South Africa’s Best (Overlooked) Routes

A man and woman posing in front of a vintage car on a mountain pass


Explore some lesser-known parts of this great land along these out-of-the-way local tourist routes.


Big skies, open roads, weird and wonderful destinations... South Africa is a prime country for road trip holidays, and our provincial tourism routes make it extra easy to explore this beautiful land.


You'll know the big ones, like Mpumalanga's Panorama Route, the Western Cape's Garden Route and the Eastern Cape's Wild Coast Route... but each of the nine provinces has a number of lesser-known routes too.


It's time to skip the (sometimes dangerous) main roads and add these out-of-the-way routes to your road trip bucket list.


We've picked eight of South Africa's best, one for each province (sorry Gauteng, you're just too tiny for a proper pilgrimage!), that you should add to your next holiday itinerary.


Northern Cape: Richtersveld Ramble
Alexander Bay, Kuboes, Eksteenfontein, Vioolsdrif

The Richtersveld's wide-open desert may seem lifeless, but its unique biome makes it the only arid biodiversity hotspot on the planet. Keep an eye out for the quiver trees, botterbome and tiny lithops that dot the sprawling landscape, and for fish eagles and kingfishers on the banks of the Orange River.


Western Cape: Cederberg Scenic Route
Clanwilliam, Wuppertal, Eselbank, Ceres

The Cederberg is famous for two things: its amazing red sandstone formations and the fact that it's the only place in the world where rooibos tea grows naturally. Besides stunning hiking trails, you'll also discover splendid campsites, 4x4 and mountain bike trails, rock art sites, wine farms and secluded mountain cabins. Best of all, it's just three hours from Cape Town.


Eastern Cape: Baviaanskloof Escape
Willowmore, Patensie

The Baviaanskloof (Dutch for "Valley of the Baboons") is a lush valley tucked between the Baviaanskloof and Kouga mountain ranges. The western half has a collection of beautifully secluded guest houses, self-catering cottages and campsites. The eastern half of the valley falls under the Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve. Here the mountains get higher, the valleys narrower and the gravel passes steeper, so you'll need a 4x4 to traverse this section.


Limpopo: Magoebaskloof Meander
Polokwane, Haenertsburg, Tzaneen

A mere hour from Polokwane, in an otherwise drab landscape, lie the lush subtropical forests of Magoebaskloof. The Magoebaskloof Pass swiftly descends from quaint Haenertsburg to bustling Tzaneen, but the mountains surrounding the pass are worth exploring. There are beautiful forest drives, hiking trails, waterfalls, flyfishing dams and a wonderful collection of guest farms.


Mpumalanga: Kaapschehoop to Kruger
Ngodwana, Kaapschehoop, Malelane

About 14km east of the N4 at Ngodwana lies the mountaintop village of Kaapschehoop. It developed around gold mining, but these days is best known for its stunning location, charming houses and the wild horses that roam about town. From here you can travel east to the southernmost gate of the Kruger National Park at Malelane, a much quieter entry point than those further north.


KwaZulu-Natal: Northern Coastal Route
St Lucia, Hluhluwe, Kosi Bay

There's a truly spectacular environment tucked away in the northeastern corner of South Africa's coastline. Starting in St Lucia (a town known for the hippos that roam its streets), the iSimangaliso Wetland Park stretches northward to the Mozambican border. Within its borders you'll discover lush coastal forests, unspoiled beaches and huge lakes and wetlands. Wildlife is abundant, both on land and in the ocean.


North West: Harties to Pilanesberg
Hartbeespoort, Rustenburg, Pilanesberg

The list of activities on offer at Hartbeespoort Dam is as long as your arm: fishing, jetskiing, windsurfing, canoeing, white water rafting, hiking, rock climbing, paragliding and hot air ballooning. If you can tear yourself away from it all, the N4 will lead you past the northern slopes of the Magaliesberg (which has tons more outdoor activities) before the R565 delivers you to Pilanesberg, home of the Big Five. You'll need more than one holiday to get to it all!


Free State: Maluti Mission
Ficksburg, Fouriesburg, Clarens, Harrismith

This route follows the northwestern border of Lesotho, skimming along the foothills of the magnificent Maluti Mountains. The region is home to some of the country's finest horse-riding trails and flyfishing destinations, not to mention the small-town attractions of Clarens, a host of superb mountain retreats and the spectacular natural beauty of the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. What's more, this route often receives snow in winter, turning the grasslands and hilltops into a storybook winter scene.


This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial, legal or medical advice.

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