The perfect South Africa 2-week itinerary 

With its abundance of UNESCO-listed sites, famous nature reserves, multicultural cities and what we believe are some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, South Africa has firmly positioned itself as a world-class travel destination. While it would take a lifetime to see all the wonders of this vast country, two weeks is enough to pack in several diverse highlights of South Africa. In just a fortnight, you can get close to lions and elephants, catch amazing sunsets from pristine sandy stretches, sip globally revered wine, and indulge in culinary scenes that rival the cities of Europe and the States. With careful planning, you can travel from the Kruger National Park in the north to the Cape Peninsula beaches of the south during a two-week trip to South Africa. Or, you can set your sights on a particular region such as the Winelands, Cape Town or the scenic coastal Garden Route. You could even squeeze a sightseeing excursion to Namibia’s Chobe National Park or the Victoria Falls into your adventure. In our two-week itinerary, we shed light on how you can pack exploration, serenity and pure bliss into your South Africa trip.

Tailor Made Journey

Tailor-Made South Africa: Kruger to the Cape

On this custom private journey, combine wildlife encounters both on land and at sea with fine wine tastings, thrilling scenic vistas and fascinating historical visits for a comprehensive South African experience.

Cape Town, South Africa | Photo: Tobias Reich

LGBT travellers in South Africa

Compared to the continent at large, South Africa is a beacon for the LGBT community. Progressive and liberal laws provide South Africa’s estimated two million gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people with the same legal rights and freedoms as non-LGBT people. The national tourism board also encourages gay travellers to visit. Communities in large cities have generally accepting attitudes, and Cape Town has been dubbed the ‘de facto’ gay capital of South Africa, with a gay scene that sets the bar high for cities around the globe.

While South Africa’s lawmakers are actively driving policies of equality for LGBT people, attitudes in some townships can be on the more conservative side. The nation’s outlook and diverse cultures have been influenced by a complex combination of colonialism, traditional local values, human rights movements, and the lingering effects of apartheid. In predominantly black townships, homosexuality may be frowned upon, with locals even being attacked on occasion, though such happenings are very rare with regards to tourists.

Homophobia may undeniably exist in small pockets of South Africa, but the nation is still far and away Africa’s most welcoming vacation destination for gay travellers. Cape Town’s gay scene – centred in the chic De Waterkant subdistrict – is home to vibrant gay-friendly clubs and bars, plus events that celebrate LGBT. Similar gay scenes are on the rise in places like Port Elizabeth, Durban and Knysna, and the gay scene in Pretoria has experienced a boom in recent years. While most gay-friendly areas of South African cities are predominantly white, the one in Johannesburg is noticeably multiracial. Overall, most areas of South Africa are perfectly safe for gay travellers, and many places and events encourage people to be open. Nevertheless, it’s wise to recognise the often blurred and fine line between being respectful of local customs and expressing your identity during your stay.

Photo: Austin Distel

Photo: Andingomfoti

Best time to visit South Africa

Unlike many destinations that make the same claim, South Africa is a genuine joy to visit at any time of the year. While its diverse provinces can reflect noticeable variations in climate, South Africa on the whole enjoys year-round warm temperatures. Winter nights and mornings can be chilly, but the days welcome beachgoers to South Africa’s pristine sandy stretches regardless of the season. Naturally, summer brings the hottest temperatures, and with it, large crowds of tourists that flock to outdoor attractions ranging from wildlife reserves to mountain ranges. But if you’re the kind of person that likes that delicate balance between gorgeous summer weather and a bit of serenity, you might want to plan a visit to South Africa in spring or autumn.

Deciding on the best time to visit South Africa in part depends on where you want to go and what you want to do. The Cape regions that line the coast make for excellent summer getaways, while the Northern Cape and the Kalahari Desert may be better explored when temperatures drop. In KwaZulu Natal – where the mountains meet the ocean – spring and autumn are particularly inviting. In South Africa’s North-West regions, winter is the best time to visit, when wildlife watching is spectacular.

Due to its position in the southern hemisphere, November to March (summer) is South Africa’s peak season, when the cities and beaches are in full swing – although prices often reflect it. September to November and March to May are more affordable, when crowds somewhat dissipate but weather conditions remain enviable. South Africa’s ‘low season’ would be May to September, but its climate ensures it remains an active tourist destination all year.

