Grand Tour of South Africa

Besides South Africa's main highlights and attractions there are some areas that are less visited but yet very worthwhile. The Drakensberg for instance, near the Kingdom of Lesotho border, is a good example. This vast mountain range offers hours of great walking trails and other activities. It is not without reason that UNESCO listed this area as World Heritage Site. For travellers with some more time to spend we recommend including a visit to the Drakensberg. This complete luxury South Africa itinerary includes all of South Africa's highlights, but also a stay in the Drakensberg Mountains. The "Grand Tour of South Africa" starts in Johannesburg and takes you to the Makalali Private Game Reserve for a authentic bush experience. The Grand Tour continues via Swaziland and St. Lucia to the magnificent Drakensberg. From here you travel to the famous Garden Route, by making use of domestic flight between Durban and George. This complete South Africa luxury itinerary is conclused with some exciting days in cosmopolitan Cape Town.

Tour duration: 26 days, 25 nights

Price: From £ 3599 per person (high), from £ 3259 per person (low) for two adults sharing

Best time to visit: All year round

Day 1 & 2: Flight to Johannesburg

south africa johannesburg starter pack

Today your South Africa luxury self drive tour starts. Most flights from the UK arrive in Johannesburg the next morning after a flight time of about eleven hours. After clearing customs and reclaiming your baggage you'll be met by our local representative in the arrivals hall. You will receive a comprehensive information pack that contains local vouchers and driving instructions. There is a shuttle service between the airport and hotel for the first overnigh stay (leaving every half hour). The hotel is conveniently located near the airport so that you don't have to travel a lot today after such a long flight. The hotel is simple, but definitely modern and comfortable enough for a one night stay.

Hotel name: Protea OR Tambo Hotel style: travel convenience

Day 3: Johannesburg - Hazyview

blyde river canyon south africa

Well rested breakfast awaits you in the restaurant next morning. Shortly after breakfast your rental car will be delivered to the hotel. Now it is really to start your South Africa luxury self drive tour. From Johannesburg you depart in easterly direction for the five hour drive to Hazyview. The roads in this part of the country are of excellent quality, so you can concentrate fully on getting used to South Africa road etiquette. From the city of Nelspruit the route continues northbound over smaller roads to the village of Hazyview. The hotel for the coming night is located just outside the village and next to the Sabie River. Hazyview is a well known base for travellers visiting Kruger National Park and the Panorama Route. Upon arrival you have some time to relax, for example by taking a swim in one of the two swimming pools. Or go take a stroll along the river: with some luck you may be able to see hippos here. In the evening you can choose to stay in and have dinner in the lodge restaurant, but you can also choose to find an alternative in town. They happily advise you at the reception. Breakfast next morning is included and is served in the lodge restaurant. (Driving distance 380 miles)

Hotel name: Hippo Hollow Country Estate Hotel style: riverside fusion

Day 4: Hazyview - Makalali Private Game Reserve (via Panorama Route)

makalali private safari south africa

We recommend getting up early in the morning. This way you have the opportunity seeing a part of the Panorama Route before travelling to your lodge in Makalali Game Reserve. Visiting the Panorama Route is definitely worth the detour. En route you'll come across many impressive viewpoints, but also the famous Blyde River Canyon. It is a magnificent sight: this canyon is 16 miles long and 800 metres deep making it the third largest canyon in the world. Via the town of Hoedspruit you follow the main road further to the lodge where you'll be enjoying the African bush the forthcoming days. When you arrive before three o'clock in the afternoon you can directly join the evening gamedrive. The tent in which you sleep is simply stunning. Inspired by stories from a bygone era these tents appear very 'Hemingwayish', but with a wink. The design is truly unique and tasteful at the same time. Your own private patio has a -much needed- hammock and the bathroom features an indoor and outdoor shower. Your ranger picks you up just before dinner: the lodge is not fenced in and game is able to roam freely (and sometimes very close to the lodge). (Driving distance 180 miles)

Hotel name: Garonga Safari Camp Hotel style: tented safari for the soul

Day 5: Makalali Private Game Reserve

warthog

After a comfortable night's sleep, your ranger wakes you up early in the morning. First things first: after a quick tea or coffee it is time to embark the open 4x4 safari vehicle with some of the other guests and ranger. The ranger/guides in this area are exceptionally well trained and are therefore able to provide you the best safari experience possible. They possess an impressive knowledge about all flora and fauna in the area. Through their years of experience they are able to find and recognise animals tracks as if it is nothing. By following these tracks (or "spoor") they show you a wide variety of game. It is absolutely amazing to notice how much a game ranger actually sees, without you ever seeing it yourself. This is definitely the added value of staying in one of the private game reserves. These enthusiastic people can show you so much more than you would be able to see for yourself. Makalali is situated off the beaten path which shows itself by the very low amount of other vehicles encountered when on safari here. You barely see other 'hunting' visitors. Back in the lodge breakfast awaits you after which there is time for relaxation. At around four o'clock in the afternoon the second gamedrive starts.

