Last Updated on April 4, 2022 by Nellie Huang
Dreaming of an epic South Africa trip? Check out my detailed 2-week South Africa itinerary that brings you from the coast to the savanna.
If you think South Africa is all about wildlife safari, think again. The country is one of the most diverse I’ve been — with cosmopolitan cities along dramatic coastlines that fringe wild savannas and rugged mountain range.
You can easily go from game-driving in the African bushveld to surfing on the beach or wine-tasting at lush vineyards in a matter of hours. Plus it’s home to many historical sites that have witnessed some major turning points in world’s history.
I love South Africa so much that I’ve been 4 times! On each trip, I’ve discovered a different side to the multi-faceted country. For first-timer visitors, I have put together this South Africa itinerary to pack in the best of South Africa in 2 weeks.
The Ultimate South Africa Itinerary & Guide
How to Get to South Africa
The main gateway to South Africa are the Cape Town International Airport (CPT) and OR Tambo International Airport (JNB). South African Airways is the national airline and serves many major cities in the world.
This South Africa itinerary starts and ends in Cape Town. You can find flights from New York to Cape Town via Istanbul for around US$750 return. For those in Europe, you can fly direct from London to Nairobi (9hours) for around $550 return.
Current South Africa Travel Restrictions
All land and air borders to South Africa are now open. Vaccinated travelers must show proof of vaccination, while unvaccinated travelers must provide valid negative COVID-19 test results, obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel. Children under 6 are exempted. Check the South Africa government website for up-to-date info.
It’s important to have travel insurance for travel during the pandemic. Safety Wing is the most popular travel insurance company for COVID19-coverage. I use their Nomad Insurance plan, which covers COVID-19 as any other illness as long as it was not contracted before your coverage start date. Refer to my travel insurance guide for more details.
How to Get Around South Africa
By Car Rental
The best way to get around South Africa is by car hire. Most roads are in good condition and all road signs are in English. We’ve driven South Africa several times, and never had any issue.
You don’t need a 4WD and car rental is really affordable here (prices as low as $200 for 2 weeks in South Africa). You can even do self-drive safari in certain national parks and reserves. I suggest hiring a car in Cape Town at the airport and another one in Johannesburg.
As the country is big, you’ll need to fly to get from the Cape Town to Johannesburg. Domestic flights are rather cheap — you can find the cheapest flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town on Mango Airlines for US$70. Mango flights are some of the cheapest you’ll find.
It’s also possible to fly from Johannesburg to Nelspruit (nearest town to Kruger NP)on Airlink for just $70 each way. Flying cuts down the travel time from 6 hours by road to just 40 minutes.
Best Time to Travel South Africa
South Africa is a year-round destination. Depending on where you travel in South Africa, each region has different climate and wildlife opportunities.
In general, the best time to visit South Africa is from May to September. These are the cooler winter months in the northern regions (Johannesburg area), which bring superb conditions for viewing big game.
Summer in South Africa runs from November to February. During these months, the southern coast (Cape Town area) has beautiful, hot, dry weather. The average temperature is around 73-79 °F (23-26°C). The best time to visit the Cape for whale watching is between July and November.
2 Weeks in South Africa
With 2 weeks in South Africa, you’ll barely scratch the surface of this mega-diverse country. But you will still be able to experience the best of South Africa in 2 weeks, if you follow this itinerary.
In this South Africa itinerary, we will get to explore mainly the Cape, Johannesburg and Kruger areas. I recommend hiring a car in each area and flying between Cape Town and Jo’burg.
Summary of this South Africa Itinerary:
- Days 1-3: Cape Town
- Day 4: Day Trip to Cape Peninsula
- Day 5: Day Trip to Cape Winelands
- Day 6: Fly to Johannesburg
- Day 7: Day Trip to Cradle of Humankind
- Days 8-10: Welgevonden Private Reserve
- Days 11-13: Kruger National Park
- Day 14: Fly home!
South Africa Itinerary Day 1: Cape Town
Start your South Africa itinerary in the Mother City: Cape Town, one of my favorite cities in the world. Cape Town is a stunning coastal city fringed by dramatic beaches and crowned by the magnificent Table Mountain.
