How to Spend 2 Weeks in South Africa
I spent almost 2 years in Africa, visiting all 54 countries, on my journey to every country in the world in 2 stints (one of which was the famous Cape Town to Cairo trip, amazing!). My favourite countries include Ethiopia, Namibia, Algeria, Mauritania, Malawi but my first country on the continent, South Africa, will also hold special memories. I actually spent over a month in South Africa, and traveled all around, however although it might sound impossible, you can see a lot with just 2 weeks in South Africa.
Travelling in South Africa can be a rewarding experience but to see so many places in such a short time you’ll be constantly on the move. Ideally, fly into Cape Town (or Johanessburg and immediately connect), spend sometime in beautiful Cape Town then rent a car and head off on the gorgeous Garden Route. Here’s the best way to spend 2 weeks in South Africa:
Planning ahead can be fun and will save you time during your trip too. Take a look at this itinerary and be amazed at the places and sights you can see if you plan right during your two-week break.
When should you spend these 2 weeks in South Africa?
In Cape Town and along the Garden Route coastal belt, summertime is usually warm and mild but can be unpredictable. Summer here in the Southern Hemisphere is November to February. However, locals will say between March and May is the perfect time to visit when the weather is mild and the tourists have gone.
First Stop: Cape Town – 5 nights
Start your two-week itinerary in Cape town and explore all the amazing sights this exciting town has to offer. If you are arriving by air its about 20km from the centre. You can catch the MyCiti fast bus for around R70 or book a taxi for around R300. The journey will take between 20 and 40 minutes to get you right to the centre of the city.
Things to do
There are lots of things to do in Cape Town and with 5 days to explore you will see everything you want. Here are some of the top things to do in Cape Town.
- V&A waterfront, a nice place to relax, eat and shop. The waterfront is set on the edge of a natural and historic working harbour with Table Mountain as its backdrop. It is a real melting pot of people with local and international visitors taking advantage of the mix of experiences to enjoy here.
- Trip to Robben Island and the famous prison where Nelson Mandela was held. Learn about the history of this place and how it affected the rest of the country. During the apartheid this island served as a prison for political activists.
- Visit Table Mountain. Take the cable car or try the four-hour hike to get to the top of this iconic mountain in Cape Town. You’ll enjoy magnificent views in all directions.
- Take a cooking lesson in Bo-Kaap n Cape Malay. Enjoy the brightly coloured buildings and stop to take a cooking lesson too. Whip up some great Cape Malay curries and samosas and learn to cook like a real Cape Malay ‘Auntie’!
- Stand at the tip of Africa at the Cape of Good Hope. One of those things to tick off your list whilst in South Africa. Walk to the lighthouse and enjoy incredible views, but be prepared its very windy there.
- Swim with Penguins at Boulders Beach. This is a protected colony of African penguins which you can see by walking along the wooden walkways. The nearby beach is great for swimming and you may be joined by the penguins too.
- Day trip to cage diving with the Great White Sharks!
Taking taxis or jumping on the city tour bus are the best ways to get around. Uber operate in Cape town too, so if you are a fan it’s an easy way to get around.
Where to stay
Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel. Centrally located a choice of rooms and suites and excellent service. Also try the afternoon tea. Prices around £350 per night.
Bliss Boutique Hotel located on Sunset beach offers its guests excellent views of Table Mountain and the sea. Prices around £80 per night.
The Backpack Cape Town is a centrally located hostel which prides itself for investing in the local community. Funky modern rooms and even a pool. Prices start from £14 per night.
Stop 2: Wine Country – Franschhoek 2 nights
Next move on to the nearby wine country and enjoy the fruits of the land. You should hire a car and drive from Cape Town which will take just over an hour.
Things to do
- Take a full day wine tour visiting a few different wineries in the area. It is easier to do this by organised tour than on your own. You’ll also get to know a bit more about the area and some good deals on the wines through your tour too.
- Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve. Here you can make the most of the stunning scenery of the area. An excellent place for hikes and walks before sampling some more wines of the region.
- Wine tram. A different way to explore the wines of the area. This hop-on hop-off tour gives you a relaxed introduction to the Franschhoek Valley. Make your way through rolling vineyards in an open-side tram and open-air tram-bus stopping at some of South Africa’s oldest and most notable wine estates.
Driving from Cape Town to Franschhoek is easy and you’ll need a car to get around here too, and for the rest of your journey. You may want to book with a tour company however for tours of the local wineries.
Where to stay
Akademie Street Boutique Hotel and Guest House. Excellent service and a tranquil location walking distance to the main town. Prices are around £300 per night.
Le Franschhoek Hotel & Spa. About 5 minutes’ drive from town, this is a friendly hotel in a beautiful mountain setting. Prices around £100 per night.
22 Van Wijk. This hostel come bed and breakfast is ideal for a budget stay. It is located next to one of the hop on-hop off wine tram stops great for exploring the area. Prices around £30 per night.
Next stop: Garden Route – 4 nights
So, to get to your next destination, you can either drive back to Cape Town and fly (booo, road trip is better!), or you can drive the three and a half hours from Franschloek to Mossel bay (yaaay!).
Either way hiring a car is essential to drive the garden route proper. There are a few great places to stay along the way. It is the most famous driving route in South Africa and for good reason. Depending on what you want to do, it is best you make your own itinerary for this route, however here are some ideas for stops along the way.
