Few destinations are impossible to get to, but many take more effort to reach than others. These 11 places in South Africa are off the beaten track and take a bit more planning than your average outing.
The Cederberg is known for its impressive rock formations and the Wolfberg Cracks and Arch are two of the must-see sites. The catch is that you’ll have to hike to reach them. It’s quite a steep climb but the trail is well-marked and easy enough to follow. There is, however, no water on the trail so make sure to pack enough to keep you hydrated. The Wolfberg Arch Hike can be completed in five to seven hours or spread out over two days, so cater to your visit depending on your level of fitness.
Stone Mountain Lodge at Kleinrivier Wilderness, is a tented camp that allows guests to completely escape into the wild. Situated 75 kilometres from Port Elizabeth the reception area is easily accessible by most vehicles but to get to Stone Mountain Lodge you’ll have to go by foot or take a 1,5 hour 4×4 journey. From hikes to swimming in natural pools and relaxing on the couch with a fire crackling, this is relaxation at its best!
Travel through the Swartberg Pass and you’ll reach Die Hel (The Hell), an unspoilt part of the vast Karoo offering visitors total peace and quiet. Die Hel lies within the Swartberg Nature Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and leads travellers through one of the most breathtaking valleys in South Africa. The area is also known as Gamkaskloof, but Die Hell sounds so much more adventurous.
The Drakensberg‘s high slopes are difficult to reach ensuring their natural beauty is preserved and undamaged by human influence. These sections of the mountains are however still reachable on foot, although the hikes are strenuous and require high fitness levels. The views from the top are awe-inspiring and the area is rich in cave paintings with over 35,000 in its natural collection. Some of the most famous peaks include Champagne Castle, Cathedral Peak and Giant’s Castle.
Getting into nature is easy when visiting Tankwa Karoo National Park, within the Great Karoo and an approximate four hour drive from Cape Town. At first sight it might seem like nothing more than a barren desert landscape, but visitors soon discover the rich fauna and flora in the park. To experience all this park has to offer, travel by a 4×4 vehicle and take your hiking boots.
Sani Pass is one of the most iconic (and scenic) mountain routes in South Africa and is situated between KwaZulu-Natal and the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho. The Sani Pass summits at 2876 metres (9436 feet), and visitors can expect snow late in the year. You’ll need a sturdy 4×4 and the best option is to book through a tour operator as they’ll ensure that your vehicle is in top condition and capable of trekking the pass.
Only 29 kilometres (18 miles) from Oudtshoorn, in the Cango Valley, lies an underground wonder known as the Cango Caves. The caves are situated parallel to the Swartberg Mountains, and although the caves themselves aren’t difficult to reach, it’s getting deep inside them that’s tricky. If you’re claustrophobic, you might as well stop reading now. On an adventure tour visitors eventually reach the Devil’s Chimney which contains a passageway approximately 74 centimetres high that at one point narrows to only 30 centimetres. Needless to say, crawling is required.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, in the Kalahari Desert, situated in the Northern Cape is an approximate 10 hour drive from Johannesburg and if you don’t have a 4×4 vehicle chances are you’ll get stuck at some point. The wildlife experiences in the park are unmatched and you’ll spot gemsbok, eland (the largest species of antelope in the world), lions and more. The drive to the park is long, and once inside you’ll be left to your own devices. Pack enough food and drink (including water) to last for the duration of your trip, take cash (there aren’t many card facilities) and a torch or headlight as light is limited at night time.
Tiffindell Ski Resort is one of only two ski resorts in Southern Africa and is situated in the Drakensberg Mountains. From Barkley East visitors travel to Rhodes, a South African National Heritage Site. Make sure to fill up your vehicle here as there’s no petrol further on. From Rhodes it’s another 22 kilometres via the Carlisleshoek pass and it’s wise to allow at least an hour to get over it. Many of the signage en route to Tiffindell is actually not recommended by the resort at all. The roads are in bad condition and chances of getting stuck are high. On this trip it’s best not to follow a GPS. This long trip on dirt roads and mountain passes is all worth it when arriving at the resort.
Riemvasmaak is a secluded area situated between the Orange and Molopo rivers, close to the Namibian border. The beautiful landscape includes the Riemvasmaak Hot Springs which are surrounded by imposing cliffs, towering 80 metres high. It’s one of the most isolated areas in the country and all essentials need to be taken with. Pack enough drinking water, food, insect repellent and ensure your vehicle doesn’t run out of fuel.
The|Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park contains the richest desert flora in the world and is the ideal place to travel to if you’re after a digital detox. Reaching De Hoop Campsite is easier said than done, and a 4×4 vehicle is needed. From the main office at Sendelingsdrift, near the Namibian border, it’s a 40 kilometre (25 mile) journey over rough and rocky terrain. Harsh temperatures can reach up to the 50 degree Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) mark and winter evenings can get very chilly, so plan activities for mornings and late afternoons.
Looking for more adventures in South Africa? Check out all the ways you can go off the grid here.