8 of the best scenic spots

South Africa is blessed with such an abundance and variety of natural beauty. To see it all, you’d probably need to travel around the country for years. But to assist you, we have selected 8 places around the country from where you can enjoy a magnificent view of some of the most awesome scenery in the world and get an instant snapshot of some of the best South Africa has to offer. But of course, these are just a tiny sample and there’s plenty more waiting to be explored!

1. God’s Window

Panorama Route, Mpumalanga

 

At the centre of Mpumalanga Province’s world-famous Panorama Route, near the town of Graskop, you’ll come to a spot named God’s Window.

And that’s exactly what it is. From this spot perched on a cliff high up on the edge of the Drakensberg portion of the Great Escarpment, it literally seems as if you can see forever and a day to the end of the world… across the Lowveld, across the Kruger National Park and all the way to Mozambique, Maputo and the Indian Ocean some 200km away as the crow flies. The scenic wonders of what you can see far below and in the distance, are truly magnificent.

This, however, is not the only such scenic viewing point along the Panorama Route. Some 40km north of God’s Window you’ll come upon the Three Rondavels Viewing Point, another high location from where you can enjoy the breath-taking panorama of the Blyde River Canyon. It is the third largest canyon in the world, but perhaps the most beautiful one of them all.

There are other astonishing viewpoints as well along this route, such as from the top of the Long Tom Pass when you enter the Panorama Route in the south; at Bourke’s Luck Potholes; or the hills above Pilgrim’s Rest; at the Lisbon, Mac Mac and Berlin waterfalls; or the splendid rock formation called the Pinnacle. Each offers its own magnificent panoramic views of this wonderworld of nature.

2. Skukuza

Kruger National Park, Mpumalanga

Anywhere you go in the Kruger National Park you will be met with awesome views of the African wilderness and its wildlife. But we chose Skukuza as a central point because apart from being the Park’s largest rest camp and administrative headquarters, it offers easy access to a number of excellent viewing points in the area as well as allowing visitors to come face to face with everything the Park has to offer. And using Skukuza as your base, you can of course explore the rest of the Park.

Skukuza is situated on the tree-covered southern banks of the Sabie River where animals come to drink. It offers diverse activities, facilities, animals and plants,  found both within the camp and in the surrounding areas. While an impressive array of animals are found here, including the Big 5, some lesser known creatures to look out for here include the fruit bat, thick tailed bush baby, warthog, spotted hyena and the purple-crested lourie.  Also look out for the wild dogs and vervet monkeys. The river front of the camp is a great for watching the hippopotamus and buffalo, especially in the early morning. You’re also likely to spot a crocodile of two.

The camp is in riverine surroundings, with wonderful large trees such as sycamore fig, jackal berry and Natal mahogany in the camp and along the river banks. The surrounding areas are covered in thorn thicket – especially knob thorn and sickle bush.  Birds are also in abundance.

3. Amphitheatre

Northern Drakensberg, KwaZulu-Natal

The Drakensberg –  Afrikaans for Dragon Mountains – is the name given to the eastern portion of the Great Escarpment, which encloses the central Southern African plateau. The Drakensberg escarpment stretches for over 1,000 kilometres across two countries and 5 South African provinces. More or less at its centre in the KwaZulu-Natal/Lesotho part of the range, the magnificent Drakensberg Amphitheatre towers over the surrounding landscape. It is widely regarded as one of the most impressive cliff faces on earth and is part of the Royal Natal National Park.

The Amphitheatre is over 5km long and its precipitous cliffs rise approximately 1,220 metres along its entire length.  The bottom of the valley floor, from where many photographs of the mountain structure are taken, is over 1,830 metres below the highest point. One of the famous peaks, Mont-Aux-Sources, rises just over 3,254 metres above sea level. From the top of the Amphitheatres the Tugela Falls, the world’s second tallest waterfall, plunge down over 948 metres.

There are two spectacular hiking trails. One is to the top of Mount-Aux-Sources, with two chain ladders giving relatively easy access to the summit. The other is to the foot of the Tugela Falls and starts at Royal Natal National Park, winding through indigenous forests, with the last part of the hike comprising some boulder hopping and a short chain ladder. From here there is a stunning view of the falls rushing down the Amphitheatre in a series of five spectacular cascades.

4. Table Mountain

Cape Town, Western Cape

Table Mountain is undisputedly the most iconic mountain attraction in South Africa, drawing over a million visitors from all over the world each year. The mountain’s equally iconic aerial cableway that has transported tourists to the summit each day weather permitting for the past 90 years, hosted its 28-millionth visitor this past January.

The flat-topped Table Mountain, sometimes covered by its table cloth of swirling clouds and flanked by two peaks, Lion’s Head and Devil’s Peak, is the centre piece of the Table Mountain National Park which cuts through the city and stretches 50km to the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet. Very few places in the world can equal the top of Table Mountain for stunning views and taking beautiful photos.

Take an awesome cable car ride to the top or walk up the stepped Platteklip Gorge. Enjoy some refreshments in the restaurant at the top and then set off along any of the many footpaths to enjoy the breath-taking views of Cape Town city below, Lion’s Head and Signal Hill, Table Bay with Robben Island and the West Coast in the distance, the Atlantic seaboard suburbs of Sea Point, Clifton and Camps Bay, the Twelve Apostles mountains rolling away to the south, or the Southern Suburbs, the Southern Peninsula and False Bay. On a clear day the views stretch far across the distant Hottentots Holland Mountains.

