Road trip South Africa: Itinerary from Johannesburg to Cape Town

South Africa Itinerary: From Johannesburg to Cape Town

During our road trip, we fell in love with South Africa! We started our itinerary in Johannesburg and ended in Cape Town. This itinerary, of course, can be done the opposite way around as well. Since we had only 18 full days to spend, we had to choose between Drakensbergen and the Garden Route. We chose to stay in Drakensbergen as it’s one of the most beautiful regions in South Africa according to many travelers. This itinerary will hopefully take you to the BIG 5, Swaziland, hippos in St. Lucia and beautiful nature in Drakensberg. We ended our trip in the Mother city: Cape Town.

The Itinerary

The best way to explore South Africa is by car. Just book your flight, hotels and rental car online and off you go! This is our day-to-day itinerary:

South Africa roadtrip itinerary 2 -3 weeks

Day 1 – Arrival Johannesburg

Our road trip starts in Johannesburg. We fly with KLM and paid € 550 p.p. for our flight tickets (in January, start in Johannesburg and end in Cape Town). The flight takes 11 hours from Amsterdam.

From the airport to the city

We’ll arrive at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg around 10 pm. We do not like to search for our hotel during night time, so we chose to use the pick-up service of our accommodation. Our hotel offers – just like many other hotels – a free airport shuttle service. If there is no free shuttle service, you can contact your hotel. They will be happy to arrange a reliable taxi for you.

Where to stay in Johannesburg

We’ll stay for one night in Johannesburg. Because we don’t visit the city itself, we’ll stay close to the airport.

We choseAero Airport Guest Lodge ****

Hotel airport johannesburg
A good start of your trip!

It is important to have a good night sleep, especially after a long flight. We chose Aero Airport Guest Lodge because this property is only a 5-minute drive from the airport and (bonus) it has a free shuttle service. The rooms are spacious and clean. Not all rooms have air conditioning. You can stay here from € 42 per night including breakfast.

Day 2 – From Johannesburg to Graskop

+/- 370 km / 4,5 hours of driving

We get up early and will pick up our SUV rental car after breakfast. Now our road trip really begins! Our first destination is Graskop. Graskop is a well-known base for travelers visiting the Panorama Route. That is exactly what we’ll do tomorrow (on day 3).

Things to do in Graskop

Sights on the Panorama Route:

  • God’s Window,
  • Waterfalls,
  • Bourke’s Luck Potholes,
  • Three Rondavels,
  • Blyde River Canyon

Where to stay in Graskop

There are many nice accommodations in Graskop. We stayed here for one night.

We chose: Daan’s place

Where to stay Graskop
Daan’s Place

Located in the village of Graskop, Daan’s Place offers self-catering rooms. It features a swimming pool, barbecue facilities and free Wi-Fi and parking. Daan’s Place has spacious rooms, decorated with traditional wooden furniture and tiled floors. A double room costs €38,- per night. This accommodation is rated with an 8.6 on Booking.com!

Day 3 – From Graskop to Hoedspruit (Greater Kruger Park)

+/- 180 km and 5 hours of driving (Panorama route)

Today we are going to explore the beautiful and well-known Panorama route. We’ll definitely check out God’s Window, several waterfalls, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, Three Rondavels, Blyde River Canyon and more highlights.

river blyde canyon south africa

After the Panorama route and lunch, we drive straight to our next accommodation in the Greater Kruger Park.

Where to stay in Hoedspruit (Greater Kruger Park / Balule)

You’ll find accommodation in the Kruger National Park (KNP) and in the Greater Kruger NationalPark (GKNP). Greater Kruger Park refers to more than twenty private reserves west of the Kruger National Park. The National Park is managed by the government, including the accommodations in the park, the restaurants and the activities such as Game Drives (jeep safaris). The Greater Kruger National Park is privately owned by people and shares unfenced borders with the Kruger National Park. So the animals that live in this area can roam freely and are found in both GKNP and KNP. However, in the GKNP experienced rangers are allowed to go off-road during game drives and will get you closer to the animals!

We choseisiLimela Game Lodge

isilimela-lodge-balule-reserve-kruger

As soon as you start searching for an accommodation within a private reserve like Greater Kruger Park, you’ll find a lot of expensive game lodges. After a long search, I found IsiLimela Game Lodge, located in the Big 5 Greater Kruger Park reserve Balule Parsons. They have very nice rooms and lodges with a modern interior, air conditioning, a bathroom with shower, a fully-equipped kitchenette and Braai area. If you are lucky, elephants, giraffes and other animals pass by! Nearby attractions include game drives in the private game reserves, visiting the Kruger National Park, Three Rondavels, Burke’s Luck Potholes and many other activities like horseback safaris, quad riding, and air safaris. This game lodge is very affordable compared to others. A room for two costs € 95 per night! Other guests rated IsiLimela Lodge with a 9.6!

