South Africa holidays overview

With its stylish cities, fantastic roads, enticing cuisine and accessible national parks, a South Africa holiday is a superb choice for those who just want to dip their toes into the continent. You can explore its varied wildlife, fascinating culture and gorgeous landscapes without leaving your creature comforts behind – and it remains rough enough around the edges to give a real sense of adventure. This all reinforces the country’s motto – “Unity in Diversity” – and visitors will find that South Africa extends far beyond the traditional African clichés, into something much more complex, fascinating and enriching. Find out more in our South Africa travel guide.

Our top South Africa holidays

South Africa safari holiday, 14 days

From £4120
14 days ex flights
Award winning safari in South Africa
Small group2021: 3 Oct, 17 Oct, 31 Oct, 14 Nov, 28 Nov

Luxury Kruger and Mauritius Holiday

From £2900
12 days ex flights
South Africa's Kruger National Park, plus time in Mauritius

South Africa holiday, Cape Town to Kruger

From £3250
10 days ex flights
Cape Town, Kruger and Victoria Falls

Best time to go on holiday to South Africa

The best time to visit South Africa really depends on your own interests. Game is easier to spot in Kruger National Park during the dry winter months of July through to September, when cooler temperatures also make hiking and cycling more pleasant. Sunseekers heading for the south coast should aim for summer – as should keen birders in the north. October and November draw photographers to the wildflower-carpeted Northern Cape, while fans of supersized wildlife should visit from July to December, when whales can be seen near Hermanus. Read more about the best time to visit South Africa.
South Africa temperature and rainfall chart

Map & highlights

South Africa’s national parks are well-known, and the largest and most famous is Kruger National Park in the north. In the south, Addo Elephant National Park is particularly good for seeing elephant herds. South Africa has many great cities, but Cape Town has the most impressive location, sitting under the shadow of Table Mountain with its face to the vast ocean. KwaZulu-Natal is where you can find the Battlefields of the Anglo Zulu Wars; nearby, the inspiring peaks of the Drakensburg Mountains make for fantastic hiking terrain. Swaziland – the landlocked country within South Africa – has great game reserves.
Addo Elephant National Park

1. Addo Elephant National Park

Just a short hop from Port Elizabeth, Addo Elephant National Park offers all the adventure of an African safari – without the long drives, the remoteness or the malaria. Now a sanctuary for more than just elephants, Addo is home to the Big Five, and its family-friendly activities include horse riding, short hikes, and whale watching off the coast.
Battlefields of Anglo Zulu Wars

2. Battlefields of Anglo Zulu Wars

In 1879, the British army invaded Zululand and found themselves face to face with thousands of Zulu warriors. Today, the battlefields at Rorke’s Drift (where 140 British troops held off up to 4,000 Zulus) and Isandwana (where 1800 British solders were killed) set the stage for mesmerising tours, led by knowledgeable storytellers who bring the scenes to life.
Cape Town

3. Cape Town

Cape Town’s spectacular setting, gentle climate and wonderful fusion of the urban and natural make it an easily lovable city. Away from the crowded Waterfront, there is a thriving culture – photograph rainbow-coloured Cape Malay houses, discover the dark past of District 6 and Robben Island, cycle through the township of Khayelitsha, relax on wave-battered beaches and enjoy the laid-back vibe of the Mother City.
Drakensberg Mountains

4. Drakensberg Mountains

An epic, 1,000km-long mountain chain, the Drakensberg’s jagged peaks give it its Zulu name: uKhahlamba, ‘Barrier of Spears.’ Almost 300 bird species live here, and it has fantastic hiking and scenic drives along hairpin passes, rivers and forests and rivers. Part of the range is protected by the Royal Natal National Park, including a 5km-long, 1.2km-high “amphitheatre”, and the Tugela Falls – at 948m, the second highest waterfall in the world.
Kruger National Park

5. Kruger National Park

Kruger is the most famous gem in South Africa’s heavy tourism crown – and deservedly so. This 19,485km² park encompasses a vast array of habitats, over 500 species of birds, and more mammals than any other African game reserve – including, of course, the Big Five. Options ranging from luxury lodges and top-end safaris to campsites and self-drive tours mean that Kruger really is open to all.

6. Swaziland

Though not part of South Africa, many tours pass through Swaziland, and with good reason. Squashed up against the Mozambique border, the attractions in this tiny, mountainous kingdom far outweigh its diminutive size. This is one of the world’s last absolute monarchies, so there is a fantastic culture to discover, as well as national parks, game reserves and hiking trails.

Why visit South Africa?

South Africa is a great introduction to Africa. It’s accessible, with good roads and infrastructure, and there’s a hugely diverse sweep of sights. Kruger National Park could be the poster boy for safari holidays, whilst Cape Town and its surrounding Winelands know how to wine and dine visitors. In a country this large, don’t just visit one place. Road trips in the country are popular for a reason. Add Johannesburg after Kruger National Park or combine KwaZulu-Natal with the Elephant Coast. It’s South Africa’s variety that makes it so compelling.