5. Eastern Shores & Cape Vidal

iSimangaliso Wetland Park, KwaZulu-Natal

Along the northernmost stretch of South Africa’s east coast lies a wetland system of exquisite beauty and unparalleled biodiversity, a place legend has it was named Miracle Waters after the legendary Zulu warrior King Shaka had sent one of his subjects to the area and was awed by what he found there. The place in question is the iSimangaliso Wetland Park previously known as the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park.

And although the entire wetland park is awesome and offers a great variety of scenic flora and wildlife attractions, this time we’ll focus only on the absolutely beautiful section known as Eastern Shores and Cape Vidal.

Cape Vidal on the Eastern Shores is a rare beach-and-bush destination that provides the best of two breath-takingly beautiful worlds, situated in a marine reserve, yet also close to the major game areas. Marine life includes humpback whales, dolphins, rare turtles, whale sharks, marlin and sailfish. From St Lucia to Cape Vidal, several loop roads lead to excellent natural features for birdwatching, game viewing and scenic lookout points. The Eastern Shores section hosts elephant, rhino, buffalo, crocodile, hippo, hyaena, leopard – and many species of smaller game.

The flat-topped Table Mountain, sometimes covered by its table cloth of swirling clouds and flanked by two peaks, Lion’s Head and Devil’s Peak, is the centre piece of the Table Mountain National Park which cuts through the city and stretches 50km to the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet. Very few places in the world can equal the top of Table Mountain for stunning views and taking beautiful photos.

Take an awesome cable car ride to the top or walk up the stepped Platteklip Gorge. Enjoy some refreshments in the restaurant at the top and then set off along any of the many footpaths to enjoy the breath-taking views of Cape Town city below, Lion’s Head and Signal Hill, Table Bay with Robben Island and the West Coast in the distance, the Atlantic seaboard suburbs of Sea Point, Clifton and Camps Bay, the Twelve Apostles mountains rolling away to the south, or the Southern Suburbs, the Southern Peninsula and False Bay. On a clear day the views stretch far across the distant Hottentots Holland Mountains.

6. Cape St. Blaize Lighthouse

Mossel Bay, Western Cape

Standing high up on the cliffs above the Cape St Blaize Lighthouse perched above a cave in which people lived up to 200,000 years ago, you’ll have the same view of the blue waters of the bay below with the Outeniqua Mountains beyond that the Khoi people of the area had on a day in 1488 when they noticed something strange on the sea – white squares of cloth above a wooden shape that bobbed along on the water towards one of the sheltered beaches. It was the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias and his crew, the first Europeans to set foot on this southern part of Africa. On that day the locals gave Dias a less than friendly reception, chasing the strangely dressed white men off in a hail of stones.

Of course back then there was no built-up town and harbour below. But the natural landscape must have looked pretty much the same. A later Portuguese visitor, Vasco da Gama, was given a much friendlier reception. Today the town that arose here, Mossel Bay, is an important harbour, industrial hub and popular holiday destination.

From the cliffs above the lighthouse one has a beautiful view of the town, the harbour, the beautiful golden-sanded beaches, the tranquil waters of the bay, and the exquisite Garden Route coastline stretching east all along the Outeniqua Mountains  to Plettenberg Bay, the furthest visible point of land on a clear day. Below are the natural tidal pools of the Point popular for swimming; looking west are more cliffs dotted with the dark entrances to caves where some of the earliest humans once lived.

7. Storms River Viewpoint

Storms River Mouth, Eastern Cape

Enter the Tsitsikamma Section of the Garden Route National Park from the N2 between Humansdorp and Nature’s Valley; drive down to the Park’s camping site by the sea with its welcoming open-decked restaurant; cross the two suspension bridges that straddle the river mouth where the dark tranquil water of the river meets the furious breakers of the Indian Ocean, all of it a few meters beneath you; then climb the steep hill on the eastern bank up to the spot marked as ‘Storms River Viewpoint’. You will be extremely well rewarded!

From here you will have a bird’s eye view of some of the most beautiful coastline South Africa has to offer, stretching out east and west of you.  It is here where the mountains and indigenous forests with their tall stinkwood and yellowwood trees, among many others, meet the rugged Indian Ocean coast, unchanged for hundreds of thousands of years.

Although the coastline constantly changes its appearance as you travel from west to east, from your vantage point atop the hill here at Storms River Mouth you’ll also get a feel for the spectacular scenery that awaits you further east at the Wild Coast. And there’s plenty to do in the area, including visiting nearby Storms River Village with its restaurants, canopy tours and an unlikely shrine to Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley!

8.  Tatasberg / Kokerboomkloof / De Hoop / Gannakouriep

Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, Northern Cape

 

Enter the Tsitsikamma Section of the Garden Route National Park from the N2 between Humansdorp and Nature’s Valley; drive down to the Park’s camping site by the sea with its welcoming open-decked restaurant; cross the two suspension bridges that straddle the river mouth where the dark tranquil water of the river meets the furious breakers of the Indian Ocean, all of it a few meters beneath you; then climb the steep hill on the eastern bank up to the spot marked as ‘Storms River Viewpoint’. You will be extremely well rewarded!

From here you will have a bird’s eye view of some of the most beautiful coastline South Africa has to offer, stretching out east and west of you.  It is here where the mountains and indigenous forests with their tall stinkwood and yellowwood trees, among many others, meet the rugged Indian Ocean coast, unchanged for hundreds of thousands of years.

Although the coastline constantly changes its appearance as you travel from west to east, from your vantage point atop the hill here at Storms River Mouth you’ll also get a feel for the spectacular scenery that awaits you further east at the Wild Coast. And there’s plenty to do in the area, including visiting nearby Storms River Village with its restaurants, canopy tours and an unlikely shrine to Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley!