South Africa,  Itineraries

Visit South Africa on a road trip: the perfect itinerary

If you are in love with long distance driving, you will be served in South Africa. The best route to visit South Africa by road trip covers 2800 km! You are leaving from Cape Town or Johannesburg for an epic car tour which will take you to the four corners of the country. You will visit the Cape Peninsula, the Stellenbosch and Franschhoek Wine Route, the Garden Route (also called Garden Route), Johannesburg and Soweto, the Blyde river canyon area, the mythical Kruger National Park on a self-drive safari, the Swaziland (now called Eswatini), St Lucia, Durban and the whole Zulu country, the Drakensberg mountains and finally Lesotho. We give you all the practical advice so that you can prepare un tailor-made journey in our detailed article below. So, ready for the most epic road trip of your life

If you are still unsure of what type of tour to do in South Africa, you can always read our article: The best routes to visit South Africa

Why take a tour to visit South Africa on a road trip?

South Africa is THE African country to visit. It offers extremely varied landscapes (sea, mountains, cities, desert, savannah, etc.), a fascinating history to discover, safaris counting among the best in the world and delicious gastronomy. On the practical side, the country is one of the most developed in Africa, malaria non-existent if you do not go to the North of the Kruger and if you stay in tourist areas it is safe. So why deny it? As a family, as a couple or in a group, you will enjoy this personalised tour to visit South Africa on a road trip.

Take a tour in South Africa: The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip

Safety during your route to visit South Africa on a road trip

Insecurity in South Africa is not a myth, but tourists are not affected if they do not venture into high-risk areas such as townships or take a stroll through deserted streets at night. By staying on the beaten track and using common sense, you will not be attacked. Our feeling is that we often feel more in danger in the streets of Paris than in this country! However, if you want to leave with peace of mind, we recommend that you take out insurance with World Nomads. They are the leader in travel insurance and offer great prices. And in addition to the medical / accident aspect, they cover a lot of other things like lost luggage or passports, trip cancellations, etc…!

Summary of the itinerary 'visit South Africa on a road trip'

This route to visit South Africa on a road trip takes you over 2800 km!

(Click in the map below on 'show map' then on the right arrow to view your journey step by step.)

How many days do you need to plan to go on a road trip itinerary in South Africa?

This itinerary to visit South Africa on a road trip is perfect for doing the big loop: Cape Town-Garden Route-Johannesburg-Kruger-Swaziland-Drakensberg-Lesotho. You can also go on a road trip for a shorter period and do most of South Africa (see our shorter circuits) but you will not be able to explore all regions. If we were to recommend a road trip circuit for your stay, this is it because you are taking a plane to go to the other end of the African continent: you might as well enjoy it and explore thoroughly. 

When to go to South Africa and for how many days? The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip

When to go on an itinerary to visit South Africa on a road trip?

Concerning the best time to go on a route to visit South Africa on a road trip, summer is from December to March and the tourist season from mid-December to the end of February. So leaving in November or March seems to us a good compromise to have the fewest travelers but always the sun. Those are the French Juins and September. July and August are the least touristy periods but it is winter so bring warm clothes. Even if it is never very cold, many regions are often windy so a waistcoat and a windbreaker are essential.

