Hiking in South Africa

Walk amongst landscapes of every shade, height and size imaginable, stepping into a wilderness where wildflowers and wildlife flourish.

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Unravelling over 1,600 miles of coastline on the southernmost tip of Africa, South Africa harbours mountains, beaches, forest and desert plains between two powerful oceans.

Hiking trails cut through the granite peaks of the Drakensberg Mountains, along coastal forest and past natural lagoons, and into the semi-desert of the Karoo where night-time sets off Mother Nature’s show of stars. Camp on the deserted, powder-soft sand dunes of the Eastern Cape, which tumble into the Indian Ocean, or skirt by wildflower meadows that spread from east to west, punctured by rusty red cliffs and steep ridges.

Walking South Africa’s trails brings you to eye level with iconic natural landmarks such as Table Mountain, where evergreen fynbos carpet shrubland, and nature reserves where thousands of species of flowers and wildlife come to life with every season.

Most enjoy South Africa’s summer, which runs from November to March, to walk along its varied paths, but come from August to September and you’ll be accompanied by wildflowers blowing in the breeze.

Here are some of our favourite spots for hiking in South Africa.

Cape Point Trail

When it comes to hiking beside infinite ocean views, Cape Point Nature Reserve is a definite crowd-pleaser. Situated on the Western Cape, you’ll scramble along rocky coastal paths where seemingly unsteady rocks are stacked up high with the Atlantic Ocean frothing beneath.

Endless cliffs and coves punctuate various trails, all of which can be completed in a day or spread out over two days. The Cape Point Lighthouse Trail is an easy 3km walk that showcases the essence of the park, but the 18km Cape Point Trail will take you to a flurry of deserted beaches where birds flutter in the clear skies and hop between beds of fynbos. It’s best to get going early in the morning to afford yourself breaks with dramatic vistas.

Drakensberg Mountains

The highest mountain range in South Africa offers intrepid explorers the opportunity to get out into the true wilderness.

Cloud-shrouded peaks tower up to 3,475 metres above sea level, embracing the Southern African Plateau. Scale the famed Cathedral Peak, where fertile grassy lowlands rise into steep, exposed slopes that’ll prove a challenging multi-day test of endurance.

Meanwhile, streams and rivers carve their way down, eventually plunging over sandstone cliffs to create a spectacle such as Tugela Falls, which is a mere drop in the ocean at 948m compared to the giant Amphitheatre ridge that surrounds it. Trek along this vast cliff face and take it all in from its highest point at Mont-Aux-Sources, 3,254m above sea level. One for the brave-hearted.

Table Mountain

South Africa’s iconic Table Mountain casts a long shadow over Cape Town, standing tall at 1,084 metres above sea level, and the showstopper of Table Mountain National Park.

The fastest way to reach the summit is the Platteklip Gorge route, a short but steep ascent of about three hours. Meanwhile Skeleton Gorge proves more of a challenge with a few rocky scrambles to get from one side of Table Mountain to the other - lasting about two to four hours, depending on how many photo breaks you take.

Its proximity to Cape Town makes it ideal for a one-day hike or even a multi-day adventure, but this 600 million-year-old beauty will forever remain a must-see in South Africa.

Cape Town

Staying in Cape Town means you’re never far from a hiking route of any length or difficulty. From the city you can set off up the twisted peak of Lion’s Head for panoramic views in about three hours. Though, beware: there are chains and ladders to help you reach the summit.

If you’re looking to experience Table Mountain National Park past the cable car ride, you’ll find hiking trails within an hour of the city, zig-zagging from Cape Point down to Cape Town; taking in spectacular coastline, the world heritage Cape Floral Region and penguin colonies that live on the beach.

From here you can also easily climb jagged peaks with heart-stirring names like Devil’s Peak for sea views, or trek through various stages of different micro-climates – from misty, forested ravines in Newlands Forest up onto the open plateau.

Garden Route

With a name like Garden Route National Park you can expect a striking variety of landscapes, flora and fauna as the backdrop to any hike here. Choose from a number of trails that vary in length and difficulty while soaking up 200km’s-worth of mind-bending topography.

Beaches, lagoons, lakes, rivers, estuaries, wetlands and forest are all scattered across the Garden Route’s spine-tingling coastline - a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve - which stretches from Mossel Bay to Storms River.

What’s more, it benefits from the mildest climate in South Africa, so summer and winter are equally pleasant times to hike. Though rain can appear at any moment; the upside of this being that flowers and plants grow in their thousands, including wine.

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