay and 2 nights in Clifton to be close to the ocean/beaches!)
Note: You will need to pay for a Visa for Zambia at the airport, which was a relatively easy process.
Our top recommendations for Victoria Falls include:
Devil’s Pool Tour
Our first morning, we did a tour of Devil’s Pool called the “Morning Breezer”. Which we heard was the best time to see rainbows over the Falls. The tour started with a boat ride across the river to Livingstone Island. With a little a bit of light hiking before swimming in the Devil’s Pool to look over the edge of Victoria Falls!
We heard if you go during a wetter time of the year, the guides actually have to hold your legs so you don’t go over the edge! The Falls weren’t that intense when we went luckily. And it was such an amazing experience! We did this tour through Safari Par.
Try to spend some time hiking both the Zambia side of the Falls as well as crossing over to Zimbabwe (you need to get a Visa as you cross the border) to hike through the National Park. We walked from our hotel over to Zimbabwe and into the National Park. And then took a cab to the border on our way back. Even during the dry season, we got a bit wet on our hike around the Falls. So come prepared if you travel during wetter months!
Sunset Cruise along the Zambezi River
We ended our last night with a sunset cruise along the Zambezi River throughZambezi Explorer Cruise Company. We got the unlimited drinks package. Which also included heavy appetizers. The cruise was beautiful. And we got to see elephants and crocodiles among other wildlife. This was a highlight for us and a great way to end our stay in Victoria Falls!
We stayed at the Avani Victoria Falls Hotel, which was a great location along the Zambezi River with the ability to walk into the Zambia side of the Falls. While this was the most expensive hotel of our trip, it had great amenities. Including a delicious breakfast, pool with live music in the afternoon. And lots of animals roaming around near the resort – so cool! It was also the best deal for moderate-level accommodations that we could find in the area. And it was connected to a higher end hotel that you could walk over to and take advantage of their pool and bars/restaurant as well.
We flew out of Livingstone into Nelspruit where we rented a car to drive about an hour to our safari lodge near Kruger Park. This direct flight is only offered on certain days. But will save you tons of time, so try to work your schedule around this flight if you’re planning a similar route.
BOOKING YOUR SAFARI:
We stayed at Bushwise Safari Lodge, which we found to be very reasonable compared to all the other private game reserve options we originally looked at. The lodge was located right at the edge of the park where you would see hippos, giraffes, crocodiles and other animals right from the lodge. And included breakfast and dinner every night in a traditional Boma, often with the owners.
The best part was that all of their safaris are offered a la carte vs. game reserves that build it into the price of your stay. We loved having this ala carte flexibility. And the lodge also had a bar and small plunge pool overlooking the park to relax in after your game drive at the safari or to enjoy a drink before or after dinner!
We chose to do a full-day safari one day, a morning walk with a park ranger, and an evening safari the next day. And spent our last day exploring Kruger Park on our own, which is very easy to do. Balule Nature Reserve is a fantastic area to explore too. It is a protected area in Limpopo Province that forms part of Kruger National Park.
The full-day safari was where we got to see the majority of the animals (we saw 4 of the Big 5). But the morning walk is quite an experience that we’d highly recommend as you experience everything on foot instead of from a safari vehicle! We got extremely lucky to be within about 10-20 feet of a Cheetah mom and cub on our way back that morning! The night safari was also a great way to see some of the more nocturnal animals!
WINELANDS & CAPE TOWN!
Next, we flew to Cape Town where we rented a car and headed to South Africa’s wine regions. This area is also known as the Winelands, which was about an hour drive.
We did the Vine Hopper Northern Route tour one day, which was a great way to explore several wineries in a hop-on/hop-off type way while allowing you to avoid driving and enjoy all the wine! The next day, we drove ourselves to a couple wineries. And through the town of Franschhoek, which is a super cute town to explore the neat shops and have lunch or a coffee.
Here are some of our top recommendations for your time in Cape Town:
Drive the Cape to Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope
This will take the majority of a day depending on how long you want to spend at each location. And the total drive time is about 3 hours round trip. But it is an absolute must do! Take Chapman’s PeakDrive through Hout Bay for absolutely stunning views. Next, stop in Simonstown at Boulder Beach to see the adorable penguins – make sure you go to both sides of the beach. As there is an area further down where you can get closer and swim with the penguins if you can handle the cold water!