Our favorites during this itinerary to visit South Africa on a road trip

  • Cape Town is the most beautiful city in South Africa and after staying there it will undoubtedly fit into your list of the most beautiful cities in the world. We would gladly stay there longer as there is so much to explore. Enclosed between the Atlantic and Table Mountain, Cape Town is surrounded by breathtaking nature. You can enjoy the mountains in the morning, the ocean in the afternoon and dine in a Michelin-starred restaurant with only a 15-minute drive during the day!
  • Our favorite excursion on this route to visit South Africa on a road trip will remain our safari in the Kruger National Park. It's an incredible privilege to be able to drive alone in your rental car in a park that is home to the Big 5. In fact, we have all seen them: the buffalo, the elephant, the lion, the leopard and the rhinoceros! It was an incredible trek in the bush. In addition, we also visited a private reserve to have a different experience of the park and we highly recommend doing this 'public + private reserve' combo (see our article on the advantages of Kruger's private reserves).
  • What we preferred during our road trip on the Garden Route was Plettenberg Bay. You absolutely have to hike to the Robberg National Park peninsula! In addition, we had the chance to admire phosphorescent phytoplankton in the lagoon. It was magical.
  • Finally, our only regret was to have spent only one day in the wine region because there are many great estates to visit. Being a lover of good bottles, we could easily spend the whole stay there!
  • The other places in South Africa that really marked us are the Blyde River Canyon and its view on the Three Rondavels (we stayed stuck) and the hike of the Tugela waterfall which offers an incredible panorama on Drakensberg. Special mention also for semonkong au Lesotho who took us back in time to a time when people were all on horseback.
Our favorites during this itinerary to visit South Africa on a road trip: view from Table Mountain over Cape Town

What we liked least about this itinerary to visit South Africa on a road trip

The road trip of this route in South Africa was perfect. The only things that can be said are:

  • Between Knysna, Wilderness and Plettenberg Bay, Plettenberg wins hands down. It was our favorite stop on the Garden Route and if you want to land longer on Plettenberg then you can remove the Wilderness stop without remorse.
  • The trip has 4 nature reserves in 4 different regions (South, North, East and Swaziland). If you come to South Africa especially to see wild animals then don't change a thing because all the national parks offer different landscapes. But if, like us, one or two safaris are enough for you, then we advise you not to do Addo Elephant Park or Hluhluwe-Umfolozi. The best is to use these two days to go on a safari in a private reserve of Kruger National Park (2 days in self-drive and 2 days in private reserve)
  • As we said above, the fall of Tugela is one of our best memories of South Africa. Suddenly, the waterfall route between Sabie and Graskop now seems paltry and can be skipped.
  • The two places we will not dwell on are Johannesburg and Swaziland. Nothing really special to see and to be frank the day in Soweto is really great to understand the history of the country but the next day in Johannesburg can be skipped without regrets.
  • Finally, if jumping from the highest bungee jump in the world (Guinness Record approved) does not appeal to you then we recommend that you skip the day "The best stops between Plettenberg Bay and Addo Elephant Parc". The best is to leave Plettenberg Bay the day before in the late afternoon and make the 3 hour drive to Addo Elephant Park to sleep there and start the safari in the reserve early the next day.
The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: a market in Soweto in Johannesburg

The budget to plan for this circuit to visit South Africa on a road trip

This circuit in 'road trip' mode in South Africa is long, but if you are careful you can afford a wonderful trip to 2090 € per person (international flights excluded) either 70 € per day (see details of expenses below). The most expensive is the accommodation but if you book all the hotels that we recommend first in this article, then you will pay only 1720 € for 30 nights in double rooms in B&B, or 57 € per night on average. By sharing the room with your partner, it brings you back the night to 28,6 € per person. We strongly advise you to choose this option because quality guesthouses (tested and approved by us) at less than € 30 per night per person on average, it's unbeatable!

NB: Be careful though to book well in advance because during the high season these tips are often full ...

Breakdown of expenses during this itinerary to visit South Africa on a road trip

To note :

