Cheapflight's asked South Africa’s most influential bloggers to name their favourite hidden gems from across South Africa, ranging from iconic nature reserves to sleepy little towns, you can choose your own. Bear in mind, these off-the-beaten-track places won’t stay a secret for long.


Recommended by Dawn Jorgensen

Darling in the Western Cape

The Darling of the Swartberg is found an hour drive from North of Cape Town. Darling is a quaint and progressive village, home to the famous Evita Se Perron theatre, Darling Brew’s craft beers, a few art galleries, book shops, restaurants, museums, inspiring community projects and walking trails into the surrounding nature known for its wild flowers. You won’t want to leave.

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Nearest Airport: Cape Town

Beer tasting in Darling ????#darlingbrew #slowbeer #beertasting

A photo posted by Ashley Gladwell (@ashleygladwell) on

Pongola Game Reserve in Northern KwaZulu Natal

This is where I fell in love with elephants. Located alongside Lake Jozini and surrounded by the Lebombo Mountains, the reserve is home to the gorgeous White Elephant Lodge. Offering safari drives, sunset cruises and elephant monitoring activities, it’s also home to the Space for Elephants program- a program responsible for reintroducing orphan elephants into the reserve.

Nearest Airport: Durban

home and away, south africa, holiday

Image: Facebook

Matjiesfontein, along the N1

Set 2,5 hours north of Cape Town on the N1 highway that joins the Cape and Johannesburg, Matjiesfontein is more of a hamlet than a town. Home to a hotel that will make you feel like you stepped back in time, a railway station and number of fascinating museums, this is a must visit if you’re in the area. I visit every year, each time making a new discovery. Walk out to the hill (koppie) across the tracks where 10000+ English soldiers were stationed during the Anglo Boer War.

Nearest Airport: Cape Town

#Matjiesfontein #Lord Milner hotel

A photo posted by @mstickling on

Recommended by Kim Gray

Akasha Mountain Retreat

My favourite hidden gem! If it’s out of this world scenery and a little R&R you’re looking for, you can’t beat Akasha Mountain retreat. It will revive your soul. The beautiful courtyard-entertainment area will have you feel like you’re sitting in Morocco! Wild horses roam the farm where birds and wildlife abound among pristine fynbos. Chris & Elena are the most gracious hosts too! See Kim’s pics from Akasha Mountain here.

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Nearest Airport: Cape Town

So amped to be admiring this view in real life tomorrow! #AkashaMountainRetreat

A photo posted by Ruth Cooper (@remcoopkins) on

Gelukkie in Paternoster

If you’re looking for an intimate wedding/party venue – This is the place. A short drive from the beach and town centre, you will feel instantly relaxed and secluded in a mini sanctuary. Banquet under the stars in an enclosed private cortyard.

Nearest Airport: Cape Town

Up the west coast this wk staying at the gorgeous #gelukkie #paternoster

A photo posted by @kimgrayza on

Recommended by Sarah Khan

Mo & Rose in Robertson

An absolutely stunning sanctuary, with chic contemporary design and lovely views over a cactus garden.

READ: 16 things to do in Cape Town for R50 or less

Nearest Airport: Cape Town

Kak-tus tuin! #moandrose #kaktustuin

A photo posted by Frank Oosthuizen (@dietenk) on

Le Petit Karoo Ranch in Oudtshoorn

A quirky little place to stay in Oudtshoorn, a collection of lovely tented suites with outdoor baths, set high atop a hill with spectacular Karoo views.

Nearest Airport: Cape Town

Home sweet home. #glamping #Route62 #SouthAfriKhanOnTheRoad

A photo posted by Sarah Khan (@bysarahkhan) on

The Owl House in Nieu Bethesda

This is just a completely otherworldly place, straight out of a surrealist painting — the kind of place that has to be seen to really be believed.

Nearest Airport: East London

Recommended by Andrew Brauteseth

Sedgefield

The Garden Route is a favourite drive for South Africans and international visitors and Plettenberg Bay and Kysna are some of its most picturesque destinations. One of my favourite stops along the way is Sedgefield. It’s surrounded by dense natural forests and meandering beaches dotted with some of the coastline’s most epic surf spots.

Nearest Airport: George

Getting in some exercise with @maulds1986 yesterday, with some long beach walks in Sedgefield.

