Down at the southern tip of Africa lies a country rich in natural splendours with vibrant cultures and warm people. South Africa is one of the hottest tourist destinations in the world and everyone is yearning for some time on sandy Cape Town beaches or a trip through the wild savannah.
Yet, the country has heaps more to offer than a quick Cape and Kruger trip. There are 9 provinces each more different than the next. In the north, canyons stretch for miles across grassy planes, in the west vast open desert skies are illuminated by the milky way at night.
The country has a never-ending list of things to do and places to see but here are 5 of the most unforgettable natural wonders you might never have heard of.
The Blyde River Canyon lies in the luscious Mpumalanga Province. It is the world’s largest green canyon and also the 3rd largest canyon in the world. The canyon’s sup tropical green landscapes span over 26km and there are many sights to behold along the way. Possibly none as breathtaking as the Three Rondavels. These hut-shaped mountain formations form the pinnacle of the canyon.
Further upstream, Bourke’s Luck Potholes are another must-see stop. The bubbling water has carved out round formations in the bright red stone of the canyon walls over 1000s of years. God’s Window is also located in the canyon and on a clear day you will get a view second to none. The surrounding towns make the most of adventure tourism and there are many opportunities to discover the canyon with zip lines, hikes, and boats.
The Drakensberg mountain range is South Africa’s longest mountain range and holds many spectacular treasures within its rocky domain. The Amphitheatre is a rock face formation more than 5km long and from every angle, it is nothing short of breathtaking. Various hiking trails go up to the highest peak of this spectacular ridge and are suitable for various levels of fitness.
This massive rock facade puts all others to shame. It is 10 times the size of El Capitan in Yosemite and the view from the top is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful in the world. The Tugela waterfall also tumbles over its edge to form the world’s second-highest waterfall. These mountains also contain San rock art that is more than 30,000 years old.
South Africa is not only good for big game and mountain ranges but here you can also enjoy the smaller things in life. The Namaqualand area stretches along the west coast of the country and there the desert meets the sea.
In spring-time, this arid expanse of land bursts to life with colour as the wildflowers start to bloom. From one mile to the next the landscape changes as the flowers change from bright orange to giant blocks of yellow or even white flowers. When you explore the areas on foot you find even more spectacular indigenous fauna that should be appreciated up close.
The West Coast National Park is a short drive from Cape Town and also offers a chance to see the flowers on a day trip. Eland graze majestically through the purple daisy fields while the stormy ocean crashes over the boulders on the beach. Don’t forget to see if you can spot a whale from the seashore!
The south-eastern coast of the country is in many ways rural and underdeveloped. With that comes unspoiled natural treasures ready to welcome adventurous spirits. The Transkei is a collection of green hills and tribal villages that tumble down into the ocean below the cliffs.
These beaches have been voted some of the most beautiful in the world and there is no doubt why. In Coffee Bay, you will find a unique rock formation that stands out along the sandy shore. The natural stone arch can be reached by foot during low tide but during low tide, it cracks and roars as the waves crash through the arch.
4 hours from Cape Town, in the desert, lies the one-horse town of Sutherland. A town might not be a natural beauty but when the sun sets the true magic happens. Sutherland is where you will find the clearest and brightest skies in the country, or anywhere for that matter. Stargazers travel from the world over to experience the southern constellations that illuminate the skies here.
In wintertime, the town is often clad in a white coat of snow and in the summer the desert areas are peaceful and uniquely beautiful. The Milky Way stretches like a white ribbon across the sky and the southern cross will guide your way. Mars also glows bright next to the moon and is visible with the naked eye. Orion and the Magellanic Clouds are also two main attractions in these skies.
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