Johannesburg has round-the-clock energy that’s both exciting and exhausting. When South Africa’s city of gold starts to lose its lustre, it’s time to nip off for a restorative weekend break – now bookable on Culture Trip.
Nicknamed the ‘New York of Africa’, Johannesburg is a bustling metropolis that’s all attitude and nervous energy. While tuning into Joburg’s frequency is exhilarating, it can be tiring – making a quick, rejuvenating weekend away beyond the city limits a must. Fortunately, there are plenty of places to decompress before the city of gold beckons you back. Here are some of the best weekend getaways from South Africa’s larger-than-life city.
Let’s start at the very beginning. Located at the foothills of the Zwartkops Mountains less than an hour from Joburg, Kloofzicht Lodge & Spa is part of the Cradle of Humankind site, where fossils and tools of early humans were discovered. If the anthropological significance doesn’t blow your mind, the views from the suites certainly will – six serene fly-fishing dams and the Blaauwbank Spruit cutting through Zwartkops Gorge are enough to excite any holidaymaker.
It won’t take you long to shake off the city at this remote lodge in Mpumalanga – just three hours from Joburg. Stay here and you have more than 6,178 acres (2,500ha) of bushveld and highveld grassland as your playground. Go fly-fishing, biking, bird watching, join a 4×4 game drive or simply ramble through dramatic gorges and dense forests here. If you can fit it in amongst all the activities, there’s a spa to rest some weary bones and sore muscles.
A veritable Noah’s Ark of animals awaits at Mongena in the malaria-free, northwestern corner of the Dinokeng Game Reserve, just 90 minutes out of Joburg. Joining the five stars of the show – lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard – are a supporting cast of zebra, hippo, giraffe and crocodile that you can size up from an open-top 4X4 – or a boat as it cruises around the local dam. Don’t forget the binoculars: there are also 300 bird species, including fish eagles and martial eagles.
Perched at around 2,200m (7,217ft) above sea level – with sweeping views of the surrounding Maluti Mountains – the eight log cabins of the Highlands Mountain Retreat truly take you away from it all. If you wondered why the national park – where the retreat is located, about 320km (200mi) from Joburg – is called Golden Gate, just wait until the sun hits the sandstone cliffs and outcrops and everything becomes bathed in a warm yellow glow.
For those who don’t want to splash too much cash on their weekend getaway, Manyane in the Pilanesberg National Park, just over a two-hour drive from Joburg, offers a range of basic but undeniably charming budget options. Choose between a rustic safari tent for two, thatched African-style chalets with private patios and braai areas, or some modern studio rooms. Once unpacked, there’s a lot to keep you busy – including game drives, hiking trails and occasional tribal dance performances.
Don’t let the functional name fool you. The small village of Dullstroom – 262km (163mi) from Jozi – where Cherry Grove is located is anything but boring. In one of the country’s best fishing spots, you can hit the trout route past two waterfalls, or do some fly-fishing in a number of streams and dams. Hang with apex predators at the Bird of Prey Centre and pause at the coffee roastery, before blazing away at a clay pigeon shooting range and knocking back a few at the Anvil Ale Brewery – preferably in that order.
Expect a few wedding parties to blow through Villa Paradiso while you’re here – an on-site chapel and beautiful surroundings make this boutique hotel at the foot of the Magaliesberg Mountains a prized spot for nuptials. It might not be your special day but the local spa will make you feel like it is, while the Upstairs @ Villa Paradiso restaurant is one of the best spots in the region for lunch, offering wonderful views of the mountains and the Hartbeespoort Dam – all of this is just an hour’s drive away from Joburg.
Just 30 minutes from Johannesburg, Glenburn is the ultimate need-a-break bolthole – especially since the luxury lodge is an area that’s ideal for hot-air balloon safaris due to some favourable flying conditions. You’ll be floating over a landscape that’s both fascinating – the hotel is situated within the World Heritage Cradle of Humankind – and picturesque, thanks to the Zwartkops Mountains. And be glad you’re in the air: that’s the Crocodile River below you.
This is a rewrite of an article originally written by Carina Claassens.
Want to discover Joburg more? Check out the classic experiences you need to have, unique ways to discover the city and the best cocktail bars. And if you’re bringing someone special, treat them to a stay in one of Johannesburg’s most romantic getaways.
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Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.