By Katja Samouilhan
South Africa is known for its incredibly diverse wildlife and geography. With sweeping vistas and something exquisitely beautiful to take your breath away around every corner, we’ve collected a list of the five best hiking trails in South Africa.
Whether you’re looking for something out of the ordinary to do on your school break, or you need to escape the 9 to 5, you’ll find something phenomenal right in our gorgeous country.
You could even make a mission of it and do all the trails on this list! Catch an internal flight (you can use Kulula Airways) and tick them all off your bucket list.
Wolfberg Arch Trail – Cederberg
Starting Point: Sanddrif farm
Length: 7 hours / 2 days
Cederberg has some of the most incredible rock formations in Africa, and on a scale that looks totally otherworldly. The Wolfberg Arch is one of many formations, but the most impressive! Soaring overhead, the arch is one of our favorite photogenic places in the country, and certainly our favorite multi-day trail in the Western Cape.
The hike is quite challenging but certainly doable for different fitness levels. You can camp in the reserve, allowing you to split the hike into two days if you’d rather do it at a leisurely pace. Be sure to grab a map – those rock formations can start to look very similar!
Skeleton Gorge – Table Mountain, Cape Town
Starting Point: Kirstenbosch Gardens
Length: 5 hours
Cost: R40 entrance fee
Table Mountain is one of those must-do hiking destinations in South Africa. Comparatively short, a hike up Skeleton Gorge takes less than 5 hours to complete and is one of the best hikes in Cape Town.
Start early, and you can spend a few hours at the top enjoying a picnic or exploring! Your starting point, Kirstenbosch Gardens, is also well worth spending some time in for those who have never been there.
You can choose to take the same trail back down, or find another one for a bit of a change. You can also do some trail running if you’re feeling strong! The run from the mountain dam, past the Overseers cottage, and down to Constantia Nek, is one of the most fun and challenging trail runs in the area.
Otter Trail – Garden Route
Starting Point: Storms River Mouth
Length: 5 days
The Otter Trail, South Africa is so popular that you have to book a spot about two years in advance! However, if you’re willing to join a group alone, you may find that there’s been a cancelation, and you can join last minute. It’s always worthwhile keeping an ear out.
With incredible views over the ocean and the Eastern Cape Coastline, it’s not hard to see why this Tsitsikamma hiking trail is South Africa’s most famous.
You spend every night sleeping in one of the huts that mark the distances. Every day discovering fauna and flora that remind you why people come from all over the world to see the lush Garden Route.
Amphitheatre Trail – Kwazulu Natal
Starting Point: Witsieshoek
Length: 3 days
Cost: R40 entrance fee or R700 for guided tour
The Amphitheatre is a sheer, imposing basphalt wall considered to be one of the most impressive in the world. It makes for a unique and incredible trail as you trek along the plateau!
You can choose to rough it and spend your nights in the caves that dot the landscape, or sleep in a bed in one of the huts spaced out along the trail. After a long day carrying your pack, this may feel like the more appealing option.
Reach the Roof of the World, and enjoy views unike anywhere else on earth.
Blyde River Canyon Trail (Blyderivierspoort) – Mpumalanga
Starting Point: God’s Window
Length: 3-5 days
Explore this incredible trail on a multi-day hike along the Canyon. This canyon is the greenest in the world, and full to the brim with wildlife and unique flora.
The hike requires a reasonable fitness level, but it can be done in any amount of time you need, and you can choose to cut it short, or continue on further routes for up to twenty days! If you’re interested in going in summer, be sure to book well in advance.
Hiking South Africa
These are the five best hikes in South Africa, exhibiting the lush, diverse country’s best geological phenomena and most incredible views and wildlife.
Whether you’re uber-fit, or just enthusiastic and capable of keeping up a walk for a few hours, you can do any one of these hiking trails. Determination and an understanding of the rewards is all you really need for a life-changing experience in the mountains!