Hotel name: Garonga Safari Camp Hotel style: tented safari for the soul

Day 6: Makalali Private Game Reserve

luxury safari self drive holiday south africa

The bush expects you to get up early once again. Depending on the season you're travelling in, morning game drives start between five and six o'clock in the morning. Today you will try to tick off the Big 5 as much a possible (altough there is no African buffalo in Makalali). Our eyes are getting used to the bush more and more and by now you've learned where to look and what to look for. Perhaps you are the first one to spot that sleeping lion under a tree today. After breakfast there is an opportunity to join the ranger for a safari on foot. Bsides that it is also a nice idea to take a refreshing swim in the spectacular swimming pool. In the afternoon the Landrover is ready for you again to start a new search in the bush. In the few remaining hours of the day the South African bush appears completely different compared to the morning. The environment changes colour every minute and even the smell is different (don't be surpised when you think you smell potatoes). Back in the warmly-lit lodge you are first invited to have a drink at the bar before dinner starts. The rangers usually join you for dinner which provides some great entertainment: they are ful of incredible bush stories. Before getting into bed you have the opportunity of taking the much famed "bush-bath": literally a lavish bath in the open air, a truly romantic and unforgettable experience. 

Hotel name: Garonga Safari Camp Hotel style: tented safari for the soul

Day 7: Makalali Private Game Reserve - Swaziland

hotel Swaziland

Following the bush experience near Kruger national Park, you continue your Africa safari to the Kingdom of Swaziland. It is considerable distance, over 200 miles. Take the road south by rental car to the border with Swaziland. Crossing the border normally doesn't take too much time, and from there simply follow the road to Mbabane. The accommodation for your overnight stop is located near Mlilwane National Park, the biggest national park in Swaziland. Surrounded by mountains and a colourful garden this lodge provides accommodation with a country feeling. The rooms are not particularly luxurious, but good enough for one night. They are equipped with bathroom, telephone and television. From the room and patio you can ejoy wonderful views over the moubtains. To recover from the long drive you can make use of the swimming pool or visit one of the nearby waterfalls. In the evening an excellent dinner awaits you close to the cosy fireplaceand the terrace offers a nice view of the surrounding mountains. In order to get the car you an afternoon swim in the pool or one of the nearby waterfalls. In the evening enjoy dinner by candlelight or cozy fireplace in the adjacent restaurant. (Driving distance 217 miles)

Hotel name: Foresters Arms Hotel Hotel style: highland simplicity


Day 8: Swaziland - St. Lucia

room st lucia

Today you cross the border into South Africa again. St. Lucia is easily reached via the N2 motorway. The guest house is located near the pleasant village where you can find many nice restaurants and bars. This striking guest house lies adjacent to the St. Lucia Wetland Park, from the garden you can enjoy views over the nature reserve. The structure is expecially notable for its magnificent architectural features: this type of design ins found nowhere else in South Africa. The project was designed by a Dutch architect and is based on so-called "Nouvelles Formes". The interior of the guest house is characterised by an optimal interplay between modern design and African nature. The result is a minimalist approach, while maintaining a warm African ambience. The guest house only has five large rooms (50 square metres each approximately), where diversity is emphasised by using different colours and special lighting effects. All rooms are air conditioned. In addition there are king-size beds with Auping matrasses, satellite television, comfy chairs, mini-bar and coffee/tea making facilities. The guest house is run by the Dutch Olga en Hans who are really passionate about St. Lucia and offer a wealth of information about what to do when staying in the area. (Driving distance 205 miles)

Hotel name: Serene Estate Hotel style: lakeside minimalistic chic

Day 9 & 10: St. Lucia

impala hluhluwe imfolozi

You have got two full days to spend in St. Lucia and surroundings. There are many activities and attractions around, so you will definitely need this time to make the most out of your stay. Some options for you to choose from: recommended is a cruise on Lake St. Lucia where you can see hippos and crocodiles in great numbers. Or maybe you rather visit the striking beach at Cape Vidal? You can stroll over the beach without seeing another person for hours. Maybe you really got hooked on safaris? Then visit Hluhluwe-Infolozi Game Reserve not fat from St. Lucia. Is today a beautiful weather day? Seize the opportunity and visit Cape Vidal first. The next day you can spend visiting Hluhluwe, Africa's oldest protected nature reserve. Here you can make your own safaris with your rental car and search for the Big 5.

