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  • Writer's pictureDanae Bianco

20 days South Africa itinerary

Updated: Feb 27

To say that we liked South Africa a lot is an understatement; we absolutely loved the country. Out of the 45-plus countries I've visited, whenever someone asks me for a destination that offers everything—from museums to bungee jumping, wildlife to nightlife, wineries, and beaches—and won't break the bank, the answer is South Africa.


What to do in South Africa:


South Africa is a vast country, one of the largest on the African continent, so making choices is necessary, as it's nearly impossible to see the entire country in a single vacation trip.


Even with limited time, careful planning allows you to experience numerous incredible activities and fulfill long-held dreams.


Our itinerary prioritized (1) game drives/safaris – a top priority for almost everyone visiting sub-Saharan Africa, isn't it?; (2) Cape Town – undoubtedly one of the most cosmopolitan and beautiful cities on the continent; (3) wineries; and (4) eco-tourism.


To make the most of your trip, consider these practical tips: the best time to visit South Africa is during spring (September to November) or fall (March to May), when the weather is milder, and there are fewer tourists. However, we visited in December and January, experiencing excellent weather but encountering lots of tourists.


For getting around the country, you can rent a car or use buses and trains. We opted to rent a car for its flexibility, making it easier to visit some places that would otherwise require using local tour companies.


 

In this 20 day South Africa itinerary, you'll find:

 

Pretoria


Our 20-day journey through South Africa began in Pretoria, where we visited dear friends, spending New Year's Eve and delightful days with them.


Pretoria, one of South Africa's three official capitals, isn't particularly renowned as a tourist destination. However, our hosts treated us exceptionally well, showcasing numerous fascinating sights. The new friendships we formed, combined with the warm hospitality, made it an ideal start to a trip that surpassed all expectations.


Beyond the laughter, indulgence in the best local wine, and savoring spectacular food, we seized the opportunity to explore:


  • Pretoria Zoo – South Africa's largest zoo, ranked among the world's best. We had a delightful picnic, enjoyed in the zoo's gardens, offering a preview of the wildlife we would encounter in the coming days.

  • Moroleta Park – a park/nature reserve near our accommodation, providing the kids with their first encounter with wild animals, including zebras and ostriches.

Apartheid Museum, Johanesburg, South Africa

  • Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg (50 minutes from Pretoria) - South Africa endured over 40 years of apartheid rule. Understanding this era and delving into the journey of the South African people to overcome it is crucial not only for grasping the country's history but also for comprehending and addressing the challenges of our global society. It underscores the growing need for collective action to foster a fairer and more egalitarian world.



Graskop & Blyde River Canyon – 2 nights


The Blyde River Canyon spans approximately 26 km (or 50 km, depending on the information source). While it boasts stunning views, it's important to manage expectations—despite the official claim of being the third-largest canyon on the planet, it doesn't compare to the Grand Canyon.


Blyde River Canyon, South Africa

Nevertheless, it remains a sizable and breathtaking canyon with easy accessibility. You can drive to a parking lot and then follow a straightforward trail to the most popular viewpoints, with the Three Rondavels being the most renowned in the region.


On the day we visited, it was remarkably tranquil, devoid of large crowds. Another noteworthy viewpoint with excellent photo opportunities is Lowveld View, situated very close to Three Rondavels. There are various trails in the region, and adventurous visitors can even go rafting.



Another captivating site in Blyde Canyon is Bourke’s Luck Potholes, a series of waterfalls in a narrow stretch of the canyon. Admission fees apply, and it tends to be more crowded compared to other stops in Blyde Canyon, attracting both South Africans and tourists. The site features a cafeteria and souvenir shops.



A highlight of the day was our lunch at Potluck Boskombuis, perfectly located by the river (which eventually forms Bourke’s Luck Potholes). Despite lacking electricity, the restaurant provided a charming, natural atmosphere. Dishes were expertly grilled over an open fire, and although Google Maps currently indicates temporary closure, it's worth checking for updates.


The ideal base in the area is the town of Graskop. We stayed at the Graskop Hotel, offering a pleasant pool and well-appointed double rooms for four people.


Pilgrim's Rest village, South Africa

Another worthwhile destination in the region is Pilgrim’s Rest, a historic village dating back to the South African gold rush of 1873.


The village's buildings are remarkably well-preserved, including the post office, bank, and remnants of the railroad that transported ore.