A photo posted by Sophie Donya Simpson (@sophiedonya) on


Elgin Valley

Elgin Valley is one of the most under-marketed wine areas of the Western Cape. It hosts some of South Africa’s award winning wine estates, adrenaline-inducing mountain bike tracks and remote getaway cabins which are all tucked away in a natural paradise. With the valley being slightly less polished than nearby Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, it retains a rustic farm community charm.

Nearest Airport: Cape Town

McGregor

McGregor feels like it’s built on rose-quartz. Something about arriving in this town just makes you feel good. Amongst heritage buildings and a local history percolating with myth and spook stories you’ll find a donkey sanctuary and a restful escape.

Nearest Airport: Cape Town

Field of Flowers & Church.

A photo posted by Chris (@dreamerpieces) on

Recommended Sarah Duff

Northern Kruger

The northern section of Kruger is the least-visited part of the park – most people prefer the south for its accessibility and wildlife density. The north, on the other hand, may have less big game, but it contains three quarters of the park’s diversity in just 1% of its area. What you’ll find are an amazing variety of birds, trees and plants, herds of elephant and buffalo, as well as beautiful landscapes – valleys of giant baobabs, fever tree forests and dramatic gorges – all without the crowds.  

Nearest Airport: Skukuza

Northern Cape

Our biggest and least populated province is also our most underrated. If you love big open spaces, spectacular desert landscapes, night skies awash with stars and carpets of wildflowers in spring, the Northern Cape should be on your list. I love it for the barren beauty of the Richtersveld, canoeing on the Orange River and a wonderful guest farm called Papkuilsfontein near Nieuwoudtville, which is all about Karoo hospitality at its best.

Nearest Airport: Upington

January. Holiday. #papkuilsfontein #hantamkaroo #outofthisworld #thisissouthafrica

A photo posted by pieter arno du toit (@cederseun) on

Recommended by Melanie Van Zyl

Leshiba Wilderness, Soutpansberg

There are plenty of accommodation options at this incredible spot of lush bushveld beauty. You can hike and bike around the gorgeous mountainous property and the Soutpansberg area is a biodiversity hotspot, home to more tree species – 350 species of flora – than any other ecosystem in South Africa, including Kruger. It’s also a spiritual spot, home to the Venda culture. It is an absolute sanctuary.

Nearest Airport: Johannesburg

Sweet spot ???? #Leshibawilderness #leshiba #africanbotanics #travel #beauty #southafrica #africa

A photo posted by AFRICAN BOTANICS (@africanbotanics) on

Papkuilsfontein, Northern Cape

The wide open spaces of the sparse Karoo never fail to stir my soul and the authentic farm feel of Papkuilsfontein is incredible. There are several self-catering options on the farm, but do yourself a favour and order the home-cooked karoo feast and eat it by a candle light, it makes for a getaway you’ll remember and recommend to everyone.

Nearest Airport:Upington

Sable Hide, Kruger National Park

Come nightfall, this bird hide can be rented as a wild, off-the-grid bush camp with no electricity or luxuries. Elephants are known to slurp from the water just metres away from the hide and you’ll be sure to hear hyaenas howling as you tuck in for the night.

Nearest Airport: Skukuza

Recommended by Beatrice Chan

Franschhoek

For the sophisticated and discerning travelers with a love of good food and wine, Franschhoek is the place to visit. Nestled in a valley, surrounded by spectacular mountains, the region is rich with wine estates and some of the finest cuisine for the pleasure of your palate. It’s no wonder top chefs and exquisite hotels abound there. I love Franschhoek because it provides me with a relaxing atmosphere and much beauty for my eyes. I always leave feeling invigorated, refreshed and inspired. It naturally teaches you how to slow down and enjoy the finer things in life. Choose to spend your time there tasting wine or MCC, olive oil, cheese or take in the scenery at a picnic spot on any of the beautifully manicured lawns of the wine farms.

Nearest Airport: Cape Town

Swellendam

Swellendam is a picturesque town, ideal to experience country life at its best. Part of the Overberg region, it lies at the foot of the Langeberg Mountains and is conveniently located to other quaint towns and villages. I love Swellendam for its rich heritage, culture and the sense of community that is almost palpable among the locals. The locals are so friendly and welcoming. There is a variety of excellent accommodation as well as good restaurants, including the award-winning 16-seater Italian restaurant “La Sosta”.