Day 4 – Game Drive in the Greater Kruger Park

Today we get up early (again). It’s time for our first game drive within the Big 5 Balule Parsons Maseke reserve! I’m so excited. IsiLimela Game Lodge arranges a morning game drive for us. The costs are R500 (€ 30) per person. The difference between this game drive and a safari the Kruger National Park is that it is more private and the ranger is allowed go off-road to get closer to the animals. Plus you won’t be trying to get through hundreds of other cars to snap a picture of a lion.

safari in private reserve
Our safari in the private reserve turned out to be really private ;-)!

The game drive only takes three hours. We can spend the rest of the day exploring the area, visiting the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre or chilling in the pool and pray for some wildlife to pass by.

Kruger park swimming pool

Day 5 – From Hoedspruit to Krugerpark (central)

+/- 160 km and 3 hours driving

We continue our journey and enter the Kruger National park. The park has several entrance gates. Phalaborwa gate is a one hour drive away from our lodge in Hoedspruit and the Orpen gate takes 1,5 hour. As our next accommodation is closer to the Orpen gate, so we’ll enter here.

Kruger entrance fee 2019 is R372 p.p. per day (€23 / $27) and R616 per vehicle (€39 / $44)

Map kruger park camps

As soon as we pass through the Orpen gate, we hope to see some wildlife. Satara rest camp is 48 km away from the Orpen gate and it will take at least 2 hours to get there. But of course, we’ll take our time to do a self-drive-safari.

Where to stay in the Kruger Park

The Kruger park offers a wide variety of accommodation in the form of rest camps, Bushveld Camps, Bush Lodges and also private Luxury Lodges. Every camp has its own facilities, visual appearance and price range. Prices range from €15 for a camping spot, €35 for a tent and €75 for a bungalow. However, don’t expect any luxury. You can find accommodation via the official SanParks site.

We picked: Satara Rest Camp

Bungalow inside kruger national park
Our bungalow BD2N at Satara Rest Camp

We chose Satara Rest Camp because it is located in the center of the Kruger Park. It is one of the best camps for spotting lions, leopards and cheetahs. It is a big and busy camp, but there are a lot of facilities: a swimming pool, restaurant, shop and many game activities. We picked the BD2N bungalow with air conditioning and a kitchenette and paid €90 ($100) for one night. Check-in from 2 pm and check-out at 10.00h.

Day 6 – Southern Kruger park

+/- 130 KM and 3 hours driving

A Sunrise game drive is on the menu. Satara Rest camp offers a wide variety of game activities. Guided Bush Walks, Sunrise, Sunset and Night drives in open jeeps and more. I’m not sure whether you can book game activities without spending a night in the park itself. 

safari Kruger park
Jeep Safari Kruger Park (via Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp)

The Sunrise Game drive starts around 04.00 AM and takes 3 hours. The costs are R300 (€19 / $21) per person. Note that game drives organized by the Kruger National Park aren’t allowed to go off-road.

After the Sunrise Drive, we continue our trip to the Southern part of Kruger. We’ll drive all the way to Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp. At 16.30h we’ll jump into the jeep for the Sunset Drive. This tour takes 3 hours and costs R325 (€20 ? $22).

Where to stay in the Kruger Park South

We wanted to stay close to the gate because we’re traveling to Swaziland on the next day.

We picked: Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp

accommodation inside kruger park tent
Also nice for the ultimate safari experience! – Tent Crocodile Bridge

Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp is a small and delightful camp, situated in the south-eastern corner of the Kruger National Park, on the northern bank of the Crocodile River, from which it derives its name. The Crocodile Bridge Gate on the north bank of the river is only 13km (8 miles) from the town of Komatipoort. The camp comprises of bungalows (€90 / $100), safari tents (€40 / $44) and camping sites (€22 / $25). There is no restaurant, so you have to take care of your own food!

Day 7 – from Kruger to Swaziland

+/- 210 KM and 3 hours of driving

We leave the Kruger Park and South Africa and continue to Swaziland. Swaziland is the smallest country in Africa but has a lot to offer. Wildlife, beautiful nature, mountains etc. We visit the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. The 4,560 hectare sanctuary comprises grassland plains and granite peaks, with numerous guided or self-guided walking trails and mingle with the animals. After all those hours within the rental car, it will be nice to stretch our legs.

Border crossing

The borders posts between Swaziland and neighboring South Africa and Mozambique are international crossings and you will need a valid passport. Inform your rental company about your travel plans when you pick up your car. You should receive a letter which gives you permission to enter Lesotho or Swaziland with the rental car. This letter is required at the border. It is still possible that you have to pay a vehicle border crossing fee (R50).

Where to stay in Swaziland

We spend two nights in Swaziland and stay at the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary.

We choseMlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary

Mlilwane’s Rest Camp offers 4 types of accommodation beside the camping: Rest camp huts, Beehives, cottages and rondavels. Self-catering huts and cottages are all available at Mlilwane’s Rest Camp. A beehive is a traditional grass dome construction with a low door and no windows providing for a deep sleep.  The bathroom addition adds both light and circulation. These super cute Beehives cost €55 per night (for 2 pax.). Mlilwane’s Rest Camp is rated with an 8.3!

Day 8 – Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary (Swaziland)

The freedom to explore Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary is unique. Whatever activity you chose, getting amongst zebra, wildebeest, nyala and blesbuck is a daily occurrence.

Things to do in Mlilwane:

  • Game drives or self-drive
  • Horse riding
  • Hiking/walking

hippo trail

Day 9 – from Swaziland to St. Lucia

+/- 325 Km at least 4 hours

Our next stop is St. Lucia (re-entering South Africa). St. Lucia is a small town set amongst the wild beaches on the North Coast of Zululand. It is the best place to see hippos and crocodiles, as St. Lucia has the highest concentration of hippos and crocodiles in southern Africa.

Top things to do in St. Lucia:

  • iSimangaliso Wetland Park & Cape Vidal
  • Boat cruise on the St Lucia Estuary to see all the hippos
  • Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve

Where to stay in St. Lucia

We’ll spend three nights in St. Lucia

We choseUmlilo Lodge ****

hotel tips st lucia africa

How awesome is Umlilo Lodge?! This 4-star guest house offers 13 comfortable en-suite guests rooms in a tropical treehouse like lodge. Super cool! The rooms are beautiful and fully equipped with AC, a TV, mosquito nets, a safety deposit box, refrigerator and a private bathroom. The tropical garden has a swimming pool and there are Braai facilities. A double room costs €98 including breakfast. Other guest rated Umlilo Lodge with a 9 on average! Check out their website to book a room or make your reservation through Booking.com.

where to stay st lucia africa

Day 10 – St. Lucia – Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park

Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park is the oldest proclaimed game reserve in Africa. The Big 5 game animals and a lot of incredible wildlife can be found within the reserve. With 1,500 white rhino and 360 black rhino, this park now has the largest population of white rhino in the world. The park is a mere 50 minutes drive from St Lucia. Entrance fee is R210 (€13) per person.

game drive hluhluwe park

It is possible to do a Self-drive safari to the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, however, with limited time it might be worth it to book a guided tour. Heritage Tours and Safaris offers half day tours and full day tours with Open Game Drive vehicles to the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park. They will pick you up at your hotel in St. Lucia and you will watch the sunrise within the park! Magical!

hluhluwe park south africa

Day 11 – From Swaziland to St. Lucia

Another MUST-DO in St. Lucia is the Hippo and Croc Tour. It is a boat safari on the St Lucia estuary the largest in Africa and home to more than 800 Hippos and 1200 Nile crocodiles. This boat tour takes 2 hours, leaves five times a day and costs R240 (€15) per person.

hippo tour

Than Cape Vidal is a beautiful beach within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Cape Vidal is wonderful for observing marine life at low tide while snorkeling.

Day 12 – From St. Lucia to Drakensberg

+/- 490 KM / 5,5 hours

It is a long drive today to Drakensberg. One of the highlights in South Africa according to many travelers. The Drakensberg is the highest mountain range in Southern Africa and stretches for over 1,000 kilometers. The Drakensberg can be divided up into three main sections – the Northern, Central and Southern Drakensberg. These regions also include different parks and reserves. We found a lovely place to stay in the central part of Drakensberg.

Top things to do in Drakensberg

  • A lot of hiking
  • Ziplining
  • Horse riding

Where to stay in Drakensberg

We stayed two nights in Drakensberg.

We fell for: Ama Casa Cottages

Drakensberg accommodation tips

I found Ama Casa on Airbnb and I really fell in love with their place. Ama Casa Cottages is a true gem located in the Champagne Valley area of the Central Drakensberg Mountains with spectacular panoramic views of the Champagne and Cathkin Peaks. Dave and Les (the owners) offer three beautiful self-catering cottages. The Hoopoe & Kingfisher cottages are the ideal romantic getaway for a couple. Pop a bottle of South African wine in your private jacuzzi while you enjoy magnificent views of Cathkin and Champagne Peaks! A private cottage for 2 is only €75 per night! 

Where to stay drakensberg

Day 13 – Drakensberg

What about ziplining through Drakensberg? Yes! That is what we did with Canopy Tours Drakensberg. It is a unique way to experience Drakensberg: 14 cable slides over the forest up to 60 metres high!

Zipline drakensberg

The rest of the day we went for a short hike!

