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Must-try Roadtrip Stops in South Africa

Must-try Roadtrip Stops in South Africa

As T.S Eliot said, “it’s the journey, not the destination that matters…”. From beautiful mountain passes to amazing views, small dorpies and where to find the best pie, here are must-try roadtrip stops in South Africa that you need to add to your travel bucket list.

Choose your own adventure: Pick a spot from the list below or scroll down to read all of the options for your next roadtrip.

  1. Swartberg Pass, Klein Karoo, Western Cape
  2. Ongeluksnek Pass, Drakensberg, Eastern Cape
  3. The Panorama Route through Blyde River Canyon, Mpumalanga
  4. Route 63 through the Karoo, Eastern to Northen Cape
  5. The World’s End view point, Mpumalanga
  6. Riebeek Valley, Swartland, Western Cape
  7. Peregrine Farmstall, Elgin, Western Cape
  8. A foodie tour through the Karoo

Swartberg Pass, Klein Karoo, Western Cape

Bucket list: Swartberg Pass

Travel and features writer, Tess Paterson

No road trip through the Klein Karoo is complete without experiencing the Swartberg Pass.

It’s one of the most ruggedly spectacular routes in South Africa. All 27km are breathtaking, but my favourite stretch is from the Teeberg viewpoint heading north towards Prince Albert.

The switchback curves, dry-stone walls, and sense of space is timeless. Prince Albert warrants a two-night stay at least, with a leisurely feast at Simply Saffron. Chef Ridwaan Lockhart’s seasonal cooking is exceptional.

COUNTRY LIFE RECOMMENDS:

Once you’ve experienced the wonder of the Swartberg Pass, here are other spots a couple hours drive that might tickle your fancy (or your taste buds).

Ongeluksnek Pass, Drakensberg, Eastern Cape

Bucket list: Marion Whitehead

Marion Whitehead, travel writer

If like me you enjoy mountain passes, then a drive to the 2555m summit of Ongeluksnek Pass in the Drakensberg near Matatiele will blow your socks off.

It’s remote, beautiful, awe-inspiring – and you’ll probably have it all to yourself. This adventure is strictly 4×4 only. Don’t forget your passport.

Lake Letsie at the top of the pass is a Ramsar Wetland and birders love it.

Don’t miss the lovely sandstone church at the Mariazell Mission Station at the foot of the pass and their Via Dolorosa hike along the river to a cross on a hill.

For fly-fishers, the secret lake in the Matatiele Nature Reserve above the town is a must-do.

COUNTRY LIFE RECOMMENDS:

There are endless options in the Drakensberg, but here are some of our favourites.


READER’S CHOICE: The Panorama Route through Blyde River Canyon, Mpumalanga

I thought I had seen the best sights South Africa had to offer. But nothing compares to the captivating Panorama Route in Mpumalanga.

Blyde River Canyon is the number one most scenic spot I could recommend – untouched natural beauty exuding serenity and peace. This is the one place in South Africa where I truly feel home. – Lynn Lambert, Country Life reader

Bucket list: Blyde River in Mpumalanga

The Blyde River in Mpumalanga

TRAVEL BLOGGER MAURITZ CROUS AGREES

Bucket List: Mauritz Crous, traveller

Travel blogger, Mauritz Crous

The Blyde River Canyon views from Graskop with it’s quirky and pretty shops and restaurants are a must see.

Graskop’s roads with its high trees and open fields are beautiful when looking for the perfect road trip through to the Blyde River Canyon.

Add in the breathtaking Blyde River Canyon viewpoints. Don’t forget to drive through to some of the waterfalls that are very close by.

No trip is complete without a visit to Harrie’s Pancakes.

Keep up to date with Mauritz’s travels via his Instagram account @mauritzcrous.

COUNTRY LIFE RECOMMENDS:

Out and about in Graskop and surrounds? Here are some other interesting options to add to your holiday.


Route 63 through the Karoo, Eastern to Northen Cape

Bucket List: Route 63, Karoo

Chris Marais, Karoo Space

Chris Marais and Julienne du Toit of karoospace.co.za explain why they love Route 63.

Journey through the Centre of the Karoo from Somerset East to the Still Quarter of South Africa… Here are some reasons why we love to.

  • The most affordable overnight town stops in South Africa.
  • Heritage and history all the way.
  • Quirky pubs and delis.
  • Adventure opportunities for the outdoor types.
  • A wide range of Karoo farmstays at low prices.
  • Wide-open spaces for bikers and landscape lovers.
  • A good, quiet road with minimal traffic.
  • The sense of being in an undiscovered region.
  • Some of the friendliest local residents you could ever hope to meet on your travels.

Bucket list: Route 63

Bucket list: Julienne du Toit

Julienne du Toit, Karoo Space 

Read up on Chris and Julienne’s recommendations on where to stop on your Karoo road trip and the best foodie spots, plus another must-try road trip.

