Are you looking for an exotic honeymoon destination? If the beaches in the Maldives and French Polynesia aren’t your thing and you want to go somewhere different, you should consider South Africa. The land of Nelson Mandela combines some of the best wildlife and nature in the world with buzzing cities and state-of-the-art accommodation. Here we’ll have a look at all it has to offer and why you should seriously consider it for your honeymoon.
Located at the southern tip of the African continent and sharing borders with six countries, South Africa offers astonishing variety. From amazing wildlife and safaris to renowned wineries, lush forests, golden sand beaches, deserts, and rich history, South Africa has it all.
The Kruger and Kgalagadi National Parks where you can see the “Big Five” (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo), make South Africa a dream destination for wildlife lovers. But if that weren’t enough, here you’ll find the famous Table Mountain, spectacular hiking trails, great beaches to surf, coral reefs, and sharks.
With all these attractions, it’s easy to see why South Africa is one of the most visited countries in Africa, with nearly 11 million tourists per year. It’s very well connected to Europe and North America and it’s more stable than other countries in the region making it a great starting off point if you’ve never been to this part of the world.
But South Africa isn’t only diverse in its geography, it has a wide variety of ethnicities and 11 official languages.
Where to Spend Your Honeymoon In South Africa
You could easily spend months in South Africa and you’ll always have something spectacular to see but if your time is limited, here we’ll have a look at the best destinations to make the most of your honeymoon.
With nearly 4 million inhabitants, Cape Town is the second biggest city in South Africa and arguably the most beautiful. It’s the capital of the Western Cape area and it’s one of those places that has it all: rich culture and history, stunning beaches, amazing day-trips, as well as fantastic bars, restaurants, and nightlife.
A must-see when visiting South Africa is Table Mountain and the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. Table Mountain is an emblematic landmark that offers amazing views. Hike up the top or take the cable car, it’s well worth your time. Next to Table Mountain, there’s the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, 1000 acres of botanical gardens that are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is an ideal place to come for a walk, have a picnic, or admire the Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway with its spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, and gardens.
Another place that you can’t miss in Cape Town is Boulders Beach. Located 25 miles south of the city, this beach isn’t the best place to swim but it offers a wonderful coastal walk and it’s one of the best places to see African penguins. You can combine this excursion with a tour around the Cape Point Peninsula, part of the Cape Floral Region, a UNESCO Heritage Site. Some of the highlights here are Hout Bay, Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, Dias Beach, and Cape Point National Park where you can see ostriches, baboons, and even zebras if you’re lucky.
Another unmissable place to visit is Robben Island, also a World Heritage Site. This small island located 4 miles off the coast of Cape Town is home to the prison that held Nelson Mandela and other hundreds of political detainees during apartheid.
If you want to experience the real Cape Town, take a walk on Long Street, and visit Bo-Kaap, the Muslim neighborhood with its famous colored houses and cobblestone streets.
If you want to explore even further, Lion’s Head and Kulk Bay are great options.
Cape Town offers lots of hotels for every type of traveler. Some of the best accommodation options are Cape Town Lodge Hotel, a 4-star hotel with rooms for $80, The Onyx Apartment Hotel where a night starts at $100, and the Stock Exchange Apartment Hotel with spacious rooms for $70 per night.
South Africa is not only famous because of its nature but also because of its wines. Approximately 40 miles west of Cape Town there’s a region called Winelands or Wine Country. Paarl, Franschhoek, and Stellenbosch are three of the most famous towns in this mountainous area where some of the best wines in South Africa are produced.
Usually, tourists come to the Winelands as a day trip from Cape Town but if you have the time, try staying the night in Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, or any other town that you like, they’re well worth more than just a couple of hours.
Some of your best options in terms of accommodation are Le Franschhoek Hotel & Spa with rooms for $150 per night, Centre-Ville Guest House for $100 in Franschhoek, The Stellenbosch Hotel where you can stay for $70, or River Manor Boutique Hotel with rooms for $120, in Stellenbosch.
Kruger National Park
With more than 500 bird species, 100 reptiles, 150 mammals, and a wide diversity of trees and flowers, Kruger is South Africa’s first and most iconic national park. It has an area of 7,500 square miles, making it one of the biggest wild reserves in Africa.
Kruger National Park is home to the Big Five (elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, and buffalo) and offers different safari tours and lodging options. Regardless of whether you decide to explore in a 4×4, hike or fly in a hot-air balloon, it’ll be a once in a lifetime experience.
The Kruger National Park area is full of resorts and hotels. If you want to save some money it’s better to stay near the park instead of in it. Some of the top choices are the Cambalala – Kruger Park Lodge that offers apartments for $125 per night, Hazyview Cabana Resort where you can stay at merely 11 miles from the park for $130 per night, and Swadini, A Forever Resort for $55 per night. If you’re not on a budget and you want to experience the National Park from the inside, some of the best places are Protea Hotel by Marriott Kruger Gate for $200 per night, the luxurious Hamiltons Tented Camp that offers tents in a 25,000-acre space for $780 per night, and the Motswari Private Game Reserve lodge with bungalows for $730.
Garden Route is a 185-mile stretch of coastal road on the southern tip of South Africa that runs from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape to the Tsitsikamma forests in the Eastern Cape, and it’s considered by many as the most beautiful route in the country.