Simon's Town, Cape Town | Photo: Casey Allen

Travel tips

Before planning a South Africa trip, many people have one question on their minds – is it safe? The short answer is, yes. Provided your keep your wits about you, you’re unlikely to run into trouble while visiting South Africa. Large cities like Johannesburg and Cape Town do experience crime, just like the not-so-reputable neighbourhoods of cities like Los Angeles or New York. But if you follow local advice, avoid walking even short distances alone at night, stick to the tourist areas, and avoid flashing your valuables, there’s no reason why exploring South Africa should be problematic.

For adventurous travellers, South Africa really is a destination that has it all, from multi-day hikes to paragliding and plummeting from the world’s highest bungee jump. It goes without saying that arming yourself with comprehensive travel insurance is a must, even if you’re unlikely to use it. Adrenaline junkies should add extreme sports activities to their cover. As South Africa is quite the distance away for most visitors, it’s worth making sure your travel insurance protects you for unplanned hospital visits and flight cancellations.

When you arrive in South Africa, get hold of a Vodacom sim card before leaving the airport. There are plenty of legitimate vendors inside. Choose a sim card with a data bundle so that you can stay connected and make phone calls in most places. Having a local sim card is also handy for making straightforward and safe payments in South Africa.

While most South African retailers, hotels and restaurants accept major credit cards, cash is the preferred or only payment option in many local stores and smaller towns. You’ll generally get a better exchange rate at an airport ATM than a currency exchange service. If you take our advice and buy a sim card, you can connect your credit cards to the Snapscan mobile phone app, which you can use to make secure payments at countless shops with the tap of a button.

The most reliable, affordable and convenient way to get around major cities like Cape Town is by using Uber. For your peace of mind, all Uber’s drivers in South Africa go through background checks and hold valid driver’s licences. Safe metered taxis are available, but they often cost more than Uber.

Don’t let a largely undeserved bad reputation deter you from exploring the nation of South Africa. It may not be perfect, but it’s nicknamed the Rainbow Nation for a reason! And no matter what kind of traveller you may be, South Africa has a diverse mix of cultures, landscapes and culinary treats that promise to delight.

Photo: Taryn Elliott

Photo: Lungelo Hadebe

How many days do I need in South Africa?

If you want to see all the world-famous sites of South Africa, you’d ideally need to set aside a month for travelling. Of course, most of us live in the real world, and taking a full month off life isn’t always viable. Fortunately, you can squeeze plenty into a two-week trip of South Africa, including visits to the vibrant cities of Johannesburg and Cape Town and a drive along the Garden Route. Though depending on your schedule, cutting a month in South Africa down to two weeks might mean leaving out destinations such as the Drakensberg and the Wild Coast.

For those who can dedicate a month to exploring the vast and diverse nation of South Africa, we recommend setting aside four to six days to discover Cape Town. That would give you enough time to see the city’s sights and embark on day trips to the Cape Winelands and the Cape of Good Hope. If you want to see places like Knysna, Hermanus and Storms River, you’ll need to spend about a week covering the Garden Route. You’ll also need a week to visit the top destinations along the Wild Coast, such as Chintsa, Hogsback and Storms River. Four to six days should be enough time to see Johannesburg, Lesotho and Kruger. Last but not least, you’ll want to spend two or three days in the Drakensberg or Durban.

While a month is ideal, two weeks is enough to cover quite a lot of South Africa. Many visitors start in Cape Town and travel along the Garden Route. Those who prefer game watching can start in Johannesburg and embark on a safari in the Kruger National Park. Of course, you could just stick to one region, get to know it intimately, and enjoy some rest and relaxation. But if you’re looking for adventure, South Africa has you spoilt for choice.

Llandudno, Cape Town, South Africa | Photo: Tim Johnson

Mr. Hudson highlight image

In just two weeks, you’ll experience the nation’s most vibrant urban centres and embark on national park adventures, thrill walks and more

South Africa 2 week itinerary

Our 14-day South Africa itinerary combines stays in the nation’s two most popular cities with safari and national park adventures. In just two weeks, you’ll experience the nation’s most vibrant urban centres and embark on game drives, thrill walks and more.