Cafes, restaurants, and shops make it a delightful stop for a few hours en route to Kruger National Park or other destinations in the region.



The distance from Pretoria to Graskop is approximately 370 km (which we covered in 4h30). We opted to rent a car in Pretoria and used it throughout this part of the journey, returning it at Nelspruit airport, the closest one to Kruger Park.


Kruger National Park – 2 nights


If it's possible to say what the best part of the trip was, this would be a strong contender.


We spent three days at the park, but we could have stayed way much longer. Seeing the animals in the wild, wandering free, was an unforgettable experience.



Kruger, probably the most famous national park in South Africa, was established in 1898 as the Sabie Game Reserve, and has gradually expanded to cover an area of ​​19,633 km2 (about 90% of the area of ​​the state of Sergipe - Brazil, and bigger than New Jersey State). It is one of the most visited game parks in the world and has (documented) 507 species of birds, 336 of trees, 147 of mammals, 114 of reptiles, 49 of fish and 34 of amphibians.


The park is crossed by several paved roads; you can enter (after paying the entrance fee) with your private car and travel freely on the paved roads. On the SANPARK Official Website you can check the opening hours of each park entrance, as well as all other relevant information about the park (including booking accomodation and activities).



There are several camps within the park. The camps we stayed in had an excellent structure; search the SANPARK website because the structure varies between one and another.


We stayed at Skukuza Main Rest Camp and Lower Sabie Main Rest Camp. Coming by car from Graskop, we entered the park through Phabeni Gate and exit (to Nelspruit) through Crocodile Bridge Gate.


Skukuza Rest Camp, Kruger National Park, South Africa

Skukuza is the biggest camp of all, it has restaurants, swimming pool (which we didn't use), convenience store, gas station and several other facilities. Lower Sabie is also quite large, counts with similar structure and, in my opinion, is the prettiest of the two. In both of them we could easily see plenty of animals.


It is essential to book campsites as far in advance as possible, as places fill up quickly. To have an idea, we booked in August, for our stay in January, and none of them had any accommodation for 4 people available anymore. At Lower Sabie we took a cabin for 2 people (which was excellent and the girls and I ended up sleeping there) and a triple room with a shared bathroom (which was quite old and not so nice - husband stayed there). At Skukuza we took 2 double cabins, one next to the other.


During the day, we explored the park with our car, and in late afternoon we went on guided game drives (you can book them in the same official Sanparks website). The tour goes in an adapted truck, there is a driver and a guide, and it can be done at sunset or at sunrise, as this are the periods of day the animals are most active - you can book as many as you wish, and I recommend you do as much as you can. There is a minimum age limit for the guided tour (check the website); there is no age limit to driving around with your private car - just remember that you are not allowed to leave the car, unless insided the fenced limits of the camps.


In addition to the park itself, there are several private game reserves nearby, with complete programs of accommodations + game drives. In my researchs for this trip, unfortunatly all the private reserves I found were completely out of our budget.

Elephant at Kruger National Park, South Africa

From there, we drove to Nelspruit airport (Kruger Mpumalanga) – 140km, about 2h15 from Lower Sabie Camp, but I advise you to leave well in advance.


When we were driving to the airport, still within the limits of the park, there was a huge elephant standing on the road, calmly feeding. It took more than half an hour for him to decide to go somewhere else...


The flight to Cape Town was in an Embraer 190, which fills me with pride every time I have the opportunity to fly in, because my father was one, among thousands of others, who worked hard to bring this airplane to reality (and, like me, that airplane was born in São José dos Campos, Brazil).



Cape Town – 5 nights


Cape Town deserves an entire trip, just to explore the city and its surroundings. It's that kind of place that you can go back to as many times as you wish, and all of them are going to be spectacular.


Sunset with Table Mountain view, Cape Town, South Africa,

We stayed in a great Airbnb, in the Waterfront area, with a balcony that had a wonderful view of Table Mountain, which was even better with the sensational sunsets we were awarded.


During the 5 days we spent in Cape Town, the activities went like this:


- day 1: arrival, a walk in the neighborhood, shopping groceries and dinner in the apartment with the best sunset ever.


- day 2: as the day dawned beautiful, we went straight to Table Mountain – which proved to be perfect, because on the other days the mountain was covered with the so-called “cloth”, a layer of fog, really looking like a “towel” on the table.