Then drive to Cape Point where you’ll likely spend the majority of your time hiking up to the lighthouse and taking in all the breathtaking scenery. Cape Point is a promontory at the southeast corner of the Cape Peninsula. There are also a couple of options for lunch – a casual café and a nicer seated restaurant. Make a quick stop at Cape of Good Hope to take a photo by the sign and walk around a bit. If you have time, we highly recommend stopping by this awesome private beach at Buffels Bay that has a natural pool overlooking the ocean. You will likely be one of the only ones there. But beware of the baboons that may try to steal your stuff or molest your car!
Take the funicular or brave the hike to the top of the famous Table Mountain.
Tour the city with the Hop-on/Hop-off Bus Tour for a great way to see all the sites in town including the Waterfront area, Bree Street, Long Street, the colorful Bo Kapp neighborhood and a Downtown Tour with a lot of history just from the bus audio system. Consider a tour of one of the museums downtown, Robben Island. The famous prison where Nelson Mandela was a prisoner. Or the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden to see one of the great botanical gardens of the world.
Hike Lion’s Head for a good workout and some awesome views.
Spend some of your time walking around Bo-Kaap, formerly known as the Malay Quarter. It is a historic area with bright-colored houses and cobblestone streets. It was known for being traditionally a multicultural neighborhood. When the racial rule was lifted and the slaves were allowed to buy the properties, the community painted all of their houses vibrant colors. It was a special way for them to express their freedom! Check out the Bo-Kaap Museum for an educational experience.
Shop At V&A Waterfront
I recommend shopping at the V&A Waterfront! Enjoy exploring the working harbor before disappearing into one of their many local shops. This is the perfect place to buy something that screams “I Visited South Africa”. You can also see what concerts and events are taking place at Battery Park, Makers Landing, and the Amphitheatre. Whether you want to shop, play or dine, V&A Waterfront will be your one-stop shop.
On your way out of town (fairly close to the airport) or on your way back from Winelands, stop at Vergelegan Estate for a wine tasting and an amazing picnic lunch in their Camphor Forest.
WHERE TO STAY:
We stayed 2 nights in the Cape Winelands at Stellenbosch. We stayed overnight at the Eendracht Boutique Hotel and it was the cutest little town to explore. And had tons of awesome restaurant options!
We took the longer route along the water to Cape Town where we stayed in Camps Bay at Place on the Bay for the next 4 nights. This hotel was fairly basic. But the room was always clean. And also had a kitchenette and a balcony overlooking the beach/ocean.
Cape Town is a smaller city, and you can get everywhere in about 10 minutes, so don’t stress too much about which location to stay in, but we loved being near the ocean and beaches!
Optional Add-On: Cape Elizabeth
If you want to plan your trip around South Africa’s coastal regions, you could always head east toward Port Elizabeth from Cape Town. You will need to rent a car as it is an eight-hour drive that will bring you along many of the coastal towns. This includes George, Brenton-on-Sea, and Plettenberg Bay.
Once you reach Gqeberha, formerly known as Port Elizabeth, you will have so much to do. This area is known for its numerous beaches, The Donkin Heritage Trail, and Victorian landmarks. You can even get out on the water by taking one of their coastal boat tours, where you can spot whales and seabirds. An adventurous add-on for those who have an additional week in South Africa.
Whew, that’s our trip in a nutshell! It was an absolutely amazing vacation, and we highly recommend it to anyone looking to experience all of the wide variety of cultures, history and beauty that South Africa has to offer! Thank you to Katie for letting us share this guest blog post with her readers! Hope you all get a chance to enjoy a fabulous “Sundowner” in South Africa someday! Follow along on our future adventures on instagram @postycakes!
Welcome to the Traveling Spud! I’m Katie, a 30 something from Idaho who quit her marketing job in San Francisco, California to travel the world for a year. After a trip around the world, my heart chose Idaho. I'm addicted to outdoor adventures, photography, and inspiring others to get out of their comfort zones and cross experiences off of their bucket lists. Let's explore together! Read more here.