By following this two-week South Africa travel itinerary, you’ll start in Cape Town and make your way to Johannesburg, stopping to explore places including the Cape Peninsula, the Winelands, the west coast and the Kruger National Park along the way. If you’re flying into Johannesburg, you’ll want to slightly re-order this schedule. We’d suggest starting at the Kruger National Park and spending an extra day in Johannesburg before flying to Cape Town from either Johannesburg or Nelspruit, which is next to the Kruger National Park. Conversely, if you’re starting your adventure in Cape Town, we’d recommend driving along the Garden Route to Port Elizabeth and taking a flight to Nelspruit from there.

Our itinerary begins with a stay in Cape Town, followed by a week of exploring the dazzling west coast, the Cape Peninsula and the Winelands. The final destinations are the Kruger National Park and then Johannesburg, from where can you catch a flight home or back to Cape Town. Given that this journey includes a road trip, you’ll need a rental car, though there are workarounds for non-drivers. Remember to purchase comprehensive insurance, remain vigilant on the roads, and that South Africans drive on the left!

Photo: Albrecht Fietz

Cape Town: 4 days

Whether it’s sunbathing alongside a penguin colony, wine tasting, hiking a mountain or digging into mouth-watering seafood in a serene bay, there’s a unique activity for everybody visiting Cape Town. While staying in this sprawling capital – more along the lines of Los Angeles than Lisbon in scale – you ought to take a day trip to the vineyards of Stellenbosch or Frankshoek. A spot of wine tasting with views of blissful surrounds is the perfect way to kick off or end a South African retreat.

Incredible nature, a delectable food scene and a stunning coastline are debatably the main draws of Cape Town. You’ll soon understand why we fell in the love with the city so quickly after hiking to the summit of Lion’s Head on a clear afternoon, when the views of Cape Town and Table Mountain are astounding. If you want the view without the walk, ride the cable car to the peak of Table Mountain instead. Table Mountain itself is a prominent tourist attraction in Cape Town and South Africa, and the cable car offers a stress-free way to explore it. With its famously colourful houses and Cape Malay culture, Bo-Kaap is a must-visit neighbourhood on a sunny day in Cape Town. Wherever you happen to the be in the city, you’ll find delicious local and international bites at street food stalls through to fine-dining venues.

As public transport is rather limited and taxis can be hit and miss when it comes to fair pricing, Uber is the best and usually most affordable way to get around Cape Town. The city’s downtown districts are safe to explore on foot, especially during the day. When planning short excursions, keep in mind that places including Muizenberg Beach and Table Mountain are more than 30 minutes from the centre of Cape Town by car.

Read our full guide to Cape Town for more travel and activity ideas. To find out where to wake up with a hot beverage before a day of adventure, read our Cape Town coffee guide. 

Kloof Corner, Cape Town | Photo: Joshua Kraus

Cape Town | Photo: Craig Chitima

Cape Winelands & Cape Peninsula: 3 days

After leaving the vibrant urban jungle that is Cape Town, we recommend exploring the Cape Peninsula and the Cape Winelands for a few days to see an entirely different side of South Africa. Start by staying on a vineyard for a couple of nights for peace and serenity and a wine tasting session or two. Prices range from more than affordable to almost ludicrously expensive, depending on the kind of exclusivity and luxury you’re after. After blowing off steam with the nation’s finest beverages, soak up some nature at Boulders Beach, which is famously home to a colony of penguins. Cape Point is also well worth a visit.

Throughout the Cape Winelands, you’ll find small, family-run wineries through to elaborate operations. We suggest trying wines at a variety of vineyards and pairing your drinks with local cheese, biltong or chocolate. The penguin colony resides about 45 minutes outside of Cape Town at Boulders Beach. You’ll need to pay a small entrance fee to see the colony, and you can’t walk on the beach or swim near the bulk of the congregation, but seeing these animals up close is a truly unforgettable experience. The route from Boulders Beach to Cape Point is one of the most scenic drives in South Africa. Ubers, taxis, buses, shuttles, tour packages and rental cars are all viable transportation options.

