As millions of travelers prepare for a soccer pilgrimage to South Africa, the country’s tourism draws are readying too. Here’s what IgoUgo travelers say not to miss in or near each of the nine World Cup host cities--besides a game, of course.
Photo by catsholiday
As recent visitor catsholiday exclaims, never have you “seen so many penguins chilling, lying, standing, drying their wings, kissing, and nest digging.” While her family was swimming with the penguins (she thought her guide book was mistaken when she read about this activity, but it’s a true story), she took enough photos to fill a memory card and considers the day among her “top experiences”--ever.
Photo by albrigi
Nelspruit (also known as Mbombela) is the gateway to South Africa’s largest game reserve, where seeing the Big Five is likely and “emotions are guaranteed.” Whether you opt for a self-guided tour or an organized excursion, the experience is, as RobinE says, “Awesome! Just awesome!”
Photo by Elginah
Home to both the Constitutional Court of South Africa and the Old Fort Prison Complex, this hill gives visitors an “enriching experience,” says Elginah. Where once Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi were imprisoned, today exists a court of justice “full of symbolism;” this courtroom door, for example, has “27 human rights carved into its wood.”
Photo by MikeInTown
“Some may argue that Shakaland is too commercialized,” says MikeInTown, but the attraction, two hours from Durban, is also “a fun, hands-on way to learn about Zulu history and culture.” And there are good reasons for its popularity, like the traditional dancers and musicians whose shows incorporate “a lot of singing, chanting, and drumming.” Audience participation is encouraged.
Photo by Mark & Pam
“Elephants were once prevalent all along the coastal belt,” according to gregsmithsays, but “now only two pockets exist.” One of those is Addo Elephant Park, where visitors can “see these animals in numbers in their family groupings: mothers and calves and the great big bulls.” An added bonus, says Heather F, is that “there is other wildlife as well--black rhinoceros, eland, red hartebeest, jackals, and more than 150 species of birds.”
Photo by kwasiak
Just a few miles from Polokwane, learn how the area’s BaSotho people lived 250 years ago, including how they built fires and brewed beer, and shop for a variety of handmade crafts (think pottery, baskets, and beads).
Rustenburg: Play or Relax at Sun City
Photo by Boomsie
Called “THE most amazing place,” Sun City certainly has something for everyone among its golf courses, restaurants, casinos, and water sports. A chief attraction is the Valley of Waves, where, says MikeInTown, “there are all types of treasures to be found.” Splurging? Check into the “most luxurious” Palace of the Lost City; Boomsie had planned to stay for two nights, but after she saw her room, she decided to extend her stay. Sun City is conveniently located next to Pilanesberg National Park and Game Reserve, so tacking on a safari is easy.
Photo by MiriamMannak
When you visit this site of Nelson Mandela’s inauguration (it’s still the official seat of South African government) on Meintjies Kop, you’ll also see a beautiful view, a “magnificent garden,” and various monuments. MiriamMannak even says, “Standing at the foot of the Union Buildings, seeing the South African flag waving in the wind,” she could almost hear the “powerful words” of Mandela’s inauguration speech.
Bloemfontein: Support Conservation at the Cheetah Experience
Photo by gene
Bloemfontein may be the judicial capital of South Africa, but it’s also the capital of cute--at the Cheetah Experience, anyway. The conservation project allows guests to experience rare interactions with these fierce cats (appropriate in the municipality of Mangaung, which means “place of the cheetahs”). For a “beautiful” place to stay near Bloemfontein, Mr Oystercatcher recommends Plover Cottage, “excellent accommodation in a thatched, round cottage, cool even in the hottest weather.”