Spectacular wildlife, beautiful beaches, and vast national parks meet a multicultural nation in South Africa. With a landscape encompassing mountains, deserts, coastlines, and savannah grasslands, it is no wonder that South Africa is considered to be one of the most picturesque and scenic countries in the world. It is renowned for its wildlife and although Kruger is the most famous national park, others such as Addo Elephant National Park, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park also have some great wildlife experiences, and are often easier to get into because of fewer visitors.
Before you make your way down the Garden Route on the southern coast, compare diamond carats in Kimberley, visit the Cradle of Humankind in Johannesburg, and Nelson Mandela's prison cell on Robben Island. A day trip into Lesotho will take you to magnificent views from this small landlocked country's mountainous terrain and those looking for adventure can try scaling the dizzying heights of the Drakensberg range that divides South Africa and Lesotho.
Some of South Africa's cities face glaring economic disparities, but whichever side of the tracks you find yourself on, the locals are known to be warm, friendly people who are always up for a chat about sports or politics. South African wine is famous around the world and tastes even better when you're sipping it in the valleys of Stellenbosch or Paarl before heading off to a meal of Braaivleis or Potjiekos.
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You will need proof of your yellow fever vaccination so make sure you have it with you before you're on your way. Johannesburg (JNB) remains the country's main international airport but an increasing number of airlines also fly to Durban (DUR) and Cape Town (CPT.) Smaller airports also deal with a limited amount of international traffic and regional flights at Kruger National Park (MQP), Port Elizabeth (PLZ), and Pietersburg (PTG). Air Canada, Delta, American, Lufthansa, Emirates, BMI, and Cathay Pacific fly from Canada to South Africa via stops in the UK, US, or continental Europe. The three main airports are in very different parts of the country so book a flight to the one which is closest to the region you're spending the most time in, or heading to first.
Remember that South African seasonal months are just the opposite of those in the Northern Hemisphere. The summer months are from December to March, autumn from April to May, winter from June to September, and spring from late-September to November. South Africa does not have extreme climates, so any time during the year is good to visit, although December to January as well as the Easter holidays are very busy tourist seasons. Summer temperatures rise to a maximum of 28°C while winter lows don't drop below 1°C. Most of the rainfall is concentrated on the Western Coast, but overall, the country boasts a sunshine average of 8.5 hours a day.
To time your trip just right, decide on the activities you want to pursue – wildlife safaris are better in the winter while the vineyards of Capetown are better in the summer months. The shoulder seasons are also good times to visit and are from mid-September to November or April to May.