  • Car and gas rental costs were cut in half because there were two of us. If you are 3 or 4, the budget will be even smaller.
  • We ate every day for lunch and dinner in classic restaurants (nothing gourmet but it was always very good). Alcohol was not taken into account.
  • The activity budget includes entry to the national parks, diving with sharks, a night safari, bungee jumping, whale watching cruises, etc. In short, we did not deprive ourselves.
  • The 'Housing' budget has been calculated according to all the first recommended accommodation in this itinerary to visit South Africa on a road trip. These are all double rooms in quality hotels or B & Bs that we have booked ourselves. The other accommodations recommended by following the links give you other options at different prices (from hostel to luxury hotel) and are recommended either by us or by friends who have stayed there. You can easily reduce your budget to less than 60 € per day and per person if you decide to book in the youth hostels we recommend by following these links (they all offer double, family and dorm rooms).
  • This budget does not take into account the flight to South Africa to give you an idea of ​​the budget per day to plan on the spot. A flight booked in advance in March or November from Paris costs around € 550 return. To book a ticket at the best price, it is best to find out about the skyscanner comparator. The 2 internal flights to be booked in advance are included in the Transport section. At these prices, a road trip in South Africa following this itinerary will cost you € 2640 per person (550 € of flights + 2090 € on site)!
  • This budget excludes souvenirs and shopping.
ITINERARY BUDGET TO VISIT SOUTH AFRICA BY ROAD TRIP 
Per person in euros
TRANSPORT
Flights Port Elizabeth-Johannesburg€80
Bloemfontein to Johannesburg flights€100
Rental car for 30 days€240
Gasoline€150
MEAL€360
ACTIVITIES€300
HOUSING€860
TOTAL2 090 €

Alternative to the route 'visit South Africa on a road trip'

If Paris-Johannesburg return flights are much cheaper than Paris-Cape Town, then you can start this itinerary to visit South Africa on a road trip via Johannesburg and the Soweto district (Day 13 in the itinerary detailed below) and follow it to Bloemfontein (Day 30). From there take a Bloemfontein-Cape Town flight (Or Maseru-Cape Town depending on price as towns are nearby) and continue the tour from Day 1 to Day 12 on the Garden Route. Once at the end of the Garden Route (also known as the Garden Route), take a plane from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg and then return to France. (We simply reversed the two large parts of this itinerary to visit South Africa on a road trip: Johannesburg - Bloemfontein and Cape Town - Port Elizabeth).

(Click in the map below on 'show map' then on the right arrow to view your journey step by step.)

Our tips for renting a car during this road trip in South Africa

  • Ce road trip to visit South Africa is a circuit that requires rent a car in Cape Town and return it to Port Elizabeth; then rent a car in Johannesburg and return it to Bloemfontein. Most rental agencies offer it with a small supplement except for Budget Car which does it for free. For the second part Johannesburg-Bloemfontein you will return to Swaziland and Lesotho. So make sure that the rental agreement allows you to leave South Africa. Often it is enough to ask to add it for the insurance to work.
  •  Lesotho finally finished paving the axis in 2018 that this itinerary to visit South Africa on a road trip borrows. So there is no longer any need to rent an elevated SUV type car. We recommend that you save by renting a sedan for families or a small car for couples.
  • The whole Garden Route can be done with the BazBus if you are staying in a youth hostel. It's a good way to save money by not renting a car for the first part of the trip and to meet other travelers if you are alone or very social! For each stage of the Garden Route, find the youth hostel served by the Baz Bus that we recommend in the link on other accommodation options at the end of the paragraph.
  • Don't forget to take your international license. It is free on request at the prefecture.

Tip: Hire a car in South Africa at the best price with this car rental comparator.

The best itinerary to visit South Africa on a road trip day by day

You will find below the best route to visit South Africa on a road trip day by day with all essential sites to visit and the best activities to do absolutely. For each step, you will find links to access all additional information : the journey times to plan per day, the best providers for the excursions not to be missed, the advice to know and especially a list of the best hotels, guesthouses and youth hostels at every stage.

DAY 1: Discover the most beautiful neighborhoods of Cape Town in South Africa

Stroll through the Cape Town's most beautiful neighborhoods: Bo-Kaap, Camps Bay, Sea Point, Green point and Waterfront. In the evening, enjoy the sunset above Table Mountain and end the day on the busy street of Kloof Street.

To stay, La Rose Bed & Breakfast is an excellent central B&B.