Kruger National Park

Tell people you’re going to South Africa on safari, and they’ll probably think you’re going to Kruger National Park. This huge game reserve is four hours’ drive or a flight from Johannesburg, and is home to black and white rhino, big cats and African wild dogs. Most people visit the wildlife-rich south and it can be a busy place; if you spot a lion, you won’t be the only ones watching. However, the park is ringed by private game reserves that offer more secluded excursions, and the north of Kruger is quieter, too.

Self drive holidays in South Africa

Driving along South Africa’s coast, you might be distracted by a whale spout out to sea or do a double-take at the sight of penguins on the beach. Head inland and there are ostriches running alongside the road in the Karoo and warthogs trotting ahead in the game parks. The country’s good roads and big scenery is perfect for self drive holidays, and there are some well-known routes to follow. The best known is the Garden Route from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, enjoying the green corridor of land that lines the coast – less a garden and more an adventure playground.

More holiday ideas

Cape Town to Vic Falls holiday in Southern Africa

From £3449 to £3799
22 days inc UK flights
A spectacular and diverse African journey
Small group2022: 19 Mar, 30 Apr, 18 Jun, 6 Aug, 24 Sep, 1 Oct, 5 Nov, 10 Dec

Kwa-Zulu Natal tailor made tour, South Africa

From £3400
13 days inc UK flights
Discover Kwa-Zulu Natal with a qualified botanist

Cape Town and the Garden Route tour

From £2949 to £3149
14 days inc UK flights
Travel along the dramatic coastline at the bottom of South Africa
Small group2022: 15 Jan, 26 Feb, 19 Mar, 6 Aug, 27 Aug, 3 Sep, 10 Sep, 17 Sep, 24 Sep, 1 Oct, 8 Oct, 15 Oct, 22 Oct, 5 Nov, 12 Nov, 19 Nov, 3 Dec, 17 Dec

Self drive South Africa holiday

From £2300 to £4500
15 days inc UK flights
Explore Cape Town, the Winelands and the Garden Route

South Africa safari and Mauritius beach holiday

From £3340 to £5100
13 days inc UK flights
This luxury itinerary combines a wildlife safari with relaxation time on the beach

Cape Town to Victoria Falls small group lodge tour

From €3490 to €3940
21 days ex flights
Classic route lodge safari to Namibia, Botswana & Zimbabwe
Small group2021: 3 Nov, 24 Nov, 8 Dec, 22 Dec, 2022: 5 Jan, 12 Jan, 19 Jan, 26 Jan, 2 Feb, 9 Feb, 23 Feb, 16 Mar, 30 Mar, 13 Apr, 27 Apr, 18 May, 1 Jun, 15 Jun, 13 Jul, 3 Aug, 10 Aug, 17 Aug, 31 Aug, 14 Sep, 5 Oct, 19 Oct, 26 Oct, 2 Nov, 23 Nov, 14 Dec, 21 Dec
Quote: All our holidays support local communities & nature – bringing you closer to both
Quote: All our holidays support local communities & nature – bringing you closer to both

More about South Africa

Travelling in South Africa with kids

Whilst family holidays to South Africa are both safe and wonderful, to get the most out of safari – which can often involve long drives and patient waiting – it’s best if your children are over the age of eight. Older children and teenagers can start to learn about South Africa’s challenging history and multifaceted culture, too, by visiting Johannesburg and having a guided tour of Soweto. If you’re travelling with younger children, you might even want to consider a volunteering holiday. Young children can work with orphaned primates; age is no barrier to having a monkey cuddle.

Types of holidays & vacations in South Africa

From Addo to Hluhluwe, you’ve got your pick of parks and private reserves on a safari holiday in South Africa. It goes without saying that this is a marvellous wildlife holiday destination. And think beyond big cats: you could visit the coast to see dolphins and whales chasing the annual sardine run instead. Joining a small group holiday can be a really fun way to drink your way through the Winelands. Feeling intrepid? Consider an adventure holiday – you could get up close to great white sharks or stick to dry land on an overland tour.

Going beyond South Africa

From here, the only way is up: South Africa is a gateway into the whole continent of Africa and a great starting point for an overland tour. The most popular route from Cape Town to Victoria Falls goes via Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia, and takes around three weeks. If you have less time, you could just nip into Namibia – where its vast deserts provide a contrast to the Cape Winelands. Alternatively, combine safari with a beach break by visiting South Africa and Mauritius – the island is the perfect place to wind down after all those lion encounters.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about South Africa or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
[Why visit South Africa?: Marcelo Novais] [Kruger National Park: Juanma Clemente-Alloza] [Self drive holidays: South African Tourism] [Travelling in South Africa with kids: Tim Williamson] [Types of holidays: South African Tourism] [Going beyond South Africa: Sunway Safaris]
Photo credits: [Page banner: bikeriderlondon] [Why visit South Africa?: Marcelo Novais] [Kruger National Park: Juanma Clemente-Alloza] [Self drive holidays: South African Tourism] [Travelling in South Africa with kids: Tim Williamson] [Types of holidays: South African Tourism] [Going beyond South Africa: Sunway Safaris]