The line to go up with the cable car was big and slow (you can go up on foot, along a trail, but I don't recommend doing that with children). From the top, the views are superb, and I recommend going all the way around, to enjoy it from every possible angle. It's quite windy up there, but we didn't get cold.


A friend had gone a week before and said it was really cold, so I think the best is to really be prepared and bring a jacket, or windbreaker, and plenty of water (although there is a little shop upstairs, great for fuelling the kids with ice cream). We went down, had lunch and went for a walk in Bo-kaap area.



- Day 3: Cruised along Chapman's Peak Drive to reach the Cape of Good Hope, soaking in the spectacular ocean views and snapping countless pics.


On our way back, we stopped by Boulders Beach, home to those cool penguins. Needless to say all the kids and adults loved it!


Oh, by the way, fun fact – Cape Agulhas is the real southernmost spot in Africa, not the Cape of Good Hope!



- day 4: in the morning we went to Kirstenbosh National Botanical Garden, had lunch at a bistro in the Old Biscuit Mall and in the afternoon we enjoyed the beach at Camps Bay Beach.




- day 5: Two Oceans Aquirium in the morning and afternoon tour to Robben Island - the prison island where Nelson Mandela and other black leaders were imprisoned during the apartheid era.


We had lunch and dinner at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. Both the Aquarium and the departure point of the tour to Robben Island are located on the Waterfront, making this combination a perfect program to occupy a full day of activities.


Sunset at Victora and Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa

Franschhoeck – 2 nights


The wonderful wine region of South Africa, which encompasses Stellenbosh, Paarl and Franschhoek. The proposal for the two days we stayed there was simply to relax and enjoy the visits to the wineries.


And, yes, it is a tour that can easily be done with children of any age. The wineries are beautiful and are well prepared for tourism, some have playgrounds and picnic areas, and (I believe that if not all, most of them) have great restaurants.


On the first day, we visited Babylonstoren, which has beautiful gardens, some mazes kids loved, a wonderful vegetable garden and two restaurants.



Then we went to Drakenstein Lion Park, a sanctuary for lions rescued from abuse, neglect and mistreatment. We did the tour with an excellent guide, who told us the history of the sanctuary and of the lions and lionesses (and a tigress) that live there (needless to say they are heartbreaking).



The next day, we did what was perhaps the tour the girls enjoyed the most: a bike tour of the wineries.


We did a full day tour with Bikes’n’Wines – at first we would be joining a group, but as there were just the 4 of us, it ended up being a private tour. The tour company provided the bikes, for adults and children, and helmets, and we went, at kids pace (which turned out not to be as slow as we thought) to three wineries. One better than the other: Mont Rochelle, Leeu Estates (in this one there was an art gallery and a sculpture garden) and Rickerty Bridge.



In each winery, the adults tasted the wines (3 or 4 types in each one - clearly "drink and bike" is not an issue around there). The kids had a juice tasting in the first winery, juice and some sweets in the secontd and, in the last, ice cream tasting. Wasn't that a perfect day?


Another cool tour that would be great with children is to visit the wineries by train (Franschhoek Wine Tram), it wouldn't be bad to have stayed an extra day there and have taken this tour. But choices had to be made, and it doesn't hurt to have this as a reason to go back there soon ;-)


We stayed at Le Franshhoek Hotel & Spa, which had a great family room and a delightful pool, which the girls made sure to enjoy both days in late afternoon.


Knysna – 2 nights


That was the longest stretch of car driving we did in the trip – 450km. We left Franschhoek early, I don't remember where we stopped for lunch (but it was a very nice place right by the sea, probably in the Mossel Bay region).


Knysna is part of the region known as the “Garden Route” and is located on the edge of a lagoon.


In what was left of the day of arrival, we did a small trail to a viewpoint known as “the Heads”, which is located at the entrance of the lagoon (facing the ocean). The trail is very easy, just a few minutes, and the view is fantastic.


The next day, we went to Robberg Nature Reserve, a nature reserve that spans into an entire peninsula. Think of an amazing place, right by the sea, with spectacular views and an excellent beach. That's it.


You can do the short trail (which was the one we did), it took about 5 hours, includin a long stop to enjoy the beach. Or you can do the full peninsula circle trail, which according to the signs at the entrance is twice as long and much more demanding.