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The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: view of Cape Town

DAY 2: The essential Cape Town excursions in South Africa

Besides Table Mountain, you should definitely visit the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and prison on Robben Island where Mandela was locked up. When you return from the ferry, you can go shopping at the craft market Water Shed. You will sleep again at La Rose Bed & Breakfast.

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The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

DAY 3: The best activities to do in Cape Town

Take advantage of the many Cape Town activities for your last day: hiking, museum, shopping, extreme sports, relaxation… There is something for everyone. In the late afternoon, climb to the top of lions head for sunset or admire the view from Signal Hill. You will sleep again at La Rose Bed & Breakfast.

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The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: Cifton Beach in Cape Town

DAY 4: Discover the magnificent South African wine route

Today you can pet cheetahs in a sanctuary but you will especially do tastings in the best vineyards of Stellenbosch and de Franschhoek on the wine route of South Africa.

In the evening, the ideal is to sleep on site at theEendracht Hotel.

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The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: the wine route from Cape Town to Stellenbosch

DAY 5: On the way to the Cape of Good Hope, at the tip of South Africa

The Cape Peninsula tour includes the legendary route from Chapman's Peak, famous Cape of Good Hope and finally the penguin colony from Boulders National Park.

You will spend the night in Muizenberg at The Muize.

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If complete, our second crush is Admiralty B&B.

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The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: the Cape of Good Hope

DAY 6: The beautiful coastal road between Muizenberg and Hermanus

Relaxing and / or surfing day along the coast: Muizenberg beach, Betty's Bay, Kogel Bay… It's not the dream beaches that are missing on the journey! If you have time before you get to Hermanus, end the day by exploring the city wine route.

To accommodate you, 6 Stemmet Lodge is the best value for money from Hermanus.

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The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: muizenberg surf beach and these colorful cabins

DAY 7: Spot whales and cage dive with white sharks in Hermanus

Hermanus is THE city to see Whales et cage diving with white sharks. Don't miss it! (You don't need to know how to dive!)

In the evening you will spend the night on the Garden Route at the inexpensive B&B The Old Trading Post.

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The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: cage diving with white sharks in Hermanus

DAY 8: Best Wilderness Park Activities on South Africa's Garden Route

This itinerary to visit South Africa on a road trip continue on the garden route with a first stop at the parc du Wilderness where you can go up the river by kayak to the magnificent waterfall. At the end of the day, go to Plettenberg Bay via Knysna.

The B&B 113 on Robberg is your best choice for sleeping near the city center.

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The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: kayaking in the wilderness on the garden route

DAY 9: Visit of Plettenberg Bay and walk in Robberg National Park

Make it the most beautiful hike of the whole garden route at Robberg national park de Plettenberg Bay. At the end of the afternoon, stroll around town until dinner because you sleep again at the B&B of 113 on Robberg.

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The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: Plettenberg Bay and a walk in the Robberg national park on the garden route

DAY 10: Enjoy the best activities Plettenberg Bay has to offer

There is so much to do in Plettenberg Bay that one more day seems obligatory to us. Today do the activities you prefer: relaxation, surfing, kayaking, canyoning, walking in the forest,… There is even a monkey park for children! In the evening, try to see the phosphorescent plankton in the lagoon before returning to the B&B of 113 on Robberg.

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The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: Plettenberg Bay and its monkey park

DAY 11: The best stops between Plettenberg Bay and Addo Elephant Park

Ce road trip to visit South Africa continue with the program the highest bungee jump in the world at Bloukrans Bridge and the super tubes of the surf spot of Jeffreys bay to finish at Addo Elephant park where you will spend the night.

We recommend the B&B Zuurberg Mountain Village which offers a magnificent view of the reserve.

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The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: bungy jump from Bloukrans Bridge on the garden route

DAY 12: Go on a safari in Addo Elephant Park at the end of the Garden Route

Take a self-drive day safari in the reserveAddo Elephant Park at the end of the garden route. When the doors of the reserve close at 18 p.m., turn around to sleep at Port Elizabeth.

