South Africa is one of the most diverse countries in the world. There is quite literally, something for everyone.

Looking for a tropical beach to chill-out on and soak up some sun? Got it. Looking to see iconic wildlife in their natural habitat? Got them. Looking to hike through breathtaking mountain scenery? No problem. Prefer a history lesson while on your travels? You’ll be spoilt for choice!

Here are the best things to do in South Africa:

1. Go On Safari

For most people, going on safari is the main reason they visit South Africa in the first place. The chance of seeing the iconic Big Five in their natural habitat is a bucket list adventure in its own right.

The Kruger National Park is the country’s most famous game reserve. Here you’ll find a wide range of accommodation, catering to any budget, from self-catering campsites, to chalets and luxury lodges. Night safaris, horseback safaris and walking safaris are popular alternatives to the traditional daytime game drives.

The 24 Best Things To Do In South Africa
A baby elephant crosses the road infront of a safari vehicle in Pilanesberg National Park | The 24 Best Things To Do In South Africa

Kruger’s popularity and accessibility means that it is usually very crowded. For a less-commercialised safari destination, consider Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, a true wilderness located on the Botswana border, known for its population of black-maned lions.

If you like the idea of a self-drive safari, check out Mkhuze Game Reserve (north of Durban) or Addo Elephant National Park (near Port Elizabeth).

2.  Hike In The Worlds Most Beautiful Scenery

South Africa’s breathtaking natural scenery has long been considered amongst the most beautiful in the world, with the country seemingly winning awards every year for its incredible landscapes. The best way to experience its grandeur is on foot.

There are thousands of long-distance hiking trails to explore, some of which take you along picturesque coastline, while others reveal the depth of beauty within the country’s interior. Amongst the most famous routes are the Fanie Botha trail in Mpumalanga, and the Rim of Africa, which traverses the Western Cape mountains.

The 24 Best Things To Do In South Africa
Views of the Drakensberg Mountain Range | The 24 Best Things To Do In South Africa

If you’re looking for a less ‘formal’ hiking experience, check out the Wild Coast or the Drakensberg Mountains. In both you’ll find an abundance of short and long trails that allow you to explore as much or as little as you like. The Wild Coast, also known as the Transkei, offers an insight into the rugged beauty of the Eastern Cape’s shore and the culture of the Xhosa people. The Drakensberg is home to the highest mountain range in South Africa.

3. Go Wine Tasting

The famous Cape Winelands offer some of the best wine tasting in the world, in some of the most spectacular scenery.

The 24 Best Things To Do In South Africa
Vineyards in the Cape Winelands | The 24 Best Things To Do In South Africa

‘Wine country’ is located around an hour’s drive from Cape Town City Centre and is characterised by rolling vineyards nestled in between towering mountains. Franschhoek and Stellenbosch boast a wide variety of beautiful wine farms, and spending a day sampling some of the ridiculously good local wine is without a doubt one of the best things to do in South Africa.

There are various guided wine tours on offer, so no need to play Rock/Paper/Scissors over who has to be the designated driver.

4. Visit The World’s Largest Man-Made Hole

The Big Hole, also known as the Kimberley Hole or Kimberley Mine, is a large open pit that is said to be the deepest hand-dug hole in the world.

The Kimberley Hole | The 24 Best Things To Do In South Africa

Mining operations were ended in 1914, and today the hole is a purely tourist attraction. Here you’ll find an excellent exhibition center, diamond vault, and epic subterranean experience.

5. Reflect On The Past at Robben island

South Africa has a dark history, and stories of past struggles are still vividly remembered. The most famous of all is the story of Nelson Mandela who was imprisoned for 27 years during his fight for freedom and equality for people of all races.

Prison cell at Robben Island | The 24 Best Things To Do In South Africa

Tours leave from mainland Cape Town and take you by ferry across the bay to Robben Island, the old island prison where Nelson Mandela and hundreds of other political activists served the majority of their sentences. Here you can take guided tour, led by a former political prisoner, through the largely unchanged jails and even visit the exact cell that ‘Madiba’ spent many of years of his life.

A tour of Robben island is an emotional roller coaster but definitely one of the best things to do in South Africa, whether you’re into history or not.

6. Explore the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve

The Blyde River Canyon is the third-largest canyon in the world and one of South Africa’s most-visited attractions. It’s not hard to see why. The reserve boasts multiple hiking trails with picturesque viewpoints over natural wonders such as Bourke’s Luck Potholes, the Three Rondavels, Pinnacle Rock, and God’s Window.

The Three Rondavels at Blyde River Canyon | The 24 Best Things To Do In South Africa

7. Visit The Apartheid Museum

The Apartheid Museum opened in Johannesburg in 2001 as a showcase of South Africa’s turbulent past and a tribute to the heroic freedom fighters who risked their lives to end the apartheid regime.

Visitors here can learn about South Africa’s painful history of racial segregation. No details are spared, and you’ll see evidence of how citizens were once classified by their nose width, hair type, skin pigmentation, and other physical features. The museum includes interactive displays, film footage, and historic photos.

8. Meet the Penguins at Boulders Beach

Boulders Beach in Cape Town is the only place in the world where you can readily get up close and personal with penguins.

The immaculate beach gets its name from the enormous boulders dotted across the shore, and is renowned for its beauty. However the real stars of Boulder’s Beach are the colony of around 3000 African Penguins that call it home.

Penguins at Boulders Beach | The 24 Best Things To Do In South Africa

Here you can lay out and work on your tan, or take a dip alongside the penguins in the crystal clear ocean water.

If you’re not keen to get down onto the sand then don’t worry, there’s a boardwalk that runs from the Boulders Visitor Centre down to the beach and from here you have a great view of the penguins and their burrows.