Nearest Airport: Cape Town

#happyplace ?? #weekendaway #getaway #swellendam #dam #myboo #love #quinlands

A photo posted by Lily Ray Walker (@lily_vanillie) on

Plettenberg Bay

Originally named as “Bahia Formosa” by the early Portuguese explorers, Plettenberg Bay is not to be missed while driving along the Garden Route of South Africa. It is a very small town and yet, there’s so much you can do and experience there! There are many activities one can do ranging from water sports, fishing, the Elephant Sanctuary, bird-watching, wine tasting and polo. Home to beautiful beaches and lagoons, its mild climate makes it great to visit year-round.

Nearest Airport: Plettenberg Bay

Recommended by Vaughan and Lauren Manuel McShane

Bulungula

A truly surreal off-the-grid spot along the Wild Coast. The journey over hills and through dirt roads far from the main highway is so worth it even if you don’t have a 4×4. You’ll stay in a hut overlooking the meeting of a river with the ocean, enjoy freshly-made pancakes on the beach at sunrise and savour the sun setting over the hills as farmers herd their sheep and cattle home.

Nearest Airport: East London

Hogsback

While Hogsback is not hidden, it is beautifully tucked away within the Amatola Mountains and blanketed with dense forest and more waterfalls than you can count. Go mountain biking on trails through the evergreen, stand atop waterfalls and hike in one of the greenest places in South Africa.

Nearest Airport: East London

Rub a dub dub, one girl in a dirty tub #butthatview #fnez #livefree ?? #grammasters3

A photo posted by Rebby ?? (@rebbyjaymay) on

The Beach Camp, Cape Columbine Nature Reserve

Everyone goes to Paternoster, but not many people know about the gem that lies close by with the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve. Unplug in A-Frame tents right on the beach and spend your nights stargazing beside the fire and your mornings walking right out into the cool ocean. There’s no electricity but gas-heated showers. Pure bliss up SA’s West Coast.

Nearest Airport: Cape Town

The Beach Camp, a tent with a view ?? #paternoster #thebeachcamp #camp #westcoast #beach #demelootsies

A photo posted by Carla Rautenbach (@carlarautenbach) on

Recommended by Anje Rautenbach

De Hoop

To visit De Hoop is to go off the beaten path of the N2; it’s a place where you can immerse yourself in nature, get active, relax and have a digital detox…all at the same time. PS: It’s a hotspot for whale-watching.

Nearest Airport: Cape Town, George

Gamtoos

The whole Gamtoos Valley is quite underrated with all of its natural beauty, history and Khoi San culture. Nothing beats a Gamtoos sunset and a walk on a beach where there is basically no one in sight.

Nearest Airport: Port Elizabeth

Bethulie

Bethulie is one of those small towns in the Free State that will surprise you in the most unexpected way – once you’ve experienced a sunset on the DH Steyn Bridge you’ll return again and again. Bethulie also boast history, amazing talented local poets and singers and nature-based activities.

Nearest Airport: Bloemfontein


#trains #bethulie #bridges

A photo posted by Jo Ohlson de Fine (@jojomolojo) on


Recommended Colleen Blaine

Kaapsche Hoop – Mpumulanga

This tiny little Highveld escarpment town is the perfect place for a long weekend. Full of charming paved roads, leafy avenues and broekie-lace stoeps, it has that “yet to be discovered feel about it”. There is a focus on eco and nature related activities with numerous hikes and horse trails; but a handful of delightful eateries and plenty of accommodation options make it a great little getaway destination. If anything just go and eat pancakes all weekend.

Nearest Airport: Nelspruit

Having a nice graze in the meadow #horses #kaapschehoop

A photo posted by Arno Pienaar (@apienaar1989) on

Breede River Valley – Western Cape

While already a fairly well-known and visited area, famous for wine tasting, I have included it in my list of hidden gems for this year purely because it has become one of South Africa’s premier and award winning olive oil producing regions and deserved to be visited again and again. Aside from the magnificent scenery along the Breede River, towns such as Worcester, McGregor, Montagu and Robertson all play host to some of South Africa’s leading olive oil producers such as Rio Largo, Olyfberg and Willow Creek. It is also South Africa’s leading race horse breeding area.

Nearest Airport: Cape Town, George


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