Highlights of South Africa:
A 10-Day Itinerary

by | May 13, 2024 | Africa, Road Trips

Leopard in a tree during sunset in Kruger National Park, South Africa

South Africa is a special place for me. Since volunteering here in 2002, I’ve returned as often as I could. A safari in Kruger Park, with its unforgettable wildlife, absolutely tops my list of experiences. There is nothing more special to me than listening to the sounds of roaring lions at night while sipping on a glass of Amarula and waking up to the sounds of the bush coming to life in the morning.

But the country’s appeal goes further. The Garden Route offers breathtaking coastal views, Hermanus provides unique whale watching, and Cape Town, with its stunning beaches and Table Mountain, is a must-visit.

In this guide I’ll share the highlights of South Africa in a 10 day itinerary, inspired by my travels. From wildlife adventures to coastal escapes and urban exploration, there’s something for every traveler.

Why Visit South Africa?

South Africa is a melting pot of cultures, languages, and histories, making it a unique destination on the global map. South Africa’s cultural landscape is vibrant, shaped by the traditions, languages, and cuisines of more than a dozen ethnic groups. This diversity is celebrated everywhere, from the bustling markets of Johannesburg to the colorful streets of Bo-Kaap in Cape Town.

Nature’s bounty in South Africa is as varied as its cultures. Table Mountain, one of the world’s New 7 Wonders of Nature, offers breathtaking views over Cape Town and its surroundings. The Kruger National Park is a wildlife haven, home to the Big Five and a wide variety of other species, offering some of the best safari experiences in the world. The Garden Route, with its stunning coastline, forests, and adventure activities, is a paradise for nature lovers and thrill-seekers alike.

Above all, South Africa is known for its warm hospitality. South Africans, with their “Ubuntu” philosophy that emphasizes community and mutual care, make visitors feel welcome. Whether you’re enjoying a braai (barbecue) with new friends or receiving a warm greeting in one of the country’s eleven official languages, you’ll feel the open-hearted spirit that defines South Africa.

Visiting South Africa is an invitation to experience a way of life that cherishes diversity, natural beauty, and the warmth of human connection.

The Ultimate South African Adventure in 10 to 14 Days

Visit South Africa’s most iconic locations, from the bustling streets of Cape Town to the majestic wilderness of Kruger National Park. This itinerary is perfect for those that have limited time, but still want to experience a mix of urban exploration, natural beauty, and thrilling wildlife encounters.

Penguins at Boulders Beach in Cape Town

Day 1-3: Cape Town

  • Table Mountain: Take the cable car or hike up to the summit for breathtaking views of the city and the Atlantic Ocean. Sunrise and sunset are particularly spectacular from up here.
  • Robben Island: Visit the historic island prison where Nelson Mandela was held. Tours are led by former prisoners, offering deep insights into South Africa’s past.
  • Swim with Seals: Join a guided snorkeling trip to Duiker Island to swim with the Cape fur seals in their natural habitat. An unforgettable experience for wildlife enthusiasts.
  • V&A Waterfront: Enjoy shopping, dining, and entertainment at this vibrant harbor. Don’t miss the sunset views from the Ferris wheel.
  • Boulders Beach: Go and see the penguins and enjoy some time at Boulders Beach.
  • Bo-Kaap: Explore the colorful houses and cobblestone streets of this historic Malay Quarter. The area is known for its rich cultural heritage and vibrant community.
  • Castle of Good Hope: Visit South Africa’s oldest surviving building. This 17th-century Dutch fort offers insights into Cape Town’s military and colonial history through guided tours and exhibitions.
  • Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens: Wander through one of the great botanic gardens of the world, nestled at the eastern foot of Table Mountain. Enjoy the diverse flora and themed gardens, outdoor concerts, and art exhibitions.

Do you have some more time on your hands? Consider adding the Garden Route to your itinerary after your visit to Cape town or shorten your stay in the Winelands and the city to make it fit your schedule. Read more about this iconic coastal area in the article ‘Explore the Garden Route in South Africa: Adventure Awaits.’

