Soul food right on our doorstep! Hiking is a great way to get outdoors and experience some of the best of South African nature, all while re-energising the body. South Africans are spoilt for choice as far as hiking trails go, from short and comfy beginner trails to the more challenging routes for expert hikers. A great travel adventure has all the ingredients to excite every fibre in your being while invigorating the body, mind, and soul.
It’s hard to choose just a few impressive hiking trails in South Africa. You can find hiking travel deals that will take you to the mountains, the ocean, the desert, or the bush. That being said, hippo.co.za has found some of the most exquisite, unspoilt scenery for world-class hiking. Here are our favourite happy hikes.
The Drakensberg Mountains, KwaZulu-Natal
The Drakensberg is possibly one of the most superb places in the world to hike. It is a memorable experience with hikes of all distances, some of which test physical limits and stretch over a massive 210 km. Breath-taking waterfalls, views, and caves are encountered on hikes of all lengths. One can even cross six of the highest peaks in the Drakensberg, namely Mont-aux-Sources, Cleft Peak, Champagne Castle, Giant’s Castle, Mafadi, and Thabana Ntlenyana.
The Wild Coast, Eastern Cape
Expect nothing short of truly jaw-dropping beauty hiking the Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape. You’ll see stretches of pristine silvery beaches, exquisite cliffs, and lush hills. The Wild Coast offers a perfect draw-card for hikers. The scenery between Port St. Johns and Coffee Bay is perhaps the most extraordinary, and you can opt for camping, glamping, bunking, and boarding. The area is filled with rolling grassy hills, dotted with colourful huts, incredible beaches, estuaries, forests, and coastal greenery. And the kicker: while hiking through the Wild Coast, you can dip into the warm Indian Ocean to cool off, pause, and take in the surroundings. Hikes through the Wild Coast include the Jikeleza Route, Green Fire Wild Coast Adventure, the Strandloper Trail, and the Wild Coast Hiking Trail.
The Otter Trail, Western Cape
The Otter Trail is the oldest hiking trail in South Africa and is a must-do for any keen explorer. The hike from the Storms River Mouth snakes its way through the Tsitsikamma forest along the tops of cliffs, through dense woodland, and along unspoiled beaches to the Groot River Estuary at Nature’s Valley. The Otter Trail has been described as an unforgettable hiking experience. There are overnight huts with easy to moderate hikes. The total distance is 45 km over five days.
Other hiking trails in South Africa that need to make their way to the top of your bucket list include the Rim of Africa in the Western Cape, which is perhaps one of the world’s most memorable long-distance trails, and the Tsitsikamma Hiking Trail, located in Nature’s Valley in the Western Cape.
The hippo.co.za Preparation Kit
Once you have picked the best hike for your fitness level, it’s time to start planning. Here are some important items to fill your backpack with for any happy hike:
Sunblock – preferably an SPF40 or above
Raincoat for you and your backpack
A dry sack
Solar-charged external charger
Cellphone and a waterproof bag (or ziplock)
Multi-purpose knife with a tin opener
Hiking map and data if you have GPS access
Pen and paper
Lighter and torch
A light towel (quick dry)
Biodegradable non-toxic shampoo
Bug repellent, biodegradable
Basic toiletries (toothpaste, soap etc.) - be kind to the environment, look for biodegradable options
Toilet paper, preferably biodegradable (made from bamboo)
Wet wipes – there are also organic options
Remember: the golden rule of being in nature is to leave it exactly the way you found it. So if you stick with the above preparation kit, you’ll have a great time travelling around South Africa, and Mother Nature will thank you.
Prices quoted are correct at the time of publishing this article. The information in this article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial, legal or medical advice.