Hotel name: Serene Estate Hotel style: lakeside minimalistic chic

Day 11: St. Lucia - Drakensberg north

drakensberg luxury lodge

With quite a driving disctance ahead, you start early this morning from St. Lucia or Phinda Private Game Reserve. You traverse the province of KwaZulu-Natal and pass some meadows en route that served as battlefields for the Anglo-Boer war early twentieth century. English colonists fought the Afrikaners (descendants of Dutch settlers) in some gruesome battles in this area for power in South Africa . A bit further towards the Drakensberg the highest peaks start coming into sight, a beatiful foretaste of what is about to come. The first day of this travel module you stay in the northern part of the area, in a charming accommodation overlooking a characteristic mountain range called the "Amphitheatre". You are within easy driving distance of the Royal Natal Drakensberg Park. Peace, comfort, and above all space are keywords here. The accommodation is designed like a lodge: There is a central building, which includes the reception area and an excellent restaurant. Your overnight stay is in one of only fourteen cottages. The suites are spacious and all have a wonderful view of the Amphitheatre. There is a small riding school at the lodge where you can go for horse riding (even for absolute beginners). Breakfast and dinner are inclusive. (Driving distance 285 miles)

Hotel name: Montusi Mountain Lodge Hotel style: clean air spaciousness


Day 12: Drakensberg north

swimming pool Drakensberg

After breakfast and soaking up some of the fresh mountain, you have a bit of a luxury problem. What to do? There are opportunities to go hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, fishing or perhaps go on a cultural excursion. Everything is possible. We highly recommend the Drakensberg hiking excursions which are organised from the lodge, which can be quite streneous. There are multiple options for visiting the Amphitheatre. The best option, in our opinion, depars from Royal National Park and takes about five and half hours. This walking trail, where you are being accompanied by expert guides, concentrates on the lower section of the Amphitheatre. The guide takes you to the Tugela Gorge (carved out by the Tugela River), the return walk is about 8.5 miles. En route you will come across a tunnel which you crawl through, a rope ladder and some large rocks that should be climbed. If temperatures are high, there is the chance of taking a refreshing dip in a mountain rock pool. So do bring a towel! At the end of the day you return to the lodge probably very tires, but also extremely satisfied.

Hotel name: Montusi Mountain Lodge Hotel style: clean air spaciousness

Day 13: Drakensberg north - Drakensberg south

walking trail hiking drakensberg south africa

With some healty muscular pain left your Drakensberg journey continues to the southern part of the "Berg". The next beautiful accommodation is located close to the foot of the Sani Pass, the mountain road between South Africa and Lesotho. Also in the southern Drakensberg there are many activities available. Rooms are classic and elegantly decorated, they provide a very romantic atmosphere. You will have no trouble sleeping here in the king-size beds. The rooms are equipped with bathroom, television and coffee/tea making facilities. All rooms provide stunning views over the mountains. Activities range from horseback riding, walking trails, mountain biking or scenic flights in a microlight aircraft. Naturally, a perfect start of your day includes a sumptuous breakfast. (Driving distance 186 miles)

Hotel name: Qambathi Mountain Lodge Hotel style: classic mountain retreat

Day 14: Drakensberg south

room accommodation drakensberg

Today you have a full day to spend at your discretion. Our Chic! tip is to travel to the top of the Sani Pass. It is inaccessible for regular 2x4 cars, so you can join a day trip accompanied by a professional guide and a four-wheel drive car. Sani Pass is a truly magnificent piece of road engineering and an attraction in itself. At the bottom of the pass you pass the South Africa border, after which the driver slowly starst ascending the steep unpaved road. En route you see the scenery change to an almost surreal moonlike landscape. Arrived at the top you'll pass through Lesotho customs (so bring your passport) and find a remarkable restaurant. Welcome to the highest restaurant in Southern Africa. Enjoy a cup of coffee while overlooking Lesotho on the one side, and South Africa on the other. After return to the lodge there is time to relax, followed by dinner in the restaurant. 

