The most beautiful route of South Africa within 2,5 weeks

most beautiful route for 2,5 weeks in south africa

South Africa is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever visited in my life. It is a big country, so you can easily visit it a couple of times. If you planned to stay 2,5 weeks in South Africa, I can really recommend this route. This road trip offers a variety of landscapes and culture. You’ll cross various cities, beaches, coastlines, rugged nature, wineries, whale watching and a safari park with the big five.

The route in 2,5 weeks

We started our trip on Cape Town, then we drove to the wineries in Stellenbosch, via ‘route 62‘ through the desolate Karoo, passing Swartberg Pass to Addo Elephant Park. Then we drove all the way back via the Garden Route and ‘Route 44’ (also known as the Whale Coast Route) through Cape Town. We have done the route ourselves in a bit more than 2,5 weeks, but of course, you can adapt the trip according to your preferences. We rented a normal car without a four-wheel drive, but a car with automatic transmission is recommended. Tip: you can download offline maps in Google Maps, so you don’t need to rent navigation system or use internet.

Day 1 – 3 Cape Town

Cape Town is the perfect place to start your trip. If you’re flying with KLM, you’ll land at 12.30 am. We picked up our rental car in the morning in the city center of Cape Town. If you don’t want to rent your car yet, I recommend installing the Uber app. It is for free, the trips are affordable and there are a lot of Uber drivers so you never have to wait long for your driver to pick you up.

Some say Cape Town is the most beautiful city in the world. It’s definitely a beautiful city, between the rugged sea and the fabulous Table Mountain. An absolute must do: climb Table Mountain yourself. Bring a visit to the old city center of Cape Town, walk through Bo Kaap or visit Kirstenbosch National Park. Take a look at the incredible view of Signal Hill and have a typical South African dinner at Kloof Street House. Make sure you make a reserveration! Do you want more inspiration? We wrote a blog with 9 things to do and must do’s when you’re in Cape Town.

Day 4 & 5 Wine tasting in Stellenbosch

Travel time: 45-60 minutes

Stellenbosch, also known as the wine city of the south. It is packed with wineries and guesthouses. We stayed at Slaley Country House, located near to Simon’s Mountain. And when you’re in Stellenbosch, you have to take a wine tour. We went to Zorgvliet Wine Estate. We got a tour in the cellar where they make all their wines. Afterwards, we’ve tasted two red, two white and two rose wines. Another nice winery is Neil Ellis. At this winery, they make the Neil Ellis wine, one of my favorite wines from South Africa. You can book a wine tour to several wineries or just drive with your car to one of them. Wine tasting is really affordable. You pay around 5 euros for 4 of 5 glasses of wine. And if you like the wines you tasted, you have to take some home.

But Stellenbosch has more to offer than only wine tasting. Stellenbosch has a cute and cozy city center where you can wander around, visit some stores, have some food with, of course, a glass of wine. Another nice way to explore Stellenbosch is to visit the food markets. Root 44 is a market where they sell local food, clothes, jewels and other design stuff. Another nice market to visit is the Slow food market. At this market they only sell handmade stuff and local food. You won’t find anything from fabrics and supermarkets. We bought two handmade paintings from a South African artist.

Babylonstoren is, in my opinion, one of the best-kept secrets of Stellenbosch area. Babylonstoren is one of the oldest Cape Dutch farms. It has a fruit and vegetable garden of beauty and diversity, unique accommodation, fine food and wine, and a sense of wellbeing. You can spend a night in their guest houses, wander around in their garden or have some lunch or dinner from their own fruit and vegetable garden. We had dinner at Babel. I made a reservation 3 months upfront because this place is always fully booked.

Day 6 Road trip Little Karoo (‘Route 62’) to Oudtshoorn

Franschhoek – Worcester – Montagu – Barrydale – Ladismith – Calitzdorp – Oudtshoorn
Travel time: 6-7 hours

Route 62, also known as Little Karoo brings you from Stellenbosch to Oudtshoorn. Many people skip this route and that’s a pity. It is a long drive, but really beautiful. You drive between the mountains on empty roads, passing by lonely wine farms and the Karoo desert. Sometimes you drive around 50km without passing by any villages or other passengers. It feels like you’re the only one on this world. At Route 62 you’ll pass by some sleeping villages like Worcester, Montagu and Calitzdorp. Be aware that these are villages, without any proper restaurant, supermarket or store.

Barrydale is a nice village to stop and have some lunch. In Barrydale you find yourself in an American town, back in time. We had lunch at Diesel & Creme. Another famous place to stop by is Ronnies Sex Shop. After Barrydale you’ll continue your way on R62 through a desert landscape to Ladismith and Calitzdorp. During the way, you’ll see a lot of wild animals like monkeys, alpaca’s, ostrich’s and if you’re lucky elephants! And watch out for the turtles crossing the road. Route 62 doesn’t stop at Oudtshoorn, but after a long drive this is a good option to spend the night. You can also drive a bit further to Prins Albert to spend.