Wine tram in Franschhoek

Day 4-5: Stellenbosch and the Winelands

  • Wine Tasting: Explore the rolling vineyards of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Paarl. Sample some of the world’s best wines and learn about the winemaking process from local experts.
  • Culinary Experiences: The Winelands are known for their gourmet dining. Enjoy farm-to-table meals and traditional South African cuisine at renowned restaurants.
  • Wine Tram Experience: Hop aboard the Franschhoek Wine Tram, a unique way to discover the true essence of the Franschhoek Valley. This narrated tram and tram-bus tour stops at some of South Africa’s oldest and most distinguished wine estates, offering a chance to savor the rich heritage of fine wines and dine amidst the vineyards.

Travel Tip: Fly from Cape Town to Mbombela (formerly Nelspruit) to pick up a rental car for the next leg of your journey.

Day 6-7: Panorama Route

  • Blyde River Canyon: Discover breathtaking views at one of the world’s largest canyons. Highlights include the Three Rondavels and God’s Window.
  • Bourke’s Luck Potholes: Marvel at these natural water features carved by centuries of river activity. The rock formations and pools are a photographer’s dream.
  • Waterfalls: Visit Lisbon and Berlin Falls for scenic vistas and refreshing walks. The area is dotted with cascades worth exploring.
Three Rondavels South Africa

Day 8-10: Kruger National Park

  • Safari: Spend your days on safari, spotting the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and buffalo) along with giraffes, zebras, and hundreds of bird species. Early morning and late afternoon drives are the best times to see wildlife. 
  • Wildlife Spotting: Besides guided safaris, you can also drive yourself through the park’s vast network of roads. Buy a map at one of the camp shops to know where you are going and stay at rest camps in the park for an authentic experience in the wild. Read my tips on spotting animals on safari in the article ‘Animals of Kruger National Park
  • Important note: please avoid using Numbi gate as an entry point to the Kruger Park, since there have been robberies on this road in recent years.

Travel Tip: Drive to Johannesburg to catch your flight home or return the rental car in Mbombela and fly back to Johannesburg.

Things to Know Before You Go

Best Times to Visit Different Regions

South Africa’s diverse climate means there’s always a perfect time to visit, depending on where you’re going. For the Cape Town and Western Cape area, the warm, dry summer months between November and February are ideal.

Wildlife enthusiasts should head to Kruger National Park during the winter (May to September) for the best game viewing conditions. Read more tips about the optimal times in the article ‘Best Time for a Safari in South Africa: a Seasonal Guide.’

The Garden Route is splendid year-round, but especially from April to July for those who prefer less crowded travels.

Rhino in Kruger Park

Visa Requirements

Visitors from most countries can get a 90 day visa on arrival, but be sure to check your country’s specific requirements well in advance. 

Safety Tips

South Africa is relatively safe for tourists, but like anywhere, it’s wise to stay alert, especially in cities. Use common sense: don’t display valuables openly, and be cautious when withdrawing money from ATMs. Research and respect local safety advisories.

Read more in the article ‘Is South Africa Safe to travel to? Essential Travel Safety Tips.’

Transportation Options

Renting a car is often the best way to explore South Africa at your own pace, offering flexibility to visit off-the-beaten-path destinations. International visitors will need a valid driver’s license from their home country, and sometimes an International Driving Permit (IDP). Drive on the left side of the road, and be mindful of varying road conditions and wildlife crossings.


South Africa’s currency is the Rand (ZAR). Credit cards are widely accepted, but it’s good to have some cash for tipping.

Travel Plug Needed for South Africa

South Africa uses Type M electrical plugs, with three large round pins in a triangular pattern. The standard voltage is 230V. Travelers will need a plug adapter (and possibly a voltage converter) for devices that are not compatible with this system.


Staying connected is easy. You can buy a local SIM card at Pep stores or at the airport upon arrival. This is usually the most cost-effective way to have mobile data and make calls during your stay. Ensure your phone is unlocked before you travel to use a South African SIM card.

Cape Town beach and Table Mountain in background

Cultural Etiquette and Tips

Understanding the social and cultural landscape of South Africa will enrich your travel experience, fostering genuine connections with locals. Here are key etiquette tips and insights to help you embrace South Africa’s diverse culture.

Understanding Social Norms and Respectful Interaction

  • Diversity and Respect: South Africa is often referred to as the “Rainbow Nation,” a term that celebrates its diverse cultures, ethnicities, and languages. Show respect for this diversity by being open, curious, and respectful in all interactions.
  • Personal Space and Communication: South Africans value personal space but are known for their warmth and friendliness. 
  • Dress Code: In urban areas and when dining out, South Africans generally dress smart casual. However, attire is more casual in rural areas and on the beach. It’s always a good idea to research and match the dress code of the environment you’re in.

Tipping and Greeting Customs

  • Tipping: Tipping is customary in South Africa for a range of services. In restaurants, a tip of 10-15% is standard for good service. It’s also common to tip guides, drivers, and porters.

    Some guidelines for tipping:

    • Petrol Attendant: 10-20 Rand, depending on the level of service. This could include checking your oil, washing windows, and checking tire pressure.
    • Guide: For private tours, 100-150 Rand per person per day is appreciated. For larger group tours, 50-100 Rand per person per day.
    • Driver: If you’re hiring a driver for a full day, 50-100 Rand per day is standard. For shorter trips or transfers, 20-50 Rand is courteous.
    • Porter: 10-20 Rand per piece of luggage is customary at hotels and airports.

  • Greetings: A handshake is the most common form of greeting among South Africans of all ethnicities. Among friends, however, it’s not uncommon to see more affectionate greetings, such as hugs. Always wait for your South African counterpart to initiate.
  • Language: South Africa has 11 official languages, with English widely spoken across the country. Learning a few basic phrases in other languages, such as Afrikaans or Zulu, can be appreciated, but it’s not expected.

Local Languages

  • Basic Phrases: While English will get you by in most places, learning a few basic greetings in another of South Africa’s languages shows respect and effort to engage with the culture. For example, “hello” in Zulu is “Sawubona,” and in Afrikaans, “Goeie dag.”
  • Language Diversity: Embrace and respect the linguistic diversity. If you’re unsure about which language to use, English is your safest bet. However, showing interest in local languages can be a great conversation starter.
Zebra in Kruger Park

What to Pack for Your South African Adventure

Packing for South Africa means preparing for diverse climates and a range of activities. From the sunny beaches of Cape Town to the brisk mornings on a safari in Kruger National Park, here’s what you’ll need to bring along for a comfortable and responsible journey.

Essentials for All Climates

  • Clothing: Layering is key. Pack lightweight, breathable clothes for the day and warmer layers for cooler evenings. Include a waterproof jacket for unpredictable weather.
  • Footwear: Comfortable walking shoes for city explorations and sturdy hiking boots if you plan to venture into the mountains or go on safari.
  • Sun Protection: High SPF sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses are must-haves to protect against the strong South African sun.
  • Reusable Water Bottle: Stay hydrated while reducing plastic use. Many areas have safe drinking water, so you can refill your bottle throughout your trip.
  • Torch: Make sure you see where you are walking at night to prevent stepping on scorpions and to use during loadshedding.

Safari Gear

  • Neutral-Colored Clothing: Pack clothes in neutral colors (beige, green, brown) if you are going on walking safaris.
  • Binoculars: Enhance your wildlife viewing experience with a good pair of binoculars.
  • Insect Repellent: Choose an eco-friendly repellent to protect against mosquitoes, especially in malaria-prone areas.