We advise you Sir Roys At The Sea to be close to restaurants;

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Or to Treetops Guesthouse to be close to the airport;

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Or at the youth hostel Lungile Backpackers if you take the Baz Bus.

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The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: safari at Addo Elephant park on the garden route

DAY 13: Cultural day in Soweto to understand apartheid in South Africa

Take the plane in the morning from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg and after renting a car again, go on the essential cultural visits of Soweto on apartheid. You can spend the late evening in the chic district of Sandton.

We advise you to stay at Blu Trea Guest House.

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The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: visit the cultural places of Soweto

DAY 14: Discover the vibrant districts of Johannesburg

Spend the day exploring the most interesting areas of Johannesburg. Between street art and history or a chic district and a hipster district, Johannesburg is rich in diversity. You will sleep again in Johannesburg at Blu Trea Guest House.

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The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: walk in Johannesburg and visit these different neighborhoods

DAY 15: Explore the waterfall route between Sabie and Graskop in South Africa

The circuit to visit South Africa on a road trip continues in the North of the country with the discovery of waterfall route et Pilgrim's Rest, the city of the gold rush.

You will sleep towards Graskop in a chalet in the middle of nature in Zur alten Mine.

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The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: the Sabie to Graskop waterfall route

DAY 16: The best sites of the Blyde River Canyon in South Africa

On the day's program, the Blyde River Canyon with God's Window, Bourke's Luck Potholes et The Three Rondavels. In the evening, return to the same hotel as the day before (Zur alten mine).

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The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: the best sites of the blyde river canyon

DAY 17: Explore the mythical Kruger National Park of South Africa

Enter the Kruger Park by Shukuza Gate and make a loop in the southern part via Lower sabie et Gate Malelane.

For accommodation, the good plan near Malelane gate is the B&B Hhusha Hhusha.

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The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: giraffes in Kruger National Park

DAY 18: Finish the tour of the southern part of Kruger National Park

For your second day of Kruger National Park safari, from Malelane Gate, head towards Berg en Dalthen Pretoriuskop and finally Skukuza.

To stay in Skukuza, we recommend the guesthouse Riverside's Kaia.

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The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: safari in Kruger National Park

DAY 17 AND 18 ALTERNATIVE: The best private reserves in Kruger Park in South Africa 

Instead of visiting the Kruger Park independently, you can opt for a safari in one of the many private reserves of the park. Find the advantages and disadvantages of this option in our article: The best private reserves in Kruger Park in South Africa. If there is one step where you can indulge yourself without having to regret it, it's at the Kruger! This unique experience is definitely worth it.

The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: a leopard in one of the best private reserves of Kruger national park

DAY 19: Stopover at Mlilwane wildlife sanctuary in Swaziland

Exit the Kruger via crocodile gate to reach the Mlilwane wildlife sanctuary in Swaziland. On site you can hike fromRock execution or relax at thermal center of the Royal Swazi spa.

The best hotel is the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary himself! You can sleep directly in the reserve!

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If the chalets in the safari park are full, the best alternative is Mountain Inn.

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The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: Swaziland road trip to Execution Rock

DAY 20: The best activities of Mlilwane wildlife sanctuary in Swaziland

Visit the Mlilwane wildlife sanctuary on horseback, by mountain bike or on foot alone or with a guide.

Once your tour is finished, head towards St Lucia in South Africa where you can stay at B&B Little Eden.

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The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: horse safari at Mlilwane wildlife sanctuary in Swaziland

DAY 21: The iSimangaliso Wetland Park in St Lucia and these whales in Cape Vidal

Take a walk in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park to Cape Vidal beach to see the Whales and end the day with a estuary cruise to see the very many hippopotamuses. You will spend the night again in Saint Lucia at Little eden.

