In South Africa you will not only find beautiful nature and the well-known Big Five. But also several beautiful scenic drives that take you to the most special places in the country. Making a road trip by rental car through this amazing country is certainly recommended and very easy to do on your own! Find here the 6 most beautiful scenic drives in South Africa that you definitely should not miss.
1. Panorama route – with its beautiful views
When you are driving from Johannesburg to the Kruger National Park, then the Panorama route is definitely worth to take along.
This 180 km long most beautiful scenic drives of South Africa offers a view of impressive mountain landscapes and beautiful green valleys. You will also come along the various waterfalls of the Sabie waterfalls route and the very special rock formations of the Blyde River Canyon. An absolute highlight of this scenic drive!
We drove from Johannesburg to Graskop. Here we spent the night at the Panorama Chalets & Rest Camp in Graskop with a swimming pool with spectacular views over the Graskop Gorge. Definitely one of the most cool pools in the world! Om vervolgens de volgende dag de vele andere hoogtepunten van de Panoramaroute mee te pakken, op weg naar het Kruger National Park.
We drove from Johannesburg to Graskop. Here we spent the night at the Panorama Chalets & Rest Camp in Graskop with a swimming pool with spectacular views over the Graskop Gorge. Definitely one of the coolest pools in the world! Then the next day to catch the many other highlights of the Panorama route, on your way to the Kruger National Park.
2. Chapman’s Peak Drive – must do from Cape Town
Are you starting or ending your journey in Cape Town? Then a ride on Chapman’s Peak Drive may definitely not be missing on your to-do list.
Chapman’s Peak Drive, also known as the “Chappies” by locals, is one of the shortest car routes in South Africa with a length of just 9km. But is it absolutely worth exploring. This route between Hout Bay and Noordhoek is even one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the world! From Cape Town you drive in less than 30 minutes to the starting point of this special car route, just south of Hout Bay.
Tip: Combine a ride on Chapman’s Peak Drive with touring around the Cape Peninsula and a visit to the Cape of Good Hope!
After you have passed the toll booth, you wind no less than 114 turns towards the southern corner of Noordhoek. While on one side you have a view of the rugged Atlantic Ocean and on the other the beautiful green foothills of Table Mountain.
And from time to time, don’t forget to stop at one of the viewpoints or picnic areas to enjoy the view!
3. Garden Route
The Garden Route is a popular scenic drive among visitors to South Africa. Officially, the 300km route runs along the N2 from Storms River to Mossel Bay, but many travelers consider all the way between Addo National Park and Cape Town as the Garden Route.
And that the unofficial scenic route is a bit longer is certainly not a punishment. You drive no less than 700km along the beautiful coastline of South Africa with a view of the Indian Ocean. You don’t have to get bored on the way. You can spot whales in Plettenberg Bay (July-November). Admire the elephants in Addo National Park. Surf at Jeffrey’s Bay. Visit Tsitsikamma National Park with its spectacular suspension bridges. Or take a look at the Knysna lagoon where delicious oysters are grown.
The route can be completed in about 5-6 days and is ideal to combine with the longest wine route in the world: Route 62.
4. Route 62 – the longest wine route in the world
He may remind you of Route 66 in the United States. Route 62 is located between Robertson and Humansdorp, with a length of about 540 kilometers.
Just like the Garden Route, Route 62 runs towards Port Elizabeth, but is located a little further inland. For example, you can choose to take Route 62 only between Robertson and Oudtshoorn, before continuing along the coast on the Garden Route (N2). Or keep following the R62 through the inland to Humansdorp. Many see Route 62 as a nice change on the N2, on the way to / from Cape Town.
Especially if you are a lover of South African wine, Route 62 is highly recommended. Along the way you will not only drive through the beautiful South African landscape. But you will also pass cozy villages, various vineyards, stately wineries and cheese farms. And of course there is nothing more fun than to stop now and then and taste the delicious wine and cheeses.
The Route 62 is even the longest wine route in Africa and the world. You can travel this scenic drive all year round. Although the South African summer can be very hot in this region.
5. Swartberg Pass – right through the Swartberg
The Swartberg Pass (R328) is located 30 km north of Oudtshoorn. A 27 km long gravel road through the Swartberg mountain range that takes you from Oudtshoorn to Prince Albert in 1.5-2 hours.
From Oudtshoorn you first climb to an altitude of 1583m, also called “Die Top”. Along the way you look out over the green fields. Once at the top, in good weather, you have a wide view over Swartberg, as well as the semi-deserts of Klein and Groot Karoo. in good weather. And we were unfortunately unlucky. Afterwards you will start the spectacular descent full of hairpin bends, narrow passages, huge rock walls and beautiful views, before arriving at Prince Albert. A village with old Dutch influences.
The Swartberg Pass is a nice addition to your day trip from Oudtshoorn to, among others, the Cango Caves, the charming village of Prince Albert and the Meiringspoort.
Can’t get enough of the rugged mountain landscape? Then, after your visit to Prince Albert, you can choose to drive back via another mountain pass: the Meiringspoort (N12), located further east.
The route is fine to do with a normal rental car (2WD), but mainly drive slowly. And do you travel during the South African winter (May – September)? Then keep in mind that the Swartberg Pass can sometimes be closed due to snow.
6. Sani Pass – to the roof of Africa
Are you not car sick easily and are you in for an adventurous car ride? Then the Sani Pass is definitely something for you!
The Sani Pass is a mountain pass that runs from South Africa to Lesotho and takes you to the roof of Africa. Dotted with stones and mainly consisting of hairpin bends, you meander up slowly while shaking in the 4WD. Driving along cliffs and waterfalls along the way. A road that you absolutely must only brave with an experienced guide or if you are an experienced 4WD driver.
Once you reach the top you are often literally with your head in the clouds. But as soon as the clouds disappear, you have an amazing view over the Drakensberg from an altitude of 2873 meters. And you will see clearly what kind of road you have just traveled. Then it’s time to get a stamp in your passport at the Sani Pass border post, so you can set foot in the kingdom of Lesotho. Don’t forget to bring your passport!
Once you have crossed the border of Lesotho you look out over the green inland and you will most likely meet the locals. And you will often see them, wrapped in thick blankets, on foot or on horseback, driving a flock of sheep over the green hills.
Have you become thirsty from this adventure? Before you go back, have a drink at the highest pub in Africa, the Sani Mountain Lodge. A place where you can also stay overnight, if you want to stay a little longer in Lesotho.
A nice place to spend the night near the Sani Pass is the Sani Lodge. Here you can also book an excursion with an experienced guide.