If a city escape is not your idea of a holiday, then travel to one of South Africa’s hidden gems. We live in an incredibly beautiful country with everything from forests to deserts, tropical beaches to vast savannahs just waiting to be explored. While South Africa has many famous areas, it’s often the smaller, less touristy spots that provide the most memorable experiences. This holiday escape the city and head to one of these lesser known places in this spectacular country of ours.
Golden Gate National Park
Situated at the foothills of the Maluti Mountains in the northeastern Free State, is the Golden Gate National Park. When the sun hits the park’s iconic sandstone cliffs it reflects a golden glow, hence the name. The park offers hikers the chance to explore the numerous caves and trails used by Basotho and San hunters. Other activities in the area include trout fishing, white-water rafting, hot air ballooning, golf and quad-bike or mountain-bike rides. The weather in the park ranges from warm, dry summers with afternoon showers, to winter temperatures often dropping below zero with occasional snowfall, so remember to pack accordingly. And don’t forget your hiking boots!
Just two hours north of Cape Town sits the quiet little West Coast fishing village of Paternoster. It’s one of the oldest fishing villages in South Africa and has maintained its old world charm, with brightly coloured fishing boats, charming white-washed cottages and fisherman who sell fish fresh off their boats. This is the kind of place where you can just kick back and relax, take long walks on the beach, and indulge in the freshest sea food at one of the town’s delightful restaurants. While Paternoster is one of the most well-known towns on the West Coast, it remains a quiet, peaceful, and decidedly uncrowded village. It’s also a great place to use as a base for exploring the other little towns and villages dotted along the West Coast. Paternoster’s lazy, laid-back charm is what makes it a must-visit place in South Africa.
Surrounded by lush green forests, magnificent waterfalls, and a mountainous backdrop, Hogsback feels like it’s straight out of Lord of the Rings. This enclave of greenery is situated just 2 hours inland from Port Elizabeth, and is the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city. The accommodation at Hogsback is as magical as its surrounds with cottages and backpackers that offer the most spectacular views over the forests and mountains in the area. Hiking or mountain biking along Hogsback’s many trails is a must and you’ll pass mountain lakes, waterfalls and magical forests. Hogsback is a pretty cool place, literally, with summer highs in the mid-20s and winter lows approaching zero degrees Celsius, so if you decide to go explore the misty forests of this tranquil place, be sure the pack accordingly.
Another little gem north of Cape Town, just around the corner from Malmesbury, is the historic town of Riebeek-Kasteel. Boasting the oldest hotel in South Africa, the town is known for its historic charm, great eateries, wheat fields, olives, and wine. It’s also a favourite among artists, who flock here to be inspired by the town’s picturesque surroundings. Riebeek-Kasteel is as much known for its olives as it is for its historic buildings, and there are no fewer than three olive oil producers where visitors can taste their fruit and also get a tour of the olive presses. Foodies will love Riebeek-Kasteel as there are a number of great coffee shops, cafés, restaurants, and also a chocolatier that sells hand-made chocolate. Riebeek-Kasteel’s historic charm, beautiful surrounds and culinary delights are what draws visitors to this small town in the heart of the Swartland. Some never leave.
Images courtesy lbsafaris.com; pinterest.com
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