Surprising South Africa: Beyond Safaris

South Africa is one of the ultimate safari destinations, but the country offers much more than just safari camps and wildlife. It is continually evolving, making it a part of the world to explore if you're willing to get off the beaten path and for new experiences.

Check out this list of some of South Africa's best finds. It could result in the most memorable vacation you'll ever take.

Cape Town

Cape Town is by far South Africa's most popular city, and it's often called one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Known as "The Mother City," it's where you can find unique world-class hotels, spas, gourmet restaurants and wineries. Cape Town also hosts some of the most popular tourist attractions in the region. Plan to stay at least three days because this is one destination you won't want to leave.

View of Cape Town From Ellerman House, photo©Karen Schaler

Where to Stay

While Cape Town's waterfront has a long list of hotels to choose from, if you're looking for a more unique, authentic escape try one of these award-winning properties.

The Relais & Chateaux Ellerman House in Bantry Bay takes top honors with travelers looking for impeccable service, gourmet dining and a luxury spa. Room No. 1 is a favorite, in part because of its wraparound patio overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. In the mood for a splurge? Rent the new Villa!

The Ezard House is on the slopes of Table Mountain, perched on the hillside above Camps Bay. With only 10 chic suites, all facing the sea, this private escape has just been remodeled making this boutique property even more special.

Hout Bay Manor in Hout Bay is where you find 21 individually designed rooms all with a distinct South African flair. The hotel just opened after an 18-month refurbishment and the changes are impressive.

Daddy Long Legs Art Hotel on Long Street is a funky alternative to your typical hotel because each room is designed by a different South African artist. Edgy and extraordinary, this is one hotel you have to see to believe.

Where to Eat:

It's hard to go wrong because the area has so many sensational options, but there are a few standouts you shouldn't miss. Pure is the new hip restaurant inside Hout Bay Manor where the atmosphere, cuisine and service is phenomenal. Other popular favorites include Myoga, Aubergine, Africa Cafe, Marco's and African Palace. If you love high tea, head to the Mount Nelson Hotel for a buffet-style treat.

What to Do:

With so much to do in Cape Town, it's best to prioritize. The top five trips to fit in are Cape of Good Hope, Table Mountain, Robben Island, Township Tour of Cape Flats and Wine Tasting.

The Saxon Boutique Hotel & Spa, Johannesburg, SA, photo©Karen Schaler

Johannesburg

A lot of travelers skip Johannesburg and head straight for Cape Town, but it's a shame because Jo'Berg has some wonderful places to stay and some cultural offerings that should not be missed. It's important to note Johannesburg struggles with crime problems, so you need to stay alert and follow the same safety rules you would for any large city.

Where to Stay:

The Saxton Boutique Hotel & Spa is one of Johannesburg's most famous addresses. It's where Nelson Mandela wrote his autobiography, "The Long Walk to Freedom," after being released from prison.

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