 The World’s End view point, Mpumalanga

Bucket list: The World’s End view point

Sue Adams, travel writer

The World’s End View Point on the R532 tops my bucket list.

This is what explorers or tribal kings must have felt like when they sat on a rock overlooking Blydepoort Dam with the Lowveld spread out before them.

I know the dam wasn’t there during that time but the shiny Blyde River snaking through these mountains and the flat lowlands of the bushveld shimmering with dust are timeless.

The view changes at different times of the day with the Three Rondavels shimmering red in the sunset glow, and the mountains of Mariepskop changing mood with the weather.

I have stood here many times; once as a storm brewed my hair on end from static electricity as I watched the lightning flash on the mountains, and other times in early morning peace while I watched the sun rise and light up the world.

Explore Bourke’s Luck Potholes on the R532 south of the World’s End Viewpoint. Drive up to the top of Mariepskop (via the R531) and stay in the Forestry chalets there.

COUNTRY LIFE RECOMMENDS:

If you’re going to World’s End, here are some other stops to include in your journey.

Riebeek Valley, Swartland, Western Cape

Bucket list: Max du Preez

Veteran journalist and author, Max du Preez

A picturesque valley famous among connoisseurs for its exceptional wines and fine olive oil – the Riebeek Valley in the Swartland. This is my favourite spot in Africa.

Riebeek-Kasteel is a charming, authentic village with no pretensions or flashiness; a village of mostly working (and many young) people, craft shops, art galleries and several good restaurants and guest houses – like the splendid Red Tin Roof, owned by the renowned former journalists Jacques Pauw and Samantha Rogers.

This Riebeek Valley and the adjacent Paardeberg area have become essential stopovers for real wine fundis from around the world because of the daring and groundbreaking winemakers of the area.

People like Eben Sadie, AA Badenhorst, the Mullineux family, Anton Espost of the Wine Kollektive, Hugo Basson of Annex Kloof, Paul Kretzel of Lammershoek and Jannie Louw of Nuweland.

Add to that Kloovenburg, Allesverloren, Pulpit Rock and Riebeek Cellars wineries and you’re in wine heaven.

Every time I come back from the airport and drive over the pass above Riebeek-Kasteel, I feel blessed that I live in a magical place like this; a patchwork of vineyards, orchards and farm dams between the mountains. And interesting people.

COUNTRY LIFE RECOMMENDS:

Here are some of our favourite things to do in the Swartland.

Peregrine Farmstall, Elgin, Western Cape

peregrine farm stall

We would definitely recommend that everyone add having a Springbok Pie at Peregrine Farmstall in Elgin to their bucket list. It always completes our trips.

Simply put, the pies are just so, so good! Stopping at a farmstall is also such a great part of travelling in South Africa and Peregrine is definitely one of the best in our books.

the lion and the lady south african bucket list

Marilet & Leon from The Lion and the Lady travel blog

Throwing in a Springbok pie just makes it such a unique, truly South African experience. Peregrine has a great vibe and all kinds of other delicious things to indulge in too.

While you’re in Elgin, it’s definitely worth popping into one of the wine estates in the area. Almenkerk and Oak Valley are both great.

Visit The Lion and the Lady travel blog here or follow them on Instagram @thelionandthelady

COUNTRY LIFE RECOMMENDS:

EDITOR’S PICK: A foodie tour through the Karoo

Bucket list: Karoo road trip

Nita Hazell, Country Life editor

On our Country Life Karoo Cooks Tour in 2016 I had a taste of Karoo hospitality, which only made me realise that the only way to see Big Sky Country is on a long road trip.

But the Karoo is a big place sprawling over four provinces and includes around 100 towns, villages, and settlements. So I will have to do it in bite-size pieces.

Perhaps I will start in the Eastern Cape with Chris Marais and Julienne du Toit’s little book The Road Tripper: Eastern Cape Karoo as my travelling companion.

On our Karoo Cooks Tour, we sought refuge at the Kleinpoort Pompstal when the bus broke down on our way to Graaff-Reinet. We passed the time with their delicious game pies and stocked up on all kinds of treats.

Spoil yourself to a stay at the recently renovated and now 5-star The Drostdy Hotel.

Don’t leave Graaff-Reinet without buying your padkos for the trip at Venter’s Game & Biltong Deli and Kamdeboo Butcher.

Book yourself in at Die Tuishuise for the annual Karoo Food Festival in Cradock (27-30 April 2017). Great fun and the best way to get to experience Karoo hospitality and sample local produce. The festival kicks off with the Karoo Carnival, a makietie of note.

COUNTRY LIFE RECOMMENDS:

If you’re cruising the Karoo, here’s where to eat, stay and play.

If this bucket list inspired you, have a look at our other bucket list ideas:
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