We stayed in Die Fonteine Guest Hotel, a wonderful guest house near by Oudtshoorn. If you want to stay in a more luxurious lodge, I can recommend Buffelsdrift Game Lodge. You can rent a lodge within a nature park, where buffels, elephants and other wild animals walk around your lodge. If you want to save your money, you can also have lunch and dinner at Buffelsdrift Game Lodge.

Day 7 Safari & Swartberg Pass

We stayed in Oudtshoorn, also known as the ostrich town. You see multiple ostrich farms. If you’re interested you can visit a farm or try your first ostrich steak. If you want to go on a safari, you can go to Buffelsdrift Game Lodge. You can book a safari tour in the morning, afternoon or evening. This is a small nature park, so the change that you spot some wild animals is quite big. Keep your eyes wide open and spot giraffes, wildebeests, antelopes, hippo’s, springboks, turtles and if you’re lucky rhinos. The elephants who live at Buffelsdrift Game Lodge are orphans and unfortunately, they can’t take care of themselves.

You can perfectly combine Buffelsdrift with a trip to the Swartberg Pass. First, you pass the impressive Cango Caves. Then you’ll start with a 4-hour road trip called Swartberg Pass. This 27-kilometer long road wich countless hairpin bends and deep abysses leads you right through the Swartberg mountain, a mountain that splits the big and small Karoo. The view is incredible and it is no wonder that this mountain is one of the seven wonders of South Africa. You can do this trip on your own and with a normal car, but be aware that the road is bumpy, small and a bit dangerous. The car that goes up and drives next to the abyss has priority.

Day 8 – 10 Addo Elephant Park

Oudtshoorn – Willowmore – Steytlerville – Kirkwood – Addo Elephant National Park
Travel time: 5 hours

Prepare yourself for a long drive to Addo Elephant Park. Once again, you drive through a wonderful, even more desolate and rough landscape. Make sure you have enough water, food and a full tank, because sometimes you have to drive 100km without any houses, villages or gas stations. After 1,5-2 hours you enter Willowmore. This is the last decent town. We had lunch at Sophie’s Choice. This is a restaurant, in the middle of an antique shop. I had one of my best salads during my holiday in South Africa.

We entered Addo in the evening, so we stayed for a couple of nights to fully enjoy the park. Addo is a small village and famous because of Addo Elephant Park. This is the second biggest nature park in South Africa and you can see animals living in their natural habitat. Don’t be distracted by the name, you’ll spot so many more animals here than only elephants. You can stay in the park or choose one of the many lodges outside the park. As said before, Addo is a small village without services so most people have lunch and dinner at their or other lodges. We stayed at Addo African Home, around 6 km from the nature park.

Most lodges offer safari’s for a half or whole day with a guide. You can also enter the park on your own and drive around with your own car. It costs you around 20 euro’s. Going on the safari ourselves was one of the best choices we made. It is six times cheaper and we saw so many animals. At the entrance you’ll get a map, so you can easily guide yourself through the park. An animal can just show up and when you’re with your own car, you can stand still and watch as long as you want. We were so lucky that we stood still in the middle of an elephant family walking by.

Good to know is that there is only one toilet within the park. You also need to bring your own food and drinks. You can always leave the park to grab a coffee or have lunch at the restaurant in the beginning of the park. You may always enter the park again with your day ticket.

Day 11 – 13 start of the Garden Route to Knysna

Port Elizabeth – Jeffrey’s Bai – Tsitsikamma National Park – Knysna
Travel time: 4 hours

The garden route is one of the most famous routes in South Africa. You drive 700 km all the way from Port Elizabeth to Mosselbay, of the other way around. Some people add Hermanus (Wales Village) as the last stop of the Garden Route. The best way to explore the Garden Route is to spend some nights in one place. We choose to stay 3 nights in Knysna because it is a centrally located place and quite big. You can also stay in Plettenberg Bay or Jeffrey’s Bai if you like surfing. Some nice stops and things to do at the first part of the Garden Route:

Port Elizabeth
At Port Elizabeth starts or ends the garden route. It’s a city on the sea with fresh sea air and easy access to incredible wildlife. You can visit the Nelson Mandela Stadium and watch South African soccer clubs battle it out in this 46,000-seater, five-tier stadium. Or watch wildlife at Kragga Kamma, just a short drive from the city. You can also visit some of the markets at Port Elizabeth like the Njoli Market or the Valley Market.

Jeffrey’s Bai
Jeffrey’s Bai is a perfect stop from Addo Elephant Park to continue the Garden Route. Some surfers like to stay here a bit longer and explore the rest of the Garden Route from here. Jeffrey’s Bai is also known as one of the best surf spots of Africa. We had a delicious lunch at Tasty Table with sea view and continued our road trip from here.