Explore V&A Waterfront
Get your bearings at the V&A Waterfront, home to South Africa’s oldest harbor. If you’re lucky (like me), there are high chances of seeing sea lions swimming around the harbor or suntanning on the deck here.
With epic views of the Table Mountain and a central location, the waterfront is a popular hangout spot for Capetonians. Today it is a collection of restaurants and shops offering fresh produce and local products.
Visit Nelson Mandela’s Cell on Robben Island
The V&A Waterfront is where you can catch the ferry to Robben Island (which departs every 1-2 hours). Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years of political imprisonment here on the island.
The Robben Island tour is led by a former political prisoner, who’ll bring you to key sites on the island whilst recounting his own personal story of imprisonment here. It gives a sobering but insightful peek into the oppression of the apartheid regime. Book your tour here!
Wander around Bo Kaap
After the eye-opening visit, head to Cape Town’s most colorful neighborhood: Bo Kaap. This small downtown neighborhood is the Cape Malay Quarter and is famous for the multicolour single-story Cape Dutch houses.
The origins of the area date back to the 1700s when the Dutch colonisers imported slaves from Malaysia, Indonesia and Africa to Cape Town. When slavery was abolished in the 1830s, the slaves painted their homes in bright colors to celebrate their freedom.
Watch Sunset at Camps Bay
Thanks to its location by the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Town is blessed with beautiful beaches and a surfing culture. One of the best beaches to catch sunset is Camps Bay, poised along the foothills of the Twelve Apostles Mountain Range.
Camps Bay is lined with palm trees, white sand and buzzing beach bars. Do a romantic picnic with your partner or sit in one of the cool beach bars and watch the sun fade into the Atlantic Ocean with a cocktail in hand!
Where to Stay in Cape Town:
There are a few areas most travelers stay in: the V&A Waterfront has mostly luxury hotels, Long Street has mid range boutique hotels, while Camps Bay is great for affordable apartments with excellent seaviews.
Airbnb: Camps Bay Apartment
This beautiful 2-bedroom apartment (for 4) in Camps Bay has stunning views of the mountains and sea. It also has a pool and huge terrace. Surprisingly affordable! Check rates here.
Mid Range: The Grand Daddy
On my second trip, I stayed at this quirky boutique hotel and absolutely loved it. Its rooftop has several Airstream trailers (where you can stay in!) and an outdoor bar with cinema nights. Check rates here.
Luxury: The Table Bay Hotel
I stayed at this iconic landmark hotel (pictured) on my first trip to South Africa and it left an amazing first impression. Located at the V&A Waterfront, the 5-star luxury hotel has beautiful views of the harbor and Table Mountain. Check rates here.
South Africa Itinerary Day 2: Cape Town
What makes Cape Town such a stunning place is not the city itself, but rather the location. Table Mountain dominates the city, looming over the City Bowl and Camps Bay area. There are two ways to summit Table Mountain – by cable car or on foot. I recommend hiking to the top and descending by cable car for the full experience.
Hike up Table Mountain
Hiking Table Mountain is a wonderful way to explore the indigenous fynbos (type of forest), spot wildlife like the dassies (rock hyrax), and enjoy spectacular views.
The easiest and quickest route to the top is via Platteklip Gorge, which leads hikers through a ravine on the face of the mountain. This route takes around 1.5-2 hours to complete and is the most popular.
Take the Cable Car Down
At the summit, there’s an opportunity to explore the mountain top along three easy trails affording 360-degree views of the city, Atlantic Seaboard and the mountain chain stretching across the Cape Peninsula.
To get down, catch the Table Mountain aerial cableway. Tickets are around USD $20-25 per adult. They have been ferrying passengers to the top of Table Mountain for almost 90 years, and with its 360* rotating floor and epic views its definitely worth taking the ride.
Alternative: Paraglide Off Lion’s Head
If you’re an adventure seeker, there are plenty of exciting ways to explore the Table Mountain National Park. Abseil off the top of Table Mountain or go mountain biking with a group. I went paragliding off Lion’s Head and it was a surreal experience flying so close to the top of Table Mountain! Book Your Experience here.