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The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: The iSimangaliso Wetland Park in St Lucia and these whales in Cape Vidal

DAY 22: The white rhinos of Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve

Visit the famous reserve of Hluhluwe-Umfolozi and these white rhinos then come back to sleep in St Lucia at Little eden.

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The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: The white rhinos of Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve

DAY 23: Oribi Gorges: wonder of KwaZulu Natal

Drive to gorges of Oribi and hike to hanging bridge.

Stop taking the photo at leopard rock before heading to your next hotel: Zesty Guesthouse to Margate.

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NB: This itinerary to visit South Africa on a road trip does not include Durban for lack of time and interest (apart from its beach). However, if you want to stop there you can read our list of the best hotels in town.

The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: The Gorges D'Oribi: wonder of KwaZulu Natal

DAY 24: 4 × 4 to Sani Pass in the Drakensberg mountains in South Africa

For this stage of our itinerary to visit South Africa on a road trip, departure for Underberg which is the base to go to Sani Pass in the Drakensberg.

Once you have visited the spectacular pass, descend to sleep at Khotso Lodge & Horse Trails.

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The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: view from Sani Pass in the Drakensberg mountains

DAY 25: Discover Giant's Castle Valley in the Drakensbergs

Stroll through the beautiful valley of Giant's castle in the Drakensbergs. There are walks accessible to all.

Here, there is only one choice to stay at the foot of the mountains and this is the Giant's Castle Resort (so remember to book well in advance here).

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The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: view of Giant's Castle Valley in the Drakensbergs

DAY 26: The best hike in Giant's Castle Valley national park

Be sure to take a stroll in the morning World's view before leaving for the valley of Mount of springs in the Drakensberg.

There you can sleep at Dalmore Guest Farm.

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The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: the World's View hike in the Giant's Castle Valley of the Drakensberg Mountains

DAY 27: Climb to the top of Tugela Falls, the 2nd highest waterfall in the world

Enter the Royal Natal National Park to reach the top of the Tugela fall. In the evening you will sleep in the same place as the day before (Dalmore Guest Farm).

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The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: at the top of the waterfall from Tugela falls to the amphitheater in the Drakensbergs

DAY 28: Go back in time in Lesotho, a landlocked country in South Africa

Drive north to the border of Lesotho and continue to the village of semonkong crossing the magnificent landscapes of this mountainous country.

For accommodation, there is only Semonkong Lodge but it is absolutely superb (they only have a few rooms so you have to book in advance here).

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The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: road trip in the mountains of Lesotho

DAY 29: Semonkong, a beautiful village lost in the mountains of Lesotho

Take advantage of the many activities offered by the lodge to explore semonkong : Mountain biking, fly fishing, cultural tours, climbing, hiking, horseback riding and 4 × 4 or even longest abseiling in the world from the Maletsunyane Falls waterfall! You will spend the night in the same hotel in Semonkong Lodge.

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The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: Maletsunyane falls in Semonkong, Lesotho

DAY 30: End of the tour to visit South Africa on a road trip

Back to Bloemfontein ou Maseru to fly back after a 30-day tour of South Africa.

If you have to sleep in Bloemfontein, we advise you to spend the night in the very pretty architect house of Liedjiesbos B&B.

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The best route to visit South Africa on a road trip: return flight from Bloemfontein or Maseru

We hope this itinerary to visit South Africa on a road trip which goes around unmissable sites you will like it as much as we liked. Have a good stay and have a good trip!

Find out more about South Africa

If you want to shorten your tour, we have also written articles on the best routes to visit South Africa en 3 weeks, 17 days, 2 weeks, 10 days ou 7 days. And we even wrote the best route to visit South Africa by motorhome !

In addition, you will find links below that may interest you about South Africa:

Itinéterre is a travel blog written by a team of expatriates and locals. They share their experiences so that you can enjoy the best tours in their countries. Their advice will help you plan your vacation easily as if a local is accompanying you!