Tsitsikamma National Park
Tsitsikamma National Park is one of the most beautiful and spectacular national parks of South Africa. Which its coastline of more than 80 kilometers, this park is one of the best stops of the Garden Route. Tsitsikamma National Park is famous because of its rainforest where you can do several activities such as walking, hiking, kayaking, taking a zip line, bungee jumping and spotting animals. You also find the famous Otter Trail, a hike of 42 kilometers long. You can stay here for a couple of days, but this park is also a great fit for a daily trip.

Plettenberg Bay
Plettenberg Pay is nice to have a quick stop. It’s a small, luxury spot surround by beaches. If you’re lucky, you can spot whales, dolphins and seals. Especially from July till December. You can combine a stop at Plettenberg Bay with a stop at Keurboom beach. Keurboom beach is a hidden gem between Tsitsikamma and Plettenberg Bay. A must do when you’re in Plettenberg Bay is to visit Robberg, a nature reserve protected by the marine. The entrance is around 3 euro’s and you can choose between a hike of 2, 5 or 10 kilometers. All the hikes are wonderful. You walk at the top of the mountain on cliffs and rocks, with an incredible sea view and white sand beaches.

Knysna

As said before, we stayed a couple of nights at Knysna to explore the hidden gems of the garden route. We stayed at Paradise Found Guest House. This Bed & Breakfast has the most incredible view! The sea water flows inland through two gigantic rocks, where a beautiful lagoon has been created. More than two species of fish swim there, including the unique South African seahorse. Another highlight are the Knysna Heads, where you have a great view of the lagoon. You can climb these rocks for phenomenal sunset.

But Knysna itself is also enjoyable. You can book a trip on a catamaran, have a cocktail in the harbor or wander around in the city center. Or bring a visit to Brenton-on-sea, a village located on the mountain at the beach. The beach between Brenton-on-sea and Buffel’s Bay is around 5 kilometers long. It is one of the safest beaches of South Africa, but because of the strong waves, it’s not safe to swim. Or go hiking in Knysna Forest, the largest forest in South Africa. Whoever is lucky can also spot wild elephants here!

The city is full of nice restaurants with a sea view. Have lunch at East Head cafe. This restaurant is located on the beach and gives you a view of the lagoon. On the other side of East Head you have West Head. They call it like this because between these mountains you have the entrance from the lagoon to the ocean. The Olive Tree Restaurant in Knysna is a hidden gem and worth paying a visit.

Day 14 – 17 Back to Cape Town

George – Mossel Bay – Swellendam – Hermanus – Betty’s Bai – Cape Town
Travel time from Knysna to Cape Town: 5-6 hours

You can choose to drive to Cape Town in once, or make a stop in of the places above. We drove to Swellendam, a small village located between the mountains. Because of its location, Swellendam is a perfect spot to make some hikes. Furthermore, Swellendam is a small town, so I recommend to stay only one night.

From Swellendam, we drove to Hermanus, also known as the best town for whale watching. There are plenty of tour operators where you can book a trip on a boat for whale watching. The sea can be pretty wild, so take some seasick pills in advance. The best season to spot Southern Right Wales at the coast of Hermanus is between September en November. If you’re lucky you can also spot them between June and August and in December. You can see the animals be quite active, especially the babies. They jump and swim around because they need to develop strong muscles.

In December there are sometimes still some mother whales with babies left. The babies need to be at least 3 months old before they leave the coast. They need to be strong enough to swim 3000 kilometers. While the kids are playing, the mother whales can be a bit ‘lazy’. They haven’t eaten in 5 months because they gave birth to their children and they give them 600 (!) liters of milk per day. Hermanus has a lot of nice restaurants. I can recommend restaurant 1904 and Pear Tree restaurant.

The Garden Route flows into the Whale Coast Route. You drive through the mountains, along with the rugged sea and with a view of beautiful green valleys. The Whale Coast route starts officially at Quoin Point Nature Reserve next to Cape Agulhas, the most southern point of South Africa. Along the route, you will find beautiful beaches, like Gordon’s Bay or Kleinmond. Or make a stop at Betty’s Bay. In the past this was a harbor for whale hunting. Luckily now it is famous because of all the penguins.

Another nice stop is Pingle Bay, a little seaside village. The village has grown from just a few houses without electricity or asphalted roads to an attractive vacation spot suitable for all ages. From here it’s just an hour drive to Cape Town.

Some important information for your road trip in South Africa

  • In South Africa they drive left. Also may the traffic rules be different than in your own country. Just drive wisely and go with the flow
  • Make sure you make reservations for your accommodations and car in advance. In the summer months it can be sold out quickly.
  • In South Africa you can easily do a tour on your own. Of course you can also book complete trips at various travel agencies.
  • Make sure that you leave with a full tank before you travel long distances. You may have to drive for miles before you come across a gas station. Bringing water and food is therefore also handy.
  • Leave no trace! I really like this Burning Man principle. Clean up after yourself and whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.
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Manon
Manon

Hi! My name is Manon, an Amsterdam based travel junkie who wants to explore at least three new destinations each year. Follow my personal Instagram: @manonheitkamp

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