The Best Places to Visit in Southern Africa in 2024

In this blog, we delve deep into the 13 must-visit destinations, each offering a unique experience. From standing on the edge of the thundering Victoria Falls to venturing into the wild in Chobe National Park, from exploring the mystical Okavango Delta by traditional mokoro canoes to capturing the surreal beauty of Sossusvlei's towering red dunes, we take you on an inspiring tour of this captivating region. Discover the best places to visit and start planning your Southern African adventure now.

Southern African countries offer an array of incredible experiences and popular tourist attractions for visitors from all over the globe. Conservation areas teeming with breathtaking animals provide a chance for an amazing experience of wildlife viewing.

From Victoria Falls, the world's largest waterfall, to Cape Town's unique mix of urban flair and natural wonders, there are all kinds of attractions here just waiting to be explored.

Adventure-seekers will love activities like bungee jumping off the bridge that spans the Kafue River or kayaking on the Zambezi River while people looking for relaxation can bask on more than 2,500 kilometers of stunning coastlines.

With so much diversity, it’s easy to understand why people return time and again to witness its beauty.

In this blog post we look at some of the best places you should visit in southern Africa for a unique experience of culture, wildlife and great African scenery.

What are the Best Places to Visit In Southern Africa?

Below are Southern Africa's most beautiful destinations and popular tourist attractions you must visit:

1. Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Zambia

Victoria Falls Activities water rafting adventures

The stunning Victoria Falls are one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, found on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Here, where the mighty Zambezi River cascades more than 100 meters in a thunderous curtain of white water, is where David Livingstone first encountered them in 1855.

He named the falls for Queen Victoria, but locals call it Mosi-oa-Tunya – Smoke That Thunders – which captures the overwhelming feeling that visitors experience when enveloped in its mist and noise.

Stretched across an impressive 1.7 kilometers/1 mile wide, this World Heritage Site is bursting with wildlife as well as natural beauty.

There are numerous noteworthy activities from which to choose among, including breathtaking safaris close to animals such as elephants and lions, thrilling white water rafting down rapids created by the Zambezi River’s powerful current, or simply admiring the wonder of nature while taking in Africa's breathtaking sunsets.

With this natural treasure so vast and diverse, Victoria Falls provides a once-in-a-lifetime experience that every traveler should enjoy at least once!

2. Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town is a city of visual beauty and a captivating juxtaposition of cultures. It's no surprise that it is a trendy destination for travelers looking to explore an exciting metropolis with some of the best natural attractions in Southern Africa.

A visit to the Castle of Good Hope will give people insight into South Africa's colonial past, while The V&A Waterfront provides visitors with a shopping extravaganza full of local crafts and souvenirs.

If you're looking for a breathtaking experience, then enjoy one of nature's most stunning sights: Table Mountain. At 1km tall, the highest mountain range never fails to impress with its unbeatable views from its plateau heights. For those up for an adventure, hike your way up or opt for the convenient rotating cableway that swoops you up in five minutes.

After exploring various sights and experiences unique to the city of Cape Town, top off your night at one of the city's many excellent restaurants and vineyards as you indulge in some fantastic food and local wines. There are plenty of amazing activities available to discover in Cape Town.

3. Okavango Delta, Botswana

A hippo swimming in the Okavango Delta

Set against the backdrop of the Kalahari Desert, the Okavango Delta in Botswana offers visitors an incredibly diverse ecosystem unlike anywhere else in the country or the world.

Benefiting from year-round water levels flowing in from the nearby Okavango River, this lush paradise is home to some of Africa’s most mesmerizing bird and animal life. The best time to visit is between May and September when the wildlife inhabiting the islands created by the floods are much easier to observe and spot.

People fortunate enough to journey to this awe-inspiring destination have an excellent opportunity to take part in a myriad of activities; from mokoro canoe tours, bush walks and even camping out under canvas for a truly unique experience.

The best time to explore this UNESCO world heritage site is the dry season which features wildlife concentrated in specific places with water holes and easy sporting of wildlife with less green pastures.

Of course, there are also several luxurious lodges available if you prefer something more comfortable. Whatever your preference, experiencing the Okavango Delta should be on everyone's must-do bucket list, when exploring African destinations.

4. South Luangwa, Zambia

South Luangwa National Park bg cats
Photo by Ian McGrory on Unsplash

South Luangwa National Park is one of the great wildlife reserves of Africa. Situated in the Eastern Province region of Zambia, South Luangwa supports a staggering diversity of wildlife and is well known for its outstanding quality predator sightings.

The park boasts a host of large mammals including elephants, buffalo, lions, leopards, wild dogs, and an abundance of antelope species such as zebra and puku. With over 400 species of birds recorded within the park's boundaries, birders are in for a treat!