 Day 14 – Drakensberg to Cape Town (via Durban)

A day full of traveling. We’re leaving Drakensberg and drive to Durban Airport for our flights to Cape Town.

Flight from Durban to Cape Town

It is a three-hour drive (at least) to Durban airport. You can also fly from Johannesburg, but you have to drive at least 3,5 hours. We have to leave Drakensberg around 07.00 AM in order to catch our flight at 12.00h. We have a direct flight from Durban to Cape Town (2 hours) and a ticket should cost no more than €60 per person.

Hire a car

At Cape Town airport we pick up our next rental car. In Cape Town we chose the smallest rental car. We got a Kia Picanto and it was fine for Cape Town!

Where to stay in Cape town

There are many accommodations in Cape Town. We stayed at the Backpack for four nights.

We chose: The Backpack *****

hostel cape town

The Backpack offers accommodations in the heart Cape Town, in between Bo-Kaap, The Gardens and Tamboerskloof. The hostel has a barbecue and views of the Table Mountain, and guests can enjoy a drink at the bar. There is a nice pool to lay by or take a dip in. This Fairtrade hostel is rated with an 8,5 on Booking.com! You can either go for the backpackers’ experience and sleep in a dorm (€27 per night) or go for a beautiful private room for 2 (from €80 per night).  

Hotel tips cape town
@ The Backpack Hostel

Day 15 – Cape Town

Cape Town has a lot to offer and you can’t afford to waste time! If you only have two or three days in the Mother City, than the kind-of-lame City Sightseeing Hop-on Hop-off bus is a good way to explore the city.

Things to do in Cape town

There are so many things to do today. For example:

  • Breakfast at the Table Mountain (if the weather is ok)
  • Get in the Hop-on Hop-off bus
  • Watch the Sunset from Lions head

table mountain cape town

Day 16 – Cape Town

I am not sure if Robben Island is a must. Some will say it is because of its history. If Robben Island is on your bucket list, you should buy the tickets (months) in advance. The boat leaves three times a day and the tour costs R340.

Things to do today:

cape town lions head
Lions head view

Day 17 – Cape Town

Hire a car and head south to Muizenberg beach and Boulders Beach. Next is Cape Point, part of the Table Mountain National Park. Then head back to Cape Town along the scenic Chapman’s Peak drive (one of world’s most beautiful coastal drives).

Things to do today:

  • Breakfast in Camps Bay
  • Muizenberg beach
  • Boulders beach & Simons town
  • Cape Point / Cape of good hope
  • Chapman’s peak drive

bolders beach cape town

Day 18 – Cape Town to Stellenbosch

Visit Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden (R65 – €4,50) and wander around in one of the greatest botanic gardens of the world.

Kirstenbosch cape town

+/- 50 KM / 40 minutes

Head to Stellenbosch, the last destination of this road trip. Stellenbosch is known as South Africas wine industry.

Where to stay in Stellenbosch?

You can find lovely places in Stellenbosch. We stayed here for two nights.

Very nice: River Manor Boutique Hotel

Stellenbosch hotel

This is such a peacefull place. Located in the heart of Stellenbosch, River Manor Boutique Hotel offers accommodations on the banks of the Eerste River. Each room is air-conditioned and has a seating area, satellite TV and a private bathroom. You’ll pay €95 per night. JThis place is rated with a 9,3!

Al little bit more budget? Check out Oude Werf Hotel **** – from €185 p.n.
A cheaper option? Check Rivierbos Guest House *** – from €75 p.n.

Day 19 – Stellenbosch

Leave your car where it is. Don’t drink and drive. Finish your holidays with a (private) wine tasting tour. Cheers!

We will use the Vine Hopper: the hop-on hop-off bus that operates three routes in the Stellenbosch region. A ticket costs R320 per person. Wine tasting fees are not included. Wine tasting fees differ from farm to farm, but will be around R50 per tasting (5 to 6 wines). With this hop-on hop-off service you can have your own private tasting tour for just a few bucks (R320 ticket + 3x R50 tastings + R150 lunch = R620 / €40).

wine tour Stellenbosch

Another option is to book a wine tasting tour. Prices vary, the bigger the group the lower to price per person. For example Wine tours Cape Town offers daily group wine tours for R650 including 3 wine tastings, lunch and cheese tasting. A private tour costs R1850 per person!

Day 20 – Going home

The last day this South Africa itinerary. I wish you a safe and pleasant journey back home and hope that you had a great time!

Do you have any questions about this road trip? Feel free to leave your comment below.

blogger evy

Many thanks to Daan’s Place, IsiLimela Game Lodge, Umlilo Lodge, Ama Casa Cottages, The Backpack, Canopy Tours Drakensberg and Heritage Tours for discounting my stay or tour. Choices and opinions are my own. This article contains affiliate links.

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