Despite some complaints, the trail was easily done by the kids. The beaches (which, as we did the trail clockwise, were almost at the end of the tour) are excellent, with a beautiful view and in a great place for swimming.

Dad and kids on top of a sand dune at Robberg Nature Reserve, Plettenberg Bay, South Africa

After the hike, we went for some coffee and ice cream in "downtown" Knysna (which is on an island in the lagoon).


The following day, we went to Monkeyland, a sanctuary for monkeys and lemurs rescued from mistreatment and abuse. The tour is guided and very interesting, but be preppared because it is inside a dense forest and there are lots of mosquitoes. Next door is the Birds of Eden, a huge area with free-flying birds, but we didn't get to visit it.


The closest town to Robberg and Monkeyland is Plattenberg Bay, but we chose to stay in Knysna, which I thought looked like a nicer place. We stayed in an excellent Airbnb, it had more rooms that we were able to use (the girls loved it, for the first – and so far only – time in their lives, they each slept in a room, in a double bed).


Storms River – 1 night


Leaving Monkeyland, we headed the same day to Storms River, a village right at the entrance of Tsitsikama National Park. It is a beautiful natural park, on the shores of the Indian Ocean.


We did a kayak tour there, recomended by a friend (with Untoched Adventures) and it was spetacular. We started the tour rowing across the sea, then entered the Storms River, passing under the park's famous suspension bridge, and paddling through the canyon formed by that river. At a certain point, there is no way to proceed with the kayaks anymore, so we left them and moved on to a kind of buoy/board, and continued upriver, to a point where there is really no way to pass. On the way back, the current helps, and the views are even more wonderful. Unmissable.


Storms River gorge, Tsitsikama National Park, South Africa

An extra day there would have been great to better explore the park.


We stayed in a very quiet and friendly hotel, Tsisikama Village Inn, which had a lawn that the kids loved and a nice balcony, prefect to enjoy a wine after the kids went to sleep.



Addo Elephant National Park – 2 nights


Addo is another fantastic national park for game drives, located about 200 km from Storms River. We headed there after the kayak ride, with a bit of a hurry, as the park entrance closed at 5 pm and we needed to find a place for lunch.


Although smaller than Kruger, Addo is an excellent place to observe wildlife in its natural habitat.


During our visit, we encountered ostriches, lions, zebras, kudus, buffalos, wild boars, antelopes, turtles, brown dung beetles, herons, eagles, storks, and, of course, numerous elephants. Some animals were unique to Addo, while others we only spotted in Kruger, but most are possible to see in both parks.


In Addo, we explored the park on a self-guided tour during the day and joined a guided tour at sunset.




two girls watching wild elephants at Addo Elephant Park, South Africa


wild elephants at Addo Elephant Park, South Africa


We stayed at Addo Main Rest Camp and booked a cabin for 4 people (reservations can be made on the SANPARKS Official Website). The campsite, though smaller than the ones in Kruger, offered great amenities, including a restaurant, convenience store, and a charming little museum about the history of the park.


Saving the best for last, it was a new moon, and the sky was exceptionally clear, providing a sensational view of the stars. Without a doubt, Addo ranks among the top 3 places where I've seen the most beautiful night sky in my entire life. The other two were the hotel inside Tikal Park in Guatemala and a small, remote village in Bolivia, halfway between San Pedro do Atacama and the Salar de Uyuni.


On the last day, early in the morning and without elephants blocking the road this time, we left for Port Elizabeth airport, where we returned the car (which we had picked up from Cape Town airport) and began the long journey back home.


As our South African adventure comes to an end, I can't help but dream of future travels, with Tanzania sitting high on my bucket list. A 7-day Tanzania safari itinerary beckons, promising another incredible journey through the diverse and captivating landscapes of Africa.


So, have I convinced you to put South Africa on your wishlist?


AFTER ALL THESE TIPS AND INFORMATION, here's our link to BOOKING.COM- you won't spend a penny making your reservations through this link and it helps us keep this site up and running! Click here and have a good trip!!



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Amazing South Africa family trip - Itinerary and tips - 20 day roda trip


AFTER ALL THESE TIPS AND INFORMATION, here's our link to BOOKING.COM- you won't spend a penny making your reservations through this link and it helps us keep this site up and running! Click hereand have a good trip!!


This post may contain affiliate links, which means that we may earn a small comission, at no cost to you, for qualifying purchases.


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