South Africa is often referred to as the Rainbow Nation – which is how it was described by former archbishop Desmond Tutu post-apartheid – and if you book a break here you’ll certainly find out why. The colourful landscapes are beautiful to take in, especially along the Garden Route – which is known for its lush green areas and deep sea blue hues – and the variety of shades reflects the nation’s multiculturalism.
Running along the nation’s south-east coast, the Garden Route stretches from Heidelberg in the Western Cape to the very west of the Eastern Cape. Lakes, lagoons and rainforests characterise the area, which is rich in biodiversity.
If you want to take in the best of the region, keep reading for a guide to the must-visit places and attractions to be found on a South African Garden Route holiday.
Mossel Bay – Yellow and blue
With around 300 days of sunshine every year, Mossel Bay is a haven for sun seekers looking to hit the beach. The area has around 60 km of sand, as well as awe-inspiring mountain scenery, being close to the Outeniqua mountain range.
Mossel Bay is especially renowned as a top spot for catching sight of whales so, if you’re a fan of the big, gentle creatures, you should head out to sea aboard a boat on a whale-watching expedition. You can also get active in the water with sports like scuba diving and sailing.
If you want to find out more about local history and culture, call in at the Dias Museum Complex, where you can visit the Maritime Museum, Cultural Museum, an aquarium and an ethno-botanical garden.
Knysna – Green
The town of Knysna is another must-visit location, boasting rainforest, water and geological formations known as the Map Stones. During your visit to Knysna, head to Monkeyland – a 12 hectare sanctuary home to 15 species of primates, including black lemurs and golden howler monkeys.
Nearby is Birds of Eden, a sanctuary for winged creatures. The 2 hectare dome is home to more than 3,500 birds, as well as some miniature monkeys.
Oudstshoorn – Brown and grey
Known as the Feather Capital, Oudstshoorn is renowned for its many ostrich farms, and it’s well worth paying a visit to one of these during your Garden Route holiday. The Safari Ostrich Show Farm is one such location, being home to local breeds as well as Zimbabwe Blue and Kenyan Red birds. It’s possible to ride an ostrich, and stand on their virtually-unbreakable eggs during a visit to the farm.
You should also spend some time exploring the Cango Caves during your break. The dripstone caverns can be found in a limestone ridge opposite the Swatberg Mountains and you can take a standard tour or an adventure tour of the fascinating subterranean world.
Stellenbosch – Purple and green
The pretty town of Stellenbosch has an awe-inspiring backdrop of the Great Drakenstein and Stellenbosch Mountains and is renowned for its valley, which forms part of the Cape Winelands. This is the larger of South Africa’s two main wine producing regions, and the town is surrounded by vast vineyards.
As a result of its position at the foot of mountains, Stellenbosch’s soil is particularly good for grape growing, and you can tour the vineyards and wine cellars in some cases. More than 200 vineyards and grape growers comprise the Stellenbosch Wine Route, which is split into five trails. Follow the course and you can sample many varieties of wine, although it’s worth bearing in mind that some cellars work on an appointment only basis.