Those who don’t drink wine may want to head straight from Cape Town to the Cape Peninsula, though the Winelands make for pretty views whether you like to partake in a tipple or not. While travelling out of Cape Town, you could plan a quick stop at the beautiful Muizenberg Beach, famous for its surfing conditions and iconic colourful beach houses. While there are too many South African wine hotels to mention in this article, we recommend staying in a country house near Stellenbosch if you want to remain relatively close to Cape Town.

Photo: Delaire Graff Lodges & Spa

Johannesburg: 2 days

On the seventh day, you’ll take a flight to the largest and most vibrant city in South Africa: Johannesburg. Here, you’ll gain an insight into the nation’s history, struggles and progress at the Nelson Mandela Museum and follow the Mandela Trail in the township of Soweto, though you’ll likely spend most of your time in the former industrial Maboneng Precinct, now home to restaurants, markets, art galleries and one of South Africa’s best nightlife hubs, not to mention one of the continent’s most diverse food scenes.

Many travellers overlook some of the top spots in Johannesburg and instead spend most of their time in the Kruger National Park. While we can hardly blame people for wanting to make the most of their visit to Kruger and its safari trails, we believe Johannesburg is more than worthy of your attention. Besides the township of Soweto, Pretoria – with its purple Jacaranda billows – is one of the prettiest spots in South Africa. And Johannesburg itself is arguably the cultural and economic hub of the nation.

Safety is usually a concern for travellers who skip Johannesburg, but while some areas are somewhat gritty, this vast city is brimming with things to see and do, and almost all visits are trouble-free. For some deep reflection and insights into South Africa’s grizzly past, browse the exhibits at the Apartheid Museum. For a more jovial end to the day, consider a street art tour of the city. Read our Johannesburg travel guide for more vacation insights.

Johannesburg | Photo: Jacques Nel

Mr. Hudson highlight image

With its vast size, easy accessibility and jaw-dropping abundance of wildlife, Kruger National Park is the crown jewel of game parks in South Africa and a must-visit destination on any two-week trip to the nation

Kruger National Park: 4 days

With its vast size, easy accessibility and jaw-dropping abundance of wildlife – including plenty of big cats – Kruger National Park is the crown jewel of game parks in South Africa and a must-visit destination on any two-week trip to the nation. During your time at the Kruger National Park, you’ll embark on sunrise bush walks, visits to orphaned animal rehabilitation centres, and explorations of Stone Age archaeological sites. The Kruger National Park may be geographically separated from Johannesburg, but transport links are convenient, and the place really is unmissable.

By far, the most popular activity at the Kruger National Park is game drives, which you can do with your own car or with a guide. Keep your eyes peeled for the ‘Big 5’ – buffalo, elephants, rhinos, leopards and lions. We recommend mixings things up and both driving your own car through the park and joining a safari tour. Daring visitors can also join walking safaris, though you’ll need to book such expeditions well in advance. Of course, wildlife sightings can never be guaranteed, but 4 days should be enough to see the best of what the park has to offer in terms of nature and landscapes. You’ll also need to set aside time to visit the Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre and walk along the Olifants River.

You can fill up on delicious bites at the Lower Sabie Rest Camp restaurant, which overlooks a major watering hole. There’s nothing quite like enjoying lunch alongside hyena, giraffes, buffalo, elephants and hippos. Do remember that these animals are wild. Please, don’t leave your car or tour group while exploring the national park, unless you have express permission to do so.

Kruger National Park | Photo: Antony Trivet

Photo: Lions Sands Game Reserve, Kruger National Park

Last day: Johannesburg and back home

On day 14, you’ll leave the wildlife of the Kruger National Park behind and head back to Johannesburg to fly home. You’ll have experienced but a fraction of what South Africa has to offer, despite having seen some of the world’s most impressive urban sprawls, food scenes, nightlife hubs, beaches, safari sites, and natural wonders. If you have extra time, we wholeheartedly recommended donating a month or more to exploring this diverse nation. But if you want to pack as much into your two-week trip as possible, our 14-day South Africa itinerary is just what you need.

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Cape Town, South Africa | Photo: Joshua Earle

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