Hotel name: Qambathi Mountain Lodge Hotel style: classic mountain retreat

Day 15: Drakensberg south - Durban

harbour Durban

From the Drakensberg you continue your South Africa luxury self drive tour to the south. Today's destination is KwaZulu Natal's largest city: Durban. We schedule a one night stay in our guest house overlooking the Indian Ocean. The guest house can be described as classic, cobined with some elegant and stylish touches. There are just fifteen rooms, all lavishly decorated. Rooms are equipped with wireless internet connection, satellite television and air conditioning. Not far from the restaurant are some excellent restaurants, please enquire at the hotel reception for advice. Also the beach is very close. (Driving distance 171 miles)

Hotel name: Goble Palms Guesthouse Hotel style: stylish urban

Day 16: Durban - George - Plettenberg Bay

lodge Plettenberg swimming pool

During the morning you travel to the brand new international airport of Durban and drop off your rental car. A short domestic flight takes you to George in the Western Cape. After reclaiming your baggage a new rental car awaits you for the second part of this South Africa luxury self drive tour. Before travelling to Cape Town you will first visit the famoous Garden Route. The next two night you'll sleep in a luxury lodge just outside Plettenberg Bay itself. The extensive grounds of the lodge is in fact a mini nature reserve, and feels far away from civilization. In reality, you are close to a bustling seaside resort town, with all facilities and comforts it has to offer. The lodge has an African look and feel. Rooms are equipped with king size beds, a cosy fire place for colder days, private patio with stunning views over the forest, and mini-bar. There also is a large swimming pool with a panoramic view over the gorge where the Matjies River meanders through. Breakfast is included. (Driving distance 93 miles)

Hotel name: Hog Hollow Country Lodge Hotel style: African fusion


Day 17 & 18: Plettenberg Bay

tsitsikamma south africa

Plettenberg is the perfect base from where to experience all activities in the region. From July to November there is a chance of spotting whales in Plettenberg Bay. Throughout the year thousands of bottlenose dolphins reside in the same bay. Pick one of the nearby fantastic beaches for a walk or settling down with a good book. But most of all, there is a lot to do in the area. Not to be missed is Tsitsikamma National Park, less than an hour's drive away. This great nature reserve is located right on th coast whe huge waves crash onto the rocks. You can follow some rewarding walking trails where you walk in between the Indian Ocean and ancients coastal forests. The best way getting to Tsitsikamma is not via the N2 motorway. The much smaller -old- roads are much more beautiful and take you through some deep gorges.

Hotel name: Hog Hollow Country Lodge Hotel style: African fusion

Day 19: Plettenberg Bay - Oudtshoorn (Swartberg Pass)

oudtshoorn luxry hotel

The Garden Route takes you further inland. First follow the road along the coast and pass through the friendly town of Knysna. Knysna is worth a short stop to visit the "Knysna Heads", an inpressive views point from where you overlook the town and its lagoon. From the city of George you follow the road inland. You will pas a mountain range and once on the other side you imagine being in another world. Welcome to Klein Karoo, a semi desert. In the area there is a lot of fruit cultvation: especially peached, apricots and oranges. When you are travelling at the beginning of summer (November and December) make a stop at one of the many roadside fruit stalls. You can buy juicy fresh fruit for barely nothing. The next town en route is Oudtshoorn, centre of the South African ostrich farming. From Oudtshoorn it is another forty minute drive to the foot of the Swartberg Pass. Here you'll stay in a typical "Karoo style" small lodge that completely fits its surroundings. The adjacent restaurant serves excellent meals (nothing fancy). The best way of finishing your day is taking a glass of South African red and enjoy the endless Karoo sunset. The rooms are tastefully decorated and provide all comforts. (Driving distance 118 miles)

Hotel name: Swartberg Country Manor Hotel style: mountain splendour

Day 20: Oudtshoorn (Swartberg Pass) - Swellendam

karoo

Today you continue your luxury South Africa self drive holiday via Oudtshoorn back to the N2 motorway. The following two nights are scheduled in the historic Swellendam, located at the foot of the Langberg Mountains. Many buildings from the colonial past still exist in Swellendam, especially in the town centre. There are many old Cape Dutch style houses on the main road, of which the Dutch Reformed Church is probably the most noticeable. You'll be staying in a very special guest house owned by the Dutch Carla and Maarten. It is a minimalist desig luxury lodge. In combination with bright colours the buildings air a modern feel and sophistication. Your room is equipped with minibar, iPod docking station, flat screen television and large bathroom. A full delicious breakfast is included. There also is a lovely pool for a swim and a jacuzzi for you to relax. (Driving distance 161 miles)

Hotel name: Bloomestate Hotel style: minimalistic chic

Day 21: Swellendam

Swellendam South Africa hotel

Many travellers seize the opportunity to just sit back and relax a little bit after what has been quite an active holiday in South Africa so far. The guest house in Swellendam provides the excellent location to do so: the spacious garden invites you to relax by the pool or jacuzzi. You can also get a DVD from the extensive library and enjoy a movie in the privacy of your room. But of course you can also choose to venture out and explore Swellendam and surroundings. In whale season (August - November) it is recommendable to drive to the The Hoop Nature Reserve. Here you are able to spot the giant mammals from the beach. Also worthwhile is visiting Bontebok National Park, just across the motorway from Swellendam. Here you can see a large population of the rare bontebok, an animal species not commonly sighted in other places throughout Africa. Tonight you will stay another night in Bloomestate.