Itinerary Day 3: Cape Town
To get under the surface of Cape Town, head out to the townships or informal settlements, or townships. These ramshackle towns that spill out for miles along the highways are the most visible scars of the apartheid era, when non-whites were forced out of their homes.
Visit the Townships of Cape Town
Visiting townships can be controversial, but I believe that traveling with a responsible operator can make a big difference and bring attention to people who need help.
I went on a township cycling tour through Masiphumelele, a township at the edge of Kommetjie. The tour brought us into the township, meeting locals and getting to know them. We had pap (maize porridge) and braai (barbecue) at a local eatery, and visited a sangoma (traditional healer). It was absolutely insightful and definitely worth the experience.
Spend the Evening at Long Street
Running through the centre of Cape Town is Long Street, a vibrant road flanked by local eateries and bars. This is the palpitating heart of Cape Town and it truly comes alive at night.
I stayed at Long Street on one of my trips to South Africa, and had such a good time hanging out with locals here. Don’t miss Mama Africa that serves food from all over Africa, as well as Long Street Cafe, a Cape Town institution set in an old Victorian-style building.
Itinerary Day 4: Cape Peninsula
Next day, rent a car and go on a scenic drive to the Cape Peninsula, and southwesternmost point of the African continent! If you don’t drive, check out this Cape Point day tour.
The road hugs the cliff, meandering along the edge of the Table Mountain all the way to Cape of Good Hope. On one side, the steep slopes plunge dramatically into the Atlantic Ocean; and on the other, needle-sharp peaks soar into the sky.
Visit Charming Fishing Villages
Start out from Muizenberg (known for the colorful houses on the beach) and make your first stop at Kalk Bay, a bohemian village littered with a flurry of antique shops, flea markets and indie boutiques.
Continue down to Simon’s Town, the third oldest town in South Africa. The town is best known for the African Penguin colony that inhabit the nearby Boulders Beach. A wooden boardwalk weaves through the penguin’s habitat, allowing intimate encounters with the cute little animals.
Hike along Trails and BoardWalks
After making a stop at the Cape of Good Hope, continue driving towards the Cape Point lighthouse, set dramatically against the crashing ocean. Cliff trails wind around the vegetation and lead to the lighthouse, we took just twenty minutes to hike along the trail, before we were treated to expansive views of the ocean.
Do the Chapman’s Peak Drive
Drive back via the Atlantic Seaboard through the town of Scarborough and the gorgeous surfing beach of Noordhoek. The day trip culminates at Chapman’s Peak Drive, where you can drink in a view of the crescent-shaped bay and spot sealions and sharks swimming beneath.
Itinerary Day 5: Cape Winelands
On your last day in Cape Town, drive out to the beautiful Cape Winelands (1 hour away) and visit some of South Africa’s most famous wine estates. You can also book a Cape Winelands tour or winelands ebike tour that includes a few tastings.
The most popular town of the Cape Winelands is Stellenbosch, and it’s definitely worth visiting for its photogenic setting. If you have some extra time, don’t miss the equally beautiful Franschhoek just a 30-minute drive away.
Visit Spier Wine Farm
This is one of Stellenbosch’s oldest working wineries, with a heritage dating back to 1692. The owners are passionate art lovers and the winery is home to one of the largest collections of contemporary South African art in the world.
Taste Peter Falke Wine
Enjoy wine tasting at the Groenvlei Estate, and admire the traditional 18th century Cape Dutch buildings. The pretty winery is open for tastings from Tuesday to Sunday, 11am to 7pm.
Ride the Wine Tram
Then, hop on the vintage Franschoek wine tram, to tour wineries without getting behind the wheel of a car. You can hop on and off whenever you want and visit up to 5 wineries in a day. You need to book your tickets in advance.
South Africa Itinerary Day 6: Johannesburg
It’s time to explore more of South Africa! Catch a domestic flight to Johannesburg, South Africa’s biggest city. Flights from Cape Town usually cost around US$70 each way.
Many people skip Jo’burg altogether, but they miss out on many insightful museums and historical sites that are quintessential to any South Africa trip. The city is now dedicated to preserving the memories of heroes who transformed the country into what it is today.
NOTE: Safety is still an issue in Johannesburg. Don’t walk around at night, and don’t leave anything visible in the car.
Visit Apartheid Museum
Rent another car and make a beeline for the Apartheid Museum, a must-see in my opinion. It is a sobering experience, but an essential one if you want to understand South Africa’s history and identity.
The museum shows the rise and fall of the apartheid system through spine-chilling film footage, photography and historical artifacts. It’s an emotional and eye-opening experience — prepare to shed some tears. Book a guided tour in advance here.
Explore Soweto Township
Short for “South Western Township”, Soweto is the epicenter for many important turning points throughout South Africa’s history. It’s easy and safe to explore Soweto on your own, but if you prefer to have a guide, check out this guided township tour.
The most famous spot in Soweto is Vilakazi Street – once home to Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. Mandela’s former abode is now a museum, and Archbishop Tutu still resides in his Soweto home.
Another Soweto museum thats recount the struggle to end apartheid include the somber Hector Pieterson Museum that honors the schoolchildren slain in a police massacre.
Dine at Carnivore Restaurant
One of the most famous restaurants in Jo’burg is Carnivore, located in Muldersdrift (you’ll need a car or taxi to get here). It offers authentic African braai (barbecue) and a buffet of grilled venison meat and South African side dishes. Book a table here!
Where to Stay in Johannesburg:
Johannesburg is a lot more spread out than Cape Town — you’ll need a car no matter where you’re staying. Maboneng has some hipster boutique hotels, while Sandton (upscale residential area) offers plenty of well-priced Airbnb and luxury apartments.
Airbnb: One Hyde Park
One Hyde Park has affordable, luxurious 1/2-bedroom apartments in Sandton, perfect for couples or families. This particular Airbnb has a fully equipped kitchen and pool. Check rates here.
Mid Range: Hallmark Hotel
I’ve stayed at this hotel a few times and always enjoyed my stay. It’s a unique boutique hotel right in the heart of Downtown Jo’burg, serving excellent food in their restaurant. Check rates here.
Luxury: Odyssey Luxury Apartments
On our most recent trip, we stayed at Odyssey (pictured) as the apartment is spacious (for families) and not overly expensive. It’s also a 5-minute walk from Morningside Shopping Centre in Sandton. Check rates here.
South Africa Itinerary Day 7: Cradle of Humankind
Next, rise early for a day trip to the UNESCO World Heritage Site: The Cradle of Humankind. It is internationally recognised as the place where humankind began.
Discovered in 1924, the first-ever hominid fossil is on display here at the Maropeng Visitor Centre. There are13 excavation sites, including the Sterkfontein Caves. You can also catch a glimpse of pre-human skull dubbed “Mrs Ples”, and a near-complete hominid skeleton called “Little Foot”.
Also situated within the World Heritage site reserve is the Lion and Safari Park, a 1,000ha (2,471-acre) animal sanctuary. You can book a guided game drive or go wildlife-watching in your own rented vehicle. If you’re not driving, check out this day tour.
Itinerary Days 8-10: Welgevonden Game Reserve
Finally, it’s time to head into the African bushveld to see the Big Five! There’s no shortage of national parks and reserves near Johannesburg — I recommend Welgevonden as it’s 3 hours from Jozi and it breaks down the long drive to Kruger National Park.
Welgevonden is a small, private reserve. There’s a limit on vehicles allowed in the park, so it’s not as saturated as many Kruger. I actually prefer small reserves as animals are more concentrated and easier to spot. I recommend at least 2 nights here as you’ll have only 2 game drives/day.
Welgevonden is home to over 50 different mammals, including the Big Five, hippo, kudu, giraffe, zebra, warthog, and cheetah. The reserve also has one of the largest populations of white rhino of any of Africa’s private reserves. We saw plenty, which is a great sign of the work they’re doing against poaching!
Essential Info on Wildlife Safari
What You Need to Know about Game Drives
Game drives are always around dawn (6-9am) and dusk (5-8pm). Each game drive can run up to three hours long, and can sometimes involve a lot of driving and no signs of animals.
