South Africa is home to some of the most magnificent roads that traverse deserts, farmlands and mountains, linking quirky villages with big cities. South Africans and international tourists alike enjoy road-tripping cross-country to experience all that is on offer…
The routes include the popular highlights and off-the-beaten-track treasures that transform a road-trip from being a journey from A to B into a memorable, magical experience that builds friendships, old and new, and brings families closer together.
These few peeks into the routes available give you a sample of the magical road-trips you can enjoy with the help of your navigation device:
1. Follow the flowers in Namaqualand
The miraculous carpet of flowers that apparently appears from nowhere each year in August and September along the West Coast Flower Route is a magical experience that needs to be carefully timed if you’re going to make the most of the daisies, lilies, vygies and other flowers along the 1 655km route.
Namaqualand spans from Port Nolloth in the north to Yzerfontein in the south, and as far inland as Kai Garib, but follow the local media to find out where the best blooms are.
If you’re keen to roadtrip out of season, the Cape West Coast is a startlingly beautiful part of South Africa, with quirky towns along the coastline, such as Paternoster, Lamberts Bay and Strandfontein being worthy additions to your planned route.
2. Maluti Mountain views
If snow-capped mountains are your idea of a perfect view, get the best of the Drakensberg and Maluti Mountains by embarking on a scenic road trip from tongue-twister Phuthaditjhaba to Ladybrand, along the southernmost reaches of the Free State. Scenic towns along the route include Clarens and Fouriesburg, which is in the Golden Gate National Park, and you can stop off to enjoy hikes and horse trails, or even a multi-day hike to see dinosaur footprints at the Mafube Mountain Retreat.
If you time your visit for November, both Fouriesburg and picturesque Ficksburg celebrate cherry season with festivals, when you can walk through cherry orchards, ride on tractors, and enjoy freshly picked cherries. The route is just short of 200km and can be done in a day, but it seems like it would be much more fun to stretch it over a few days to enjoy the experiences en route.
Blissful in the Baviaanskloof
If you’re in the in easternmost reaches of the Western Cape, take to the road along the Baviaanskloof four-wheel drive route to experience this UNESCO World Heritage Site’s eclectic mix of nature and culture. Start your journey in Humansdorp, just west of Jeffrey’s Bay (after a surfing adventure?), and follow the route on your TomTom GO sat nav device to Uniondale.
Ride through the Richtersveld
If your heart soars at the stark beauty of desert terrain, then the Richtersveld four-wheel drive route in the far Northern Cape is for you. TomTom’s route through this area, on the border with Namibia, takes you along a bend in the Orange River, revealing the region’s dramatic mountain ranges, barren moonscape, architectural flora, and eerie coastal mist. Best included as part of a longer trip, this 260km route is home to reptiles, birds and other wildlife, not to mention nearly 5 000 species of succulent plants – the greatest diversity of these species in the world.
Because of the isolated nature of this route, it’s best to plan it with friends who are also equipped with self-sufficient four-wheel drives and superior navigation technology.
Meander around the Midlands
Located in the heart of one of South Africa’s greenest regions, the KwaZulu Natal Midlands Meander is best treated as just that: the opportunity to ramble the countryside between Pietermaritzburg and the Drakensberg, taking in the astonishingly beautiful landscapes, and popping in to visit the region’s myriad craftsmen.
Adventure activities abound in the many nature reserves, lakes and mountains, while hamlets and villages offer the opportunity to stop and take a break from the road in a comfortable hotel, B&B or guest lodge – you could even stay on a stud farm if you choose!
The route is well signposted, and your only challenge will be deciding which of the destinations to visit on this trip, and which to save for next time.