Eco-Friendly and Practical Travel Gear

  • Eco-Friendly Toiletries: Biodegradable soap, shampoo, and conditioner minimize your environmental impact, especially in sensitive ecosystems.
  • Power Adapter and Portable Charger: South Africa uses Type M plugs. Bring a universal adapter and a portable charger to keep your devices powered up.
  • Dry Bag: Great for outdoor activities to keep your valuables safe and dry.
  • Packing Cubes: Organize your luggage and save space using eco-friendly packing cubes.

Special Items

  • Swimwear: For the beautiful beaches and hotel pools.
  • Camera: Capture the stunning landscapes and wildlife. Don’t forget extra batteries and memory cards.
  • Travel Insurance Documents: Always have a copy of your travel insurance with you.


South Africa is a land of breathtaking diversity and beauty, offering something for every type of traveler. From the historical depth and vibrant streets of cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg to the unparalleled natural beauty of the Kruger National Park and the Garden Route, this country invites exploration and offers endless adventure.

Whether you’re tasting the exquisite wines of Stellenbosch, soaking in the panoramic views along the Panorama Route, or spotting the Big Five on a safari, South Africa promises experiences that linger long after you’ve returned home.

This carefully curated 10-day itinerary is designed to guide you through some of South Africa’s most iconic landscapes and experiences, blending adventure, relaxation, and cultural immersion. 

So, what are you waiting for? Plan your journey, pack your bags, and step into the adventure that awaits in South Africa. The memories you’ll make are just around the corner.

FAQs: Planning Your South Africa Adventure

How much does a South Africa trip cost?

The cost of a trip to South Africa can vary widely depending on your travel style, the length of your stay, and the activities you plan to do. Budget travelers can expect to spend around $50-70 USD per day on accommodations, meals, and public transportation. For a mid-range budget, $100-150 USD per day will cover comfortable accommodations, some private tours, and dining out. Luxury travelers should budget $250+ USD per day. Remember, safari experiences and domestic flights will add to your overall cost.

How many days are enough for a South Africa trip?

A trip of 10 to 14 days is ideal for a first-time visit to South Africa. This allows you to explore a few regions at a comfortable pace, including time in major cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg, a safari in Kruger National Park, and possibly a drive along the Garden Route or a visit to the Winelands. If you have less time, focus on fewer destinations to avoid rushing.

Why tour South Africa?

South Africa offers an incredible diversity of experiences: breathtaking natural landscapes, rich cultural heritage, world-class wildlife viewing, vibrant cities, and beautiful beaches. Whether you’re interested in history, nature, adventure, or culinary experiences, South Africa has something to offer every traveler.

Can I drink the tap water in South Africa?

In Cape Town the tap water  is safe to drink. For the rest of South Africa it’s advisable to drink bottled water or purify your water, due to some recent Cholera outbreaks. Always check with locals or your accommodation for specific advice on water safety in the area.

What are some of the popular foods in South Africa?

South African cuisine is as diverse as its cultures. Don’t miss trying biltong (dried, cured meat), boerewors (a type of sausage), and traditional dishes like potjiekos (a slow-cooked stew made in a cast-iron pot) and bobotie (a curried meat casserole topped with a layer of savory custard). Seafood lovers should try snoek (a local fish) braaied (barbecued) or smoked. For a truly South African experience, enjoy a braai with locals, where meat is grilled outdoors, accompanied by side dishes like pap (maize porridge) and chakalaka (spicy vegetable relish).


Written by Stefanie

I'm Stefanie, your adventurer-in-chief at She Roams Free, and solo travel enthusiast. The world has been my playground since I first hopped on a plane from my home in the Netherlands to South Africa by myself, way back in 2002. Solo travel has been my preferred way to see the world ever since, with South Africa, Namibia and Botswana being my favorite destinations. It has been a baptism by bushveld, a crash course in self-reliance, and a love affair with the unknown. My goal is to inspire other solo female travelers through my stories, and provide tips to explore the world safely and experience the same freedom!

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