A harbour town known for the beautiful Santos Beach and the 19th-century Cape St. Blaize Lighthouse. There are also many museums in the Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex, and you can also see the Post Office Tree, a milk wood tree that has been used as a post collection point since the 1500s.
There’s a great range of activities and things to do in Knysna. Whether you are looking for relaxation or adrenalin fuelled activities. There are lots of tourists here, so the area has adapted to cater for international visitors, however the natural beauty of the surrounding areas remains untouched.
This seaside town is known for its sandy beaches and excellent surfing. As well as spending time on the beach and in the sea, there’s also Birds of Eden, a free-flight bird sanctuary in nearby indigenous forest. If you visit at the right time you might even see migrating whales near the coast.
A holiday and retirement centre, Jeffreys bay has countless outdoor activities to try. There’s hiking, cycling, surfing and other water sports. You can also enjoy the natural environment and seek out the wildlife living in the nearby areas.
Port Elizabeth Safari – 2 nights
After arriving in Port Elizabeth, you should definitely take a day to see the wildlife reserves of the area. I would recommend staying in Game lodge accommodation in Port Elizabeth to get a real feel for the place. Some stays include daily game activities, day and night game drives, bush walks and even horse-back safaris.
Things to do
- Shamwari Game reserve. See the big five within the 25 000 hectares of natural terrain. Enjoy close encounters with he big five who roam the reserve, and you can also stay here in one of the lodges.
- South African Marine Rehabilitation and Education Centre. Learn about the incredible marine life and how volunteers are helping to save our environment. You can tour the marine rehab and education centre and experience through tactile exhibits. A highlight is the endangered African Penguin.
- Kragga Kamma Game Park. A natural reserve with free roaming White Rhino, Buffalo, Cheetah, Giraffe, Zebra, and Nyala amongst others. Here you can drive in your own car to explore the area.
- Boardwalk Casino Complex. Everything you need to enjoy a relaxing time in Port Elizabeth. If you need to blow off some steam or have a blow out after all that nature then this is the place.
Like Cape town, Port Elizabeth is best explored on foot or by taxi, Uber operate here too. You can also drive if you are heading to the surrounding game reserves.
Where to Stay
If you are not staying at any of the Safari lodges then here are some ideas for a stay in Port Elizabeth.
No 5 Boutique Art Hotel. A luxurious and highly recommended hotel near to the Boardwalk Casino Complex. Prices around £125 per night.
Paxton Hotel. A hotel located near to the town, harbour, the beach and shopping. There’s also a pool too. Excellent value for money with prices starting from £50 per night.
28 Towpath on the Riverfront. A budget friendly option for those who are interested in responsible tourism. An eco-friendly hostel with large rooms from just £5 per night.
Johannesburg – 1 night
You can fly from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg in only one and a half hours, leaving you plenty of time to explore the best of Johannesburg before returning home. If you have an extra day, then a second day is easy to spend in Johanessburg, so bear tht in mind too.
Things to do
- Apartheid museum. Learn about South Africa’s turbulent past. You will learn so much in a short space of time in this informative, interesting museum. Although hard to take in, the stories are depicted in such a way that visitors get a feel of what life as really like during this time.
- Constitution hill. A national heritage site, home of the highest court in South Africa. This site has been transformed into a place of solidarity and democracy. It is now home to the Women’s Gaol museum, Number Four Museum and the Old Fort Museum.
- Neighbourhood markets. Take some down time and snap up some bargains. You’ll want to pick up some souvenirs and the best places are the African flea markets. Explore and rummage through the locally made items and bring something special home.
- South African National Museum of Military History. Interesting museum if you’d like to know more about the local military history. You’ll find military records, journals, weapons and lots of photographs that depict the nation’s participation in wars and conflicts.
- South Western Townships. Visiting Soweto, and the former home of Nelson Mandela. There are corrugated steel huts amidst big houses, this area is a real eye opener to visitors. See how people live in the city in very different circumstances.
Driving is the best way to get around the city by far. There are also good public transport and long-distance routes too. Taxis are also good but they must be pre-booked.
Where to Stay
The Saxon Boutique and Spa. Here you’ll find sumptuous suites, a spa and pool and three restaurants to choose from. Prices start from around £350.
Holiday Inn Johannesburg-Rosebank. Good location and a name that you can trust. A standard room is priced at around £100 per night.
Curiocity Backpackers. Closer to the centre than some other popular hostels and a way to get to know other travellers. Dorms cost around £10 per person.
Your whole route on your two-week trip in South Africa. So here is a recap:
- Cape Town – 5 nights
- Franschhoek – 2 nights
- Garden Route – 4 nights
- Port Elizabeth – 2 nights
- Johannesburg – 1 night
What do you think?
How does this itinerary seem? Is it something you would try when visiting South Africa? An amazing and diverse country to explore. For me then, I continued on to Swaziland, then though to Malawi and began my trip north, all via public transport. It was pretty hardcore, but a brilliant trip, and one that changed my life as it’s when I started blogging!
To make the most of your travel experience you will need to pack light, plan ahead and be willing to do some driving! A backpack should be sufficient for your travels and using packing cubes can help you make the most of your space. To find the best packing cubes for you check out this packing cubes review.