It’s no wonder that South Africa draws more visitors than anywhere else in sub-Saharan Africa. World-class wildlife-watching, cosmopolitan cities like the great big beating heart of Johannesburg, stunning natural panoramas from Table Mountain National Park and vibrant cultures make the country appealing to almost every taste and budget. Geographically, its extremes include the arid semidesert of the Karoo, the snowcapped peaks of the Drakensberg Range, the lush subtropical coast of KwaZulu-Natal and the fertile temperate valleys of Western Cape. Within the space of a day, you can journey from vineyard-clad hillsides in the Western Cape to the vast open spaces of the Kalahari; from waterfront chic in Cape Town to isolated Zulu villages; from elephant-spotting in Kruger National Park to the sublime seascapes of the coast.
While it’s easy to focus on the glitz and developed infrastructure, you’ll only get below the surface by seeking out the country’s other face – most visible in the sprawling townships where far too many people live stalked by the shadows of hunger, poverty and one of the highest HIV/AIDS infection rates in the world. Behind its incredible natural beauty, South Africa is the stage for the daily drama of one of the world’s greatest experiments in racial harmony. The intensity of this drama surrounds you wherever you go, and is likely to be one of the most fascinating and challenging aspects of your travels.