I once read a quote that stated “If travel was free, you would never see me again” – and oh how this rings true for me. I was born with wanderlust, which gave my poor parents many of their grey hairs, as I would always wander off – be it in the Pick n Pay when mom bought groceries, or when we went to visit my godparents gamefarm. I could explore for hours!
In fact, my wanderlust is so bad that my husband often likes to tease me. “When I go on holiday somewhere, my idea is to relax, sleep late, watch some tv, swim, just chill and you know, have a holiday. When my wife goes on holiday, it’s not a holiday, it’s an expedition. Every morning, we have to get up early and drive and see everything there is to see.”
I was recently asked about which unusual places I would visit in South Africa, it wasn’t long before I knew exactly which towns and cities I would splurge on and book a flight for! The problem is that there are sooooo many places I would love to go to or have been to that I had to arrange it somehow. Thus, here is my list of the must see unusual places in our beautiful country – by province.
Now, hear me out. Usually when people say Upington, the first thing that pops into people’s heads – my own head until recently – is a big whole lotta nothing and dust. Wrong!
Did you know that Upington is in fact next to the Orange river? And that only 120 km outside this nowhere dorpie, you would find the Augrabies Falls? Just imagine camping under the stars on Mars, but still being able to breathe – well that’s what this arid district promises.
I wonder if the people of Nelspruit even know the beauty of their surroundings? Now, it might not be such an unusual place to go, as it does get a lot of the Kruger National Park traffic, but it’s what is around Nelspruit that makes this town in the lowveld a must visit. There are daytrips in every direction and so many waterfalls to see.
About 30 km in every direction you will find the most spectacular little towns. Sabie, with its rainforests and romantic lodges is one of my favourite places in the country. Make sure to check out the super romantic Timamoon – I’ve heard of quite a couple of proposals here, but it could also double as a sexy kickstart to a honeymoon.
You can also visit the Sterkfontein caves. But an absolute must see is Kaapsehoop. The town with about 120 people, has the only wild horse population in the country, and gosh are they beautiful!
Just outside Lydenburg, you’ll find Forest Creek Lodge, where you can stay in a loghut and take a bath in the middle of a forest or order a picnic basket.
Mpumalanga is by far the most romantic province in our country.
Skip the obvious and head down the coast towards Namibia. Little towns like Velddrif, Yzerfontein, Saldhana and Paternoster, with its charming fishermen village vibes, cheap and delicious lobster and vast stretching beaches – I’m thinking Yzerfontein in particular here, you will not regret exploring this region.
If you are feeling even more adventurous, head inland to Donkieskraal in the Sandveld.
St Lucia – which means the bay of light – is one of those place that never leave you. It’s a paradise for those who love both the sea and the bushveld, as it is one of the world’s scuba diving gems, but also has the St Lucia game reserve right on its doorstep. And, when you make it through the reserve, you will end up in idyllic Cape Vidal.
If you head in the opposite direction, you will find the little town of Pennington, nestled between Port Shepstone and Scarborough. From here, you are also left with a number of daytrip options, such as the spectacular Oribi Gorge. If you have an insatiable taste for adrenaline and adventure, you should try the big swing, or bungee jump. You can also camp out in the gorge, and gaze at the trillions of stars. Just don’t go sleepwalking.
Further inland, you will also find the Jozini Dam, which has been likened to the Caprivi delta, in the Zambezi. I have only driven past here on the way to Mozambique, but it looked like a place I must visit, with its lodges built against the steep dam wall.
As remote as can be, this province absolutely has my heart. One of its most charming towns is Hogsback, a place that is at the top of my bucket list to see in South Africa, followed closely by Coffee Bay – you know, the Hole in the Wall. I have heard so many stories about the fantastic backpackers in the old Transkei that I cannot wait to pack my bags and explore the laid back towns.
Forget about the Waterberg and head as far north as you can before heading into Zimbabwe. You will find the old Venda, and the very unusual Thohoyandou. Besides being the town where the Venda king built his palace, you will also find the Khoroni Casino, for those who like to play a little.
I would recommend this town for the most adventurous travelers and bushveld lovers.
For the Free State, I would recommend visiting Parys, right next to the Vaal River, or visiting the Golden Gate Nature Reserve, just outside Clarens. The reserve looks like it is from another planet!
In Gauteng,you must definitely check out the Tswaing Nature Reserve, where a crater fell a bazillion years ago. It is one of the oldest meteor sites in the world and well worth the visit, even if it is just for a hike.
So cancel your already planned trip to the popular spots and explore the unknown! Get to know the spaces in between that make South Africa truly unusual.
Don’t stop there, there’s an entire continent to explore just north of here!