Hotel name: Bloomestate Hotel style: minimalistic chic

Day 22: Swellendam - Cape Town

overberg garden route south africa

After breakfast you'll leave in the direction of Cape Town. We selected a perfect hotel high on the slopes of Table Mountain, in the fancy Higgovale neighborhood. It proves the ideal base for exploring the city centre, the V&A Waterfront and of course Table Mountain. Because the hotel is situated somewhat at a higher level it provides amazing views over Cape Town. Your room is very spacious, yet intimate; elegant but not overly decorated. The king size beds are extra long. All rooms are equipped with flat screen television, DVD player, telephone, electronic safe and air conditioning. A real treat are the various artworks in the rooms, ranging from classic to modern. It is not for nothing that this hotel received so many accolades the last couple of years. Outside is an elegant garden with small swimming pool. Perfect for this hot Cape Town days. A delicious breakfast is included. (Driving distance 136 miles)

Hotel name: 2inn1 Kensington Hotel style: urban oasis


Day 23: Cape Town

luxury boutique hotel cape town

Your first full day in bustling Cape Town. Within a short driving distance from the hotel many attractions are found. Beautiful weather? Seize the opportunity and visit the iconic Table Mountain. Making use of the cable car takes you to the top in about ten minutes time. From here some stunning views over Cape Town, both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, Robben Island and the Cape Peninsula await you. Sports enthusiast are advised to follow the Skeleton Gorge walking trail to the top, a two and a half hour walk. Also not to be missed are the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens on the eastern side of Table Mountain. You can easily stroll around this beautifully landscaped garden for hours and enjoy an amazing variety of flowers and plants, but also contemporary art. Got some time left in the afternoon? Then visit the historic city centre: you'll find a whole range of small shops and good restaurants, but also some interesting museums and architecture. Not far from the city centre is the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town's old restored harbour. Also here you'll find some excellent restaurants.

Hotel name: 2inn1 Kensington Hotel style: urban oasis

Day 24: Cape Town uThando Community Projects excursion

cape town day trip excursion

To get the most uit of your stay in Cape Town we already schedule a special half day excursion for your convencience. It is not an ordinary excursion, but the perfect opportunity to better understand daily life in Cape Town. The "uThando" initiative is a series of projects that focuses on inproving the living conditions of so many Capetonians. The work done by the projects varies from orphanages, homes for the elderly, environmental projects, as well as theatre and dance classes for kids. During this day trip you'll get to see some heartwarming development projects in the city. The projects visited change every day so that daily routine does not get interfered with. More information about this excursion can be found on our uThando page. We wholeheartedly recommend joining this very special Cape Town excursion. Tonight you'll sleep in 2inn1 Kensington again.

Hotel name: 2inn1 Kensington Hotel style: urban oasis

Excursion choice - Of course we realise that not all tastes are the same. For this reason we created a Cape Town day trips menu. You are free to pick the day trip of your choice, all activities have the same rate. So if you rather prefer to go wine tasting, or explore the Cape of Good Hope, this is no problem at all. The choice is yours.

Dag 25 & 26: return flight London

cape town devil's peak

Your South Africa luxury self drive tour almost comes to an end. Most flights to the UK depart in the evening allowing you to explore Cape Town just a little more today. A nice option for this last day is to drive across the Cape Peninsula towards the Cape of Good Hope. From the entry gate close to Simon's Town it is only a short drive to the most southwestern point of the African continent. En route you also have a chance of seeing the famous Bouler's Beach penguin colony. As said, your flight to the UK departs in the evening, you'll arrive in London the next morning.

You can request a quote for this complete South Africa luxury holiday by completing a quote request form. For more suggested itineraries see our luxury South Africa holiday overview.


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Transport

Rental car (included) and domestic flight.

Departure days

Daily.

In/excluded

Included: car hire category C; domestic flight Durban - George; meet & greet; routeinformatie; route information package

Excluded: extra costs car hire (more information); park entry fees; optional excursion; intercontinental flights; all items of personal nature and tips

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