Some reserves allow self-drive safaris, while others don’t. We have done both, and recommend doing guided game drives as wildlife guides are much better as spotting animals and can share interesting info on wildlife. Read my detailed safari packing list.
In Africa, a lodge isn’t just a place to sleep — it’s where you’ll be doing relaxing and spending all your time at. When choosing your safari lodge, consider these points:
- Are game drives included? Most lodges include 2 drives/day.
- Is it a fenced property? Some lodges are not fenced i.e. you might find a zebra outside your door in the morning!
- Does the lodge have a waterhole where animals come for water everyday? If yes, you’ll get to view animals right from your porch.
- Is there a pool? It can be a great way to cool down in the afternoons.
- What facilities does it have? Don’t have expect to find WiFi at even the most exclusive safari lodge.
- If you’re going on safari with kids, check if they accept children. In South Africa, many safari lodges have a minimum age requirement — typically 6 or 8.
Where to Stay in Welgevonden:
Unfortunately safari lodges are expensive and there are no budget options in private reserves like Welgevonden. But keep in mind that all your meals, lodging and game drives are included.
Budget: La Rive Waterberg Accommodation
At 14 miles (22km) from Welgevonden Game Reserve, this guesthouse has an outdoor pool and comfortable rooms with mountain views. Check rates here.
Mid Range: Ekuthuleni Lodge
We stayed at this lodge on our recent trip and had the best time. Read my detailed review. With only 5 suites, this intimate safari lodge is exclusive and luxurious. The 2-level bungalows are fantastic for families on African safari with kids. Check rates here.
Luxury: Clifftop Exclusive Safari Hideaway
Located on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Sterkstroom River, this luxury lodge features suites with private terraces and plunge pools surrounded by the indigenous bushveld. Check rates here.
Itinerary Days 11-13: Kruger National Park
We’ve saved the best for the last — prepare for the highlight of your South Africa trip! Kruger is undoubtedly the largest and most popular national park in South Africa. Here’s where you will get the best wildlife watching opportunities.
The national park has a high density of wildlife — including all kinds of bird life and the Big Five. I had my closest wildlife experiences here in Kruger: being charged by an elephant, seeing lions mate, and watching the lilac breast roller showing off his rainbow colored feathers.
You’ll want to spend at least 3 nights in Kruger. Every single game drive is unique and you’ll get different experiences. I recommend booking guided game drives as guides are trained to spot animals from a distance.
Where to Stay in Kruger:
Kruger is massive, and there are many camps within the national park itself and in the Greater Kruger area, but they are pricey. If you’re on a budget, I suggest staying in Hazyview just outside the park. However, you’ll be missing out on the chance to sleep in the bush and wake up to sounds of wildlife outside your window.
Located outside of Hazyview, Tjimaka features self-catering accommodations 20 minutes’ drive from Kruger. Overlooking a small lake, rooms are equipped with cooking facilities and an outdoor pool. Check rates here.
Mid Range: Sabie River Bush Lodge
On the banks of the Sabie River, this bush lodge overlooks the river and national park. The luxury bush tents offer great value for money with an outdoor deck, pool and playground. Check rates here.
Luxury: Hamiltons Tented Camp
Located within Kruger NP, this 5-star luxury tented lodge is surrounded by ancient trees and wildlife. Decorated in colonial style, its luxury tents feature teak floors and vintage furnishings reminiscent of safaris in the early 20th century. Check rates here.
South Africa Itinerary Day 14: Fly home!
Sadly your 2 weeks in South Africa have come to an end. It’s a 6-hour drive back to Johannesburg from Kruger National Park. Make sure to give yourself enough time to catch your flight home.
I suggest staying at an airport hotel to rest up before flying home the next day. Protea Hotel by Marriott Transit is located inside the airport terminal and is an excellent place to rest before flying.
More South Africa Itinerary Ideas
If you’ve got more than 2 weeks in South Africa, there are definitely a lot more of the country worth exploring. Here are some parts of South Africa that I’ve been and would recommend visiting.
