Yes, You Can Do South Africa In One Week

Where to go and what to see.

by Alexandra Owens
how to spend a week in South Africa

An iconic safari destination, it wasn’t long ago that traveling to South Africa simply meant packing your finest khaki and gearing up for game drives. Now, while the rainbow nation remains one of the best places on the continent to spot the Big Five (lions, leopards, rhinoceroses, elephants, and African buffaloes), more travelers are ready to go further afield, taking notice of the country’s award-winning restaurants, five-star hotels, and vibrant cultural experiences, from meeting the penguins of Boulders Beach to discovering underrated vintages in one of most renowned wine destinations on the planet. “Cape Town, the Cape Winelands, and a safari is by far the most popular itinerary for people coming to South Africa for the first time,” says Monique Lange, an Africa Safari Expert with Go2Africa. Although it might seem like a long way to go for a week, zipping across the Atlantic has actually never been simpler.

“I consider it a relatively easy trip, especially with all of the direct access from the U.S. into South Africa nowadays,” says Tamsyn Fricker, director and co-founder of Travel Artistry Africa. (Non-stop flights from the east coast of the United States to Cape Town clock in around 15 hours and typically land in the late afternoon or early evening).

Fricker suggests making the most of your time by spending two nights in the Winelands, three nights in Cape Town, and three nights on safari. Breaking down your schedule this way will allow you to shake off any jet lag before hitting the city’s rich food and art scene. Here, learn more about planning the perfect South Africa itinerary.

Relax & Reset In South Africa’s Winelands


Immediately after landing, drive out to the Cape Winelands, which lie within easy reach of Cape Town and its airport. While South Africa boasts 30 unique wine-growing regions, the majority of which are in the coastal region around Cape Town, the two best known by far are Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. (Think of them as the Napa and Sonoma of South Africa). Directly translated to “French corner,” Franschhoek was settled in 1688 by French Huguenot refugees who brought their age-old wine making traditions along with them.

“I think that Franschhoek is a more authentic experience because it has that small-town charm,” says Lange. “You can really immerse yourself in the local culture and history, and admire the Cape Dutch style houses in town that have been turned into art galleries or funky coffee shops.”

Lange recommends staying at Sterrekopje, a new, nourishing sanctuary based at the foothills of the misty Franschhoek mountains. Founded by fiancées Nicole Boekhoorn and Fleur Huijskens, the property — decked out in dreamy interiors inspired by the couple’s travels — is situated on a 17th-century working farm. There are no high tech skin treatments or products promising to banish cellulite here; only the restorative power of nature and rituals that promise to revive body, mind, and soul through holistic routines like breathwork, yoga, and deep sleep massage. After a peaceful night’s sleep, enjoy your first full day bathing in the hammam, painting in the atelier, swimming in the pond, and savoring garden-fresh meals.

Fully revived from your transatlantic voyage, venture into town on day two and hitch a ride on the hop-on, hop-off Franschhoek Valley Wine Tram which allows you to curate your own tour of the regional wine estates. Don’t miss Klein Goederust, which became Franschhoek’s first black-owned wine estate in 2019. The first batch of their flagship Nomaroma MCC sold out in 60 days.

Embrace The Magic Of Cape Town


Once you get your fill of Sémillon and Chardonnay, drive back to Cape Town and check into The Silo Hotel for three nights. An architectural wonder that towers over the V&A Waterfront, the city’s touristic center, the stylish property actually sits directly above the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) which houses Africa’s largest collection of contemporary African art. “You’ve got easy access to everything, but Silo still feels a bit exclusive,” says Fricker.

Kick off your first evening with a cocktail on the hotel’s rooftop bar, the highest point of the V&A waterfront, before discovering firsthand why Cape Town has become one of the world’s great food cities. For fine dining, Fricker likes FYN, ranked 37 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants List in 2022, and the Best Restaurant in Africa. A meeting between Japan and South Africa, the kitchen serves up creative fusion dishes such as guineafowl tsukune and Iberico pork with okonomiyaki sauce. Fricker also sends her clients to Galjoen, which is focused on local, responsibly caught seafood.

During your first full day in Cape Town, get to know the Mother City on The Lion Trail, a guided walk through fynbos (vegetation only found in the Cape), forests, and beaches, wrapping up with a thrilling electric scooter ride along the Sea Point promenade. The tour, a favorite of Fricker, also features two gourmet picnics with local drinks and snacks and fascinating stories about Cape Town’s history, culture, and biodiversity. Afterward, take the Aerial Cableway to the top of Table Mountain to soak up the celestial view, and do a walkabout through Bo-Kaap, one of Cape Town’s oldest neighborhoods known for its kaleidoscopic homes and aromatic Cape Malay cuisine.

On your second day, immerse yourself in Cape Town’s coastal region, which ranks among the most spectacular in the world. “What I love about Cape Town is its diversity; it’s mountains meets ocean meets vineyards meets city,” says Fricker. Her perfect coastal adventure involves starting the morning with coffee, croissants, and a dip in the tidal pool in Kalk Bay, a quaint fishing village known for its raw beauty and quirky shops. Next, it’s off to get a selfie with the famous penguins of Boulders Beach, before popping into Cape Point Nature Reserve to see the Cape of Good Hope and a picnic lunch on a private beach. Drive back to the city via the enchanting Chapman's Peak road, stopping along the way for an epic sundowner.

Embark On An Ultra-Luxury Safari


Time for the grand finale: the safari of a lifetime. To do it the right—or at least in the most opulent way — indulge in a stay at Cheetah Plains, one of South Africa’s most exclusive safari lodges. Nestled inside Sabi Sand Nature Reserve, a private concession with best-in-class game viewing next to Kruger National Park, guides have permission to drive off-road in order to track and spot animals, providing guests with up-close encounters. Better still, one of the property’s villas — Mapogo — sits directly on a watering hole, so you can watch hippos, crocodiles, and elephants before even jumping into an electric Land Cruiser for your morning drive.

Where Cheetah Plains really stands out though is its over-the-top luxury. Sophisticated accommodations consist of three self-contained villas, each boasting four free-standing suites alongside an expansive main house with a living and dining room area, formal lounge, entertainment lounge, swimming pool, wine gallery, and boma for starlit braai dinners. Exquisitely decorated, the interiors are a welcome departure from any safari cliches, instead highlighting contemporary South African art, refined furniture, and tech-savvy touches, like iPhones that are preloaded with staff contact numbers and nature themed apps.

Each villa’s dedicated hospitality team, consisting of a host, private chef, sommelier, spa therapist, and butler, as well as a field guide and tracker, are always on hand to completely spoil you — seriously, it’s difficult to come back to the real world after this — whether you’re in the mood for an expert-led wine tasting, custom six-course tasting menu, or some retail therapy at the onsite Shari’s Boutique, where guests can create one-of-a-kind jewelry using ethically-sourced, loose diamonds with the help of a qualified gemologist. Like South Africa itself, you will surely never forget your time here.