Mid-June to mid-October is the best time to visit South Luangwa during the dry season when animal sightings are plentiful. With daytime temperatures averaging 24°C (maximum) and 17°C (minimum), visitors can explore safely on guided walking tours or safaris offering exciting opportunities for game viewing by day or night.

One of the most exciting activities available to travelers in South Luangwa is night drives through wooded areas where you might spot some leopards going about their business! The park also has extensive camping facilities for those wanting to bring a tent and experience wildlife firsthand.

5. Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe

Photo by andBeyond

Mana Pools National Park, located on an island on the south bank of the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe is a unique wildlife destination for an adventurous visitor. With its remote and rugged environment, it's an ideal spot to discover the beauty of African nature.

To explore and appreciate this spectacular place, it's best to go on foot or by canoe. During a leisurely paddle down the river, you may encounter hippos and crocodiles that crowded around at the water banks.

The park also offers a great opportunity to spot several species of wild animals along with numerous bird species. The area is frequented by elephants, buffalos, giraffes, warthogs, impalas, lions, and more - making safari walks a thrilling experience.

Experiencing twilight yoga or angling a large tigerfish are activities you won't want to miss either. With its breathtaking celebrations of African life in diverse ecosystems spanning from woodlands and wetlands to savanna grasslands - Mana Pools National Park will bring you everlasting joy.

6. Sossusvlei, Namibia

Namib desert island Sossusvlei Namibia

At Sossusvlei in Namibia, the vast expanse of wind-eroded massive sand dunes stretches endlessly across the land. While the mauve sky and stratified red sand can mesmerize throughout the day, visitors flock for the area's iconic salt pans.

The lone highlights of these ghostly basins lie in the fragile trees that are twisted into deathly silhouettes thanks to pooling water long dried up some centuries ago.

Poets might have wasted time equating words with love; photographers remain conveniently silent when Camping Dead Vlei takes precedence in their eyes – or lenses. Here, when the red sky mellows out at dusk, light bleeds out from every corner and encompasses every photographed moment within its mystical touch.

It becomes obvious why Sossusvlei is one of Namibia's most popular tourist spots as moments like these are imprinted forever – whether written on paper or held forever in digital format.

7. Lake Malawi, Malawi

Copyright: © Evergreen

Spanning 24,600 square kilometers of the Malawi Rift Valley, Lake Malawi is an incredible natural asset. A mecca for divers and those seeking calm freshwaters, it is a playground in the landlocked country’s northern region and a true tourism hotspot.

Whether you love fishing or swimming in kind waters—countless fish species add to this remarkable lake’s depth and beauty—or are looking for something a little more adventurous like exploring its underwater caves or exploring the cichlid species that give it the 'Fish Tank of Africa' title, then Lake Malawi won’t disappoint.

Lake Malawi gives an excellent experience with activities like kayaking, swimming and scuba diving in the lake. Many lakeside lodges offer affordable courses on scuba diving if you are interested in learning.

The water is warm, shallow, and crystal clear along its sandy shores, due to them being meshed between towering mountains creating sheltered coves that entice families wanting to cozy up in a peaceful environment with cozy warmth to adventure seekers keen on exploring unexplored depths.

8. Maloti-Drakensberg Park, South Africa and Lesotho

The Maloti-Drakensberg Park is an incredible stretch of mountain range that spans the country on the border between South Africa and Lesotho. It consists of two national parks, uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park in South Africa and Sehlabathebe National Park in Lesotho.

It was designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2000 for its vital ecological functions, spectacular scenery, and significant cultural heritage values.

The park offers great opportunities for hiking enthusiasts. While you can take guided tours with experienced personnel at the resorts located at the foothills, true adventurers prefer to go exploring without supervision and stay overnight in natural overhangs and caves scattered along the slopes.

Being self-sufficient is a must on most hikes, so hikers need to make sure they come prepared with proper navigation skills for navigating through the mountain ridges. There are also easier day hikes which are more suitable for families, taking them to stunning waterfalls and rock art sites tucked away in remoter parts of the area.

9. Kruger National Park, South Africa

Kruger National park in northern South Africa giraffes
Photo by Judah Legge on Unsplash

Located in South Africa, Kruger National Park is one of Africa’s largest game reserves and covers an area of 19,485km²/7,523mi² - almost the size of Wales.

The variety of wildlife there is amongst the best in all of Africa. Tourists flock to Kruger to get a chance to spot the ‘Big Five’ - lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, and rhino as these majestic creatures are plentiful here.

But you can also discover plenty of other animals during your stay such as gazelles, wildebeests, antelopes, and more. It’s not just beasts large and small that this park offers – there are several species of birds as well as invertebrates, reptiles, and amphibians.

What makes Kruger special though isn't only its vast array of wildlife but also about having quality sightings rather than just quantity.