Adventure seekers alert! Just 1-2 hour’s drive from Cape Town is the town of Gaansbaai, famous for its dense population of great white sharks. Here you can go cage shark diving, an exhilarating experience where you get up close to the great white. Learn how misunderstood these creatures are and get to know them on a deeper level.
One of the most famous road trips in South Africa, the Garden Route is a scenic and ecologically diverse region near Cape Town. It stretches 300-kilometers (190 miles) from Mossel Bay (a 5+ hour drive from Cape Town), ending in Storms River. You can definitely add this to your itinerary if you have 3 weeks in South Africa. Don’t miss the Addo Elephant National Park, one of the best national parks in South Africa.
Home to the iSimangliso Wetland Park, St Lucia is an adventure hub offering lots of outdoor activities and wildlife safari opportunities. Take a cruise in the estuary and spot hundreds of hippos and crocodiles, or go on a whale watching excursion to see humpbacks in the Indian Ocean.
Durban is a hip, coastal city with the energy and character of an African city intertwined with British heritage and Asian influence. Stay at the iconic Oyster Box Hotel, admire colonial architecture in downtown Durban, try a dish of bunny chow that Durban is oh-so-famous for, or take a long stroll along the beachfront boulevard of Umhlanga Rocks.
Known affectionately as the Berg, the mighty Drakensberg Mountains are absolutely spectacular. The rugged mountains are often described as a ‘barrier of spears’, which runs along the border of South Africa and Lesotho. We spent a few days here when traveling to Lesotho and were absolutely floored by the dramatic landscapes.
How Much Does this South Africa Itinerary Cost?
South Africa isn’t a cheap destination, but it is definitely more affordable than most of US, UK and Canada. Car rental is cheap, you can find rates as low as $15/day. Accommodation is also affordable — you can find luxury apartments on Airbnb for $70/night.
However, wildlife safaris are generally expensive, with lodges charging a minimum of $250/night. Keep in mind that all your meals, lodging and game drives are included. The cheapest 3-day budget safari in Kruger you can find is $450/ person.
Expect to spend at least $2000 over 2 weeks in South Africa. This is based on midrange accommodation and hiring your own car.
Travel South Africa Independently or on Guided Tour?
South Africa is relatively easy to explore independently, especially in the area surrounding Cape Town. I recommend hiring a car and doing the South Africa trip on your own.
If you don’t drive, it might be easier to join a guided tour. Having a guide, especially in the national parks, can make a big difference as wildlife guides are trained to spot animals and have a wealth of knowledge on wildlife.
On my first trip to South Africa, I went on this 28-day Southern Africa Overland tour with G Adventures. I’ve traveled with G Adventures many times (to Antarctica, Brazil, Mongolia and Nepal) and had a blast on every single trip. For those with just 2 weeks in South Africa, check out this 10-day Cape Town to Kruger trip.
If you’re only looking for budget camping safaris, check out these budget wildlife safari that include transport from major cities:
Health and Vaccines in South Africa
Certain parts of South Africa have malaria and yellow fever risks. Kruger National Park, for instance, is a malaria zone. There are a few suggested vaccinations and medications for South Africa, but none are mandatory.
For malaria, consult your doctor and bring malaria medication from home (Malarone is the most popular). Note that they might have side effects. You’ll need to start taking them a few days before your trip and continue for a few weeks after your South Africa trip.
Don’t leave this until the last minute. Check the CDC website to see what vaccinations you need.
Suggested vaccinations for South Africa:
- Yellow fever
- Hepatitis A and B
Enjoy Your Trip to South Africa!
2 weeks in South Africa will definitely allow you to experience the best of the country. I hope this South Africa itinerary will help you plan your own adventure. Feel free to bookmark it or print it out and bring this itinerary with you on your South Africa trip.
In our opinion, this is the best South Africa road trip you can do. It’s the perfect balance of wildlife, outdoor, historical and cultural experiences. It’s not too rushed and you’ll get to see South Africa at a comfortable pace.
Be sure to leave a comment below if you have any questions. We’ll be happy to help in any way we can!
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links i.e. I’ll get a small commission when you book anything through my links, at NO extra cost to you. I only recommend companies I have personally used and enjoyed.
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