This world-famous road is part of UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves and gets its name from the Garden Route National Park that it crosses. In this area, you’ll find a lot of lakes, lush forests, sand dunes, beaches, mountains, some of the best hiking trails in South Africa, and diverse flora and fauna.
Some of the must-sees in the area are De Hoop Nature Reserve with beautiful beaches and walking paths, Plettenberg Bay where you can find Lookout Beach and Keurbooms Beach, Tsitsikamma National Park, Wilderness Beach, Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point in Africa, and Knysna.
Garden Route is usually busy from December to March, so it’s better to come in April or May. September and October are also great months not only to avoid crowds but also to enjoy whale watching.
Knysna is a beautiful town located in the middle of the Garden Route and a top choice to use as a base. Some of the best accommodation options here are Under Milkwood Resort with rooms for $120 per night, Amber Guest Lodge that offer rooms for $50 per night, and the Hotel Claude where a night starts at $90.
At 11,420 feet (3,481 meters), the Drakensberg Mountains (Dragon Mountains in Afrikaans) stretch for nearly 700 miles, are the highest mountains in South Africa and the main range in Southern Africa.
The Drakensberg Mountains serve as a border with Lesotho, a small enclaved country within South Africa. Most of the South African side of the range is a game reserve, while the Drakensberg National Park is a UNESCO a World Heritage site.
The Drakensberg Mountains are a great place for hiking and enjoying nature. Here you can find eland, baboons, reedbuck, lammergeier and other animals.
Drakensberg’s area is well developed for tourists so you can find several hotels and resort options. Some of the best choices are Bushman’s Nek and Dragon Peaks Mountain Resort that offer rooms and suites for $90 per night, and Premier Resort Sani Pass where you can stay for $70.
Addo Elephant National Park
Located nearly 45 miles north of Port Elizabeth, Addo Elephant National Park is the third biggest national park in South Africa and one of the best ones in the region. Addo gained national park status in 1931 when there were only 11 elephants but there are currently more than 600.
A visit to the Addo Elephant Park is a must if you’re in the Eastern Cape. You can spend a couple of days here and enjoy not only elephants but also lions, hyenas, zebras, rhinos, and buffaloes. This park is one of the few where you can see the Big Seven (Big Five plus sharks and whales), something that not even the Kruger Park has.
If you want to be near the park, Addo Wildlife, with rooms for $140, and Dungbeetle River Lodge, where you can stay for $80 per night, are your best choices. If you want to experience sleeping inside the park, the luxurious River Bend Lodge will set you back nearly $400 for an unforgettable night.
Safaris in South Africa
South Africa is a dream destination for safari and wildlife lovers. The country has dozens of national parks and game reserves so choosing only a couple can be a bit overwhelming. Apart from the Kruger, Addo Elephant, and Drakensberg National Parks, there are some others that are well worth your time.
Some of the ones to keep in mind are Madikwe game reserve in the north next to Botswana, Pilanesberg national park in the north, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the northwest, Mapungubwe National Park near the Zimbabwe-Botswana border, Entabeni and Welgevonden game reserve in the northeast, Nambiti and Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park, which is the oldest game reserve in Africa, in the east,.
Each of these parks offers different safari options that range from $190 per person for a day to package tours that last several days and will set you back several thousand dollars per person.
Safaris are pretty unique so they’ll definitely be one of the highlights of your trip. Keep in mind that South Africa is big so unless you really want to visit a particular game reserve, try to plan your itinerary smartly so your main sites are easy to reach.
South Africa is the 25th biggest country in the world and it stretches across 465,000 square miles. Although it features different climates depending on the region, in most areas temperatures don’t drop below 45ºF or rise above 85ºF.
Due to its location in the southern tip of the continent, its size, and varied geography, South Africa has four seasons. Temperatures don’t vary so much from north to south but there are noticeable changes in climate between east and west due to the ocean currents. The currents from the Indian Ocean are warmer than those in the Atlantic so temperatures tend to be higher on the east coast. The northwest of the country is drier while the east is more humid and has a sub-tropical climate.
In most of the country, the period from May to September (autumn and winter in the southern hemisphere) is drier making it perfect for outdoor activities, while October to April (mainly spring and summer) is the wet season with quick and heavy showers. Cape Town (and its surrounding area called the Western Cape) is the exception and it receives more rain in the winter.
The summer in South Africa runs from December to March and it can be very hot with temperatures reaching 95ºF in some areas.
When to go
Due to its mild temperatures, South Africa is a year-round destination and the best time to go depends on what you want to see.
The high season runs during summer from December to March, especially during Christmas, New Year and Easter, when prices rise and tourists flock. In these months safaris should be booked in advance. April, May, October, and November are the shoulder season, while winter tends to be quieter.
However, the best period for wildlife watching and safaris in the Kruger or Pilanesberg National Parks or in the Madikwe Reserve is from April to October. If you’re into whale watching, the best months are July, August, September, and October, while the Garden Route can be visited at any time as it experiences consistent rain during the whole year.
South Africa is a once-in-a-lifetime destination. It has amazing wildlife and safaris, world-class wineries, great beaches, and spectacular flora and fauna. It’s one of those countries that has it all. There’s a lot to see and explore so try to stay for at least 2 weeks to be able to enjoy Cape Town, the Winelands, the Garden Route, and at least one safari. Then get ready to organize a second trip to South Africa because I can guarantee you that it’ll leave you wanting for more.