With experienced guides accompanying you on every game drive and spectacular landscapes like Sabie River Valley for avid photographers to explore, Kruger National Park has something for everyone! Whether it's spending time with family or embarking on a solo safari adventure – this world-renowned reserve guarantees a once-in-a life time experience.

10. Makgadikgadi Pans, Botswana

The Makgadikgadi Pans are an awe-inspiring sight to behold, and with their distinct and captivating geography, they have become a must-see on any safari trip across Botswana.

Spanning some 12,000 square kilometers in size, these vast salt pans are the largest in the world and, when wet season floods come rolling through, they act as a natural oasis for thousands of zebra, wildebeest, and flamingos that flock here from all around. During these periods the vibrant landscape is nothing but alive with life.

Though they may be most famous during these periods of flooding, even when dry the majestic Makgadikadi Pans offer sights that will leave you breathless - immense salt flats stretch far and wide under seemingly endless African skies, illuminated by breathtaking sunsets framed by ancient baobab trees dotting the horizon.

Regardless if there is a flood or not, you won’t regret spending your time exploring this part of Botswana – or experiencing it from a hot air balloon.

11. Chobe National Park, Botswana

Chobe National Park boat cruise with the elephants

Chobe National Park is located in Northern Botswana and is renowned for its rich wildlife, including members of the Big Five. At the center of the reserve lies the Chobe River, which serves as an oasis to hordes of animals from far and wide who gather to drink, play, and sometimes even hunt.

The park's elephant population is believed to be among the world's largest. In addition to spotting elephants, exploration of this area also provides visitors with a unique opportunity to witness a variety of bird species at close range.

A river safari represents a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you won't soon forget. Cruising along the Chobe River grants people unprecedented access to wildlife both dire onshore as well as beyond the banks of this tranquil body of water.

Whether you're hoping to spy some lions or rhinos near a watering hole, or simply observe rare birds fluttering around from up close, Chobe National Park offers something special that you won't find anywhere else in Africa.

12. The Wild Coast, South Africa

The Wild Coast of South Africa is an area overflowing with natural beauty. Situated in the Eastern Cape province, it offers a stunning mix of rugged forests, sweeping white sand beaches and, and warm waters that will have you forgetting your worries.

Wherever you look there is a breathtaking view of unspoiled landscape white sand beaches and endless sunshine.

The area is so untouched that it even has some of the original Xhosa inhabitants, whose traditional round houses sit atop the hills in the area still. It's a great place, almost like stepping back in time as you meander among them taking a break from reality.

For those seeking an outdoor adventure, look no further than the Wild Coast – you can go surfing at one of its many beaches or try your luck at fishing. There are also multiple hiking trails running through dramatic canyons and thickets oaks forest for those after a tranquil escape from modern life.

Port St Johns – the town where the mighty Umzimvubu River meets the Indian Ocean – is another popular destination for travelers looking to explore traditional markets or take on choppy rapids by canoe. If you're planning on visiting South Africa, don't miss out on this great opportunity to experience untouched nature.

13. Etosha National Park, Namibia

The Etosha National Park in northwestern Namibia is a place of unparalleled beauty. The park's main attraction is its immense salt pan, covering an area of over 20,000km² and dominating the park's landscape.

During the dry season, thousands of animals can be seen migrating to the pan in search of water – it's not unusual to find zebras, elephants, lions, and even rare black rhinos.

The park also boasts a diverse range of habitats, including savanna and woodlands, as well as an abundance of bird species. There are multiple waterholes and lagoons to explore, offering stunning views of the park's wild inhabitants.

Whether you're looking for a safari adventure or simply want to relax in nature, Etosha is a must-visit destination in Southern Africa.

Why Travel To Southern Africa?

Southern Africa is an ideal destination for anyone looking for an unforgettable wildlife experience and cultural heritage. Not only limited to those, there are endless choices of luxury and standard safari lodges in these areas ranging from rustic kraal camps to elaborate tree houses and bush bungalows.

Here you can witness incredible animals from the Big 5 to the endangered rhinoceros, or maybe even a glimpse of a rare wild dog.

Not only does it offer a diverse range of wildlife viewing opportunities, but there are also many spectacular beach and bush travel combinations. You can travel to South Africa's famous Kruger National Park on safari before chilling out on Mozambique's stunning beaches.

In addition to these extraordinary natural wonders, Southern Africa offers some incredibly diverse cultural experiences that add unparalleled historic attractions like Robben Island and Table Mountain taking you back in time.

You will discover plenty of great restaurants offering local dishes such as ifisashi or bobotie boerewors barbecue with flavors as unique as their ingredients.

From getting up close with rare wild animals to exploring ancient historical sites and feasting on delicious street food, when you visit Southern Africa you will find something that makes your trip so special and unforgettable.All of these add up to make a trip to Southern Africa one of the world-class best places to visit. So in short, if you're looking for an adventure of a lifetime, don't miss out on this amazing destination.