Well-known for its natural beauty and dramatic landscapes, it comes as no surprise that one of the best ways to take in everything South Africa has to offer is by setting out on foot. Several of the best hikes in South Africa are certain to bring you to a number of the most breathtaking locations in the country you’d in any other case perhaps not get to see. To that end, we’ve rounded up the 10 best hikes in South Africa to experience the pure beauty of everything this fascinating country has to offer.
1. Whale Hiking Trail
Located in the western cape and extending from Potberg to Koppie Alleen, the Whale trail offers hikers the opportunity to discover the unmatched natural splendor of De Hoop nature reserve as well as the coastline. Not only is it famous as one of the best whale watching locations on the globe but is described by rolling limestone sand dunes, salty ocean air, as well as a collection of wild fynbos. While the adventure here comes with a hefty price tag and is often booked far in advance, the experience will be definitely well worth the cost.
2. Sentinel Peak Hiking Trail
Not for your average beginner but highly rewarding, the Sentinel Peak Hiking Trail is located on the western side of the Drakensberg Amphitheatre and offers the chance to scale sheer rock face by ladder. if you are brave enough. This 7.3-mile loop ends at the top of Africa’s highest waterfall – the Tugela Fall which pours down a height of 948 meters to the Tugela valley below. While the view from the top is exceptional as well as nerve-wracking, making the full ascent is completely worth the hard work.
3. Ukhahlamba Amphitheatre Hiking Trail
Situated in the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park, this legendary hiking trail is well known for its breathtaking vistas and is undoubtedly one of the most significantly distinguished highlights of the Ukhahlamba World Heritage Site. Featuring a massive wall of basalt, much of the aesthetic appeal from the Amphitheatre comes from its near-perfect symmetry. The Amphitheatre Slackpacking Trail was designed to make it possible for hikers of average physical fitness to reach the summit and be rewarded by these awe-inspiring sceneries.
4. The Rhebok Trail
This nineteen-mile hike located in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park offers breathtaking views of mountain peaks and is well worth the strenuous trek. Past the sandstone cliffs that give rise to the parks name, here you can also have the opportunity to witness the vibrant wildlife including the Eland and Black Wildebeest. Anyone interested must be in shape to attempt this hike as even the first leg of the trail averages seven hours before reaching your next resting spot.
5. Fanie Botha Hiking Trail
Known as one of the best hikes in South Africa, here you don’t just experience the natural beauty of your surroundings but also have the opportunity to come across a variety of important historical landmarks. While moderately strenuous in pace, this trail has various options ranging from two to five nights. Additionally, hikers also get the chance to admire the Lone Creek and Mac Falls which is phenomenal particularly in the spring. While it does incorporate its fair share of challenging portions, this trek should be high on every single hiker’s to-do list.
6. Leopard’s Kloof
Only an hour and a half drive from Cape Town, this brief and effortless hike is nestled away in Harold Porter’s Botanical Gardens. Ideal for families with young children, it can be easily done in an afternoon and is a great way to spend time outdoors while you are exploring the rest of the city. Here you can simply relax and take in the local flora as well as a spectacular waterfall prior to moving on to your next adventure. Don’t forget to stop at The Tides Restaurant on your way out which features an incredible menu and set against a magnificent backdrop.
7. The Amatola Trail
This six-day and five-night adventure begins at Maden Dam near King Williams Town, exploring the magnificent Amatola Mountains and concluding in the renowned town of Hogsback. While long and quite challenging, the beauty found while discovering this trail makes the strenuous trek plenty rewarding. This hike is not ideal for beginners as you should be athletic and capable of hiking a bare minimum of 10 hours a day, along with anything else that might be thrown at you.
8. Skeleton Gorge
One of the most prevalent natural tourist destinations in Cape Town, the Skeleton Gorge boasts lush greenery and beautiful local fauna leading you to the top of the city’s most iconic landmarks, Table Mountain. This three-mile trek offers both inland and city views but is not for those who have little experience with strenuous hikes. With dramatic backdrops and breathtaking vistas, this destination makes it not only one of the best hikes in South Africa but also one of the most sought after.
9. The Cederberg Cracks
Known for beautiful rock formations and the famous Wolfberg Arch, it’s easy to see why this trek frequents many lists for being one of the best hikes in South Africa due to its natural beauty. This strenuous nine-mile hike takes you through a number of narrow passageways before reaching the arch which is without a doubt the spotlight of the trek. Keep in mind that the mid-afternoons can be brutal so it is best to get a very early start on both the ascent and descent.
10. The Otter Trail
Located along the Garden Route coast of South Africa, this trail is widely regarded as one of the finest in the world and stretches over twenty-five miles. Hikers here can experience dazzling views of the coastline while also venturing into the heart of an Afro-montane forest. While it might not be as intense as some other longer trails, it shouldn’t be underestimated as it features steep ascents and descents, as well as complex river crossings. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the Cape Clawless Otter which gave this trail its name.