With so much beauty within the borders of South Africa, it’s no wonder that so many locals choose in-country destinations for weekend trips. Outside South Africa’s borders, however, there are many perfect weekend getaway destinations just waiting to be discovered. Needing some inspiration? Here are six of the best which are ideal for quick weekend breaks.
Let’s start with the closest destination first – Lesotho, of course, is that tiny country in the middle of South Africa. Despite its proximity to Johannesburg, it is its own independent nation with unique landscapes, activities and experiences. In many ways, Lesotho is like taking a big step back in time, particularly in the north where its more common to see horses than cars.
Pretty much all of Lesotho is a mountain range, which means the country is literally covered in stunning and dramatic landscapes. There are many brilliant hikes, many starting in lodges (such as Maliba Lodge, the only 5-star lodge in Lesotho) which are perfect for a weekend trip. It’s an amazing, underrated place to visit and just four hours from Johannesburg.
Lesotho’s capital Maseru is a four-hour drive from Johannesburg. There are also regular flights between Johannesburg and Moshoeshoe (55 minutes).
South Africa’s neighbour Namibia has some incredibly dramatic landscapes of its own, including eerily beautiful Sossusvlei, a sand and clay pan surrounded by imposing red dunes. The most famous part of Sossusvlei is known as Deadvlei, which – as you’d expect from the name – features many gnarred trees reaching up from the red sand.
The whole area is hauntingly beautiful, especially at sunrise and sunset which is also the ideal time for photographers. Popular activities in Sossusvlei include climbing the dunes as well as giving sandboarding a try (beware, it’s harder than it looks!) The other activity of choice is simply relaxing and enjoying the peace and quiet of this unique part of the world.
Multiple airlines fly daily between Johannesburg and Sossusvlei (2 hours, 10 minutes) and Cape Town and Sossusvlei (2 hours, 5 minutes).
Etosha National Park, Namibia
Etosha is to Namibia like Kruger is to South Africa. It’s the country’s largest and most famous national park, and it draws tens of thousands of visitors every year. Located in the north of Namibia, Etosha covers a staggering 22,200 square kilometres and is filled with wildlife including black rhinos, elephants, leopards and cheetahs.
Given its popularity with visitors, there are many choices for accommodation and food around Etosha National Park. Whether your ideal weekend getaway involves some no-frills bush camping or you’d prefer to be pampered at an all-inclusive resort, you’re sure to find something perfect at Etosha. Although it’s a bit of a trek to get there, you’ll be richly rewarded.
Multiple airlines fly to Etosha National Park with a stopover elsewhere in Namibia (total duration: 4 – 5 hours). The other option is to fly to the capital Windhoek and then drive the 4 hours to Etosha as it’s a great drive along the way.
Okavango Delta, Botswana
One of the most unique landscapes in the southern Africa region, the Okavango Delta is a network of inlets that give life to an incredible variety of plants and wildlife. Travel to the Delta is a respite from the busy modern world, with the ability to cruise down the delta aboard a traditional, hand-rowed mokoro (wooden canoe), spying wildlife in the distance.
The preferred method of transport for safaris here is on foot, allowing you to quietly explore the region and get much closer to the wildlife than you could from a safari vehicle. Life is slow, quiet and undisturbed near the Delta, considered one of the seven natural wonders of Africa, making it the perfect relaxing getaway and also the ideal spot for picnics and camping.
Multiple airlines fly daily between Johannesburg and Maun, Botswana (1 hour, 45 minutes) and Cape Town to Maun (2 hours, 30 minutes).
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Are you looking for an exciting getaway featuring adrenaline-raising activities and natural beauty? If so you’ll love Victoria Falls which straddles the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. Visiting from either side is a great experience, but the nearby Zimbabwean town offers a larger selection of restaurants, activities and markets.
As well as a hike to admire the mighty falls and perhaps a dip in the famous Devil’s Pool overlooking them, there is an endless selection of adventure activities to try. From whitewater rafting to bungee jumping to canyoneering, adrenaline junkies will <i>love</i> the Falls. There are also more sedate experiences, such as horse riding, cooking schools and canoeing.
Multiple airlines fly regularly between Johannesburg and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (1 hour, 45 minutes) and between Cape Town and Victoria Falls (2 hours, 45 minutes).
Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, Madagascar
It’s a little bit further than some of the other trips on this list, but it’s definitely do-able in a weekend and perfect for a long weekend. Madagascar is well known for its unique and lovable wildlife, being home to many incredible mammals that aren’t found on mainland Africa, such as the teddy-bear looking Sifaka.
For an enjoyable – if whirlwind – weekend trip to Madagascar, one of the best places to base yourself is near the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. Here you can see all the amazing wildlife of Madagascar, as well as enjoy a decent selection of accommodation and food options. Importantly, it’s not too far away from the airport so you won’t lose too much time in transit.
South African Airways flies daily between Johannesburg and Antananarivo, Madagascar (3 hours).
So, there you have it – six of our favourite weekend getaways. Which one would you most like to go on?