Once closed off to the world by apartheid, South Africa has quickly become one of the world’s top travel destinations. From the endless coastline of the Wild Coast, to the towering mountains surrounding Cape Town, South Africa has a seemingly endless range of natural beauty begging for exploration.
I know what you’re thinking: how can I afford it? Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret — it’s easy! With South Africa’s well-established hostel system and a favorable exchange rate (about 8 ZAR to 1 USD), even a broke college student like myself can afford a South African adventure of a lifetime. Here are a few locations that should be added to your South Africa travel guide.
Hostel: The Backpacker
Nightly rate: $25 – $63
Located only blocks away from Cape Town’s social hub, Long Street, The Backpacker is close enough to enjoy the fun while maintaining a distance that provides some peace and calm. The hostel caters to all ages as it offers a wide range of accommodations, including dorm rooms and ensuites.
Before heading out for an evening on Long Street, be sure to stop at the bar in the courtyard to connect with fellow travelers who are looking to venture out as well. For those of you planning on traveling up the Garden Route and Wild Coast, The Backpacker is a great starting point. The Bus Station is a short cab ride away, or, if it’s your first time, the Baz Bus offers door to door pick-up and drop-off along the route.
Hostel: 22 van Wijk St. Guestrooms
Nightly rate: $35 – $55
Just 40 minutes to the east of Cape Town sits South Africa’s picturesque wine country. Stellenbosch is commonly known as the main destination in the winelands, but if you want to skip the crowds for a more authentic experience, go one town further to Franschhoek. Franschhoek is characterized by its quaint Dutch colonial architecture and is known for producing some of the region’s best wines. 22 van Wijk St. Guestrooms is a classic Dutch colonial guesthouse that feels like a home away from home.
While in Franschhoek, the Solms Delta Wine Estate is a must see. The Solms Delta offers a unique experience that can’t be found at any other estate in the region. They’ve constructed an estate museum in the original winery, tracing the area’s history back to the stone age to provide visitors a glimpse of how the land has been shaped by the unique cultures that have inhabited the land. Furthermore, they offer weekly braais–South African for BBQ–and concerts featuring local artists.
Hostel: Tube n’ Axe
Nightly rate: $20 – $50
Interested in experiencing the highest commercial bungy jump in the world? Book a night or two in Storms River at the Tube n’ Axe. The Tube n’ Axe is a 30 minute drive to Bloukrans Bridge where you can learn how it feels to survive a 708 ft. fall.
If you aren’t an adrenaline junkie, have no fear. This Garden Route accommodation has plenty of alternatives. Head over to the breathtaking Tsitsikamma National Park for scenic hikes that move in and out of the rainforest and boulders that dot the coastline. Just under 27 miles, the Otter Trail begins at the mouth of Storms River and runs west along the Indian ocean. For those seeking a day hike, you can do the first hour of the trail to reach a towering waterfall that empties into the ocean–well worth the two hour round trip hike!
Hostel: Coffee Shack
Nightly rate: $15 – $45
Further east, Coffee Bay is tucked away in the cliffs of the Wild Coast. Coffee Bay is only accessible for travelers by way of shuttle from the bus depot in Mthatha. Book with the Coffee Shack and they include a shuttle that runs throughout the day.
In a town of only 600 people, Coffee Bay offers true seclusion. The Coffee Shack sits at the meeting point of Coffee Bay River and the ocean. Guests wake to the sound of breaking waves rather than the hustle and bustle of civilization. In and around the bay, visitors have a number of activities to choose from. Hikes take you over to the Mapuzi Cliffs for cliff jumping or to Hole in the Wall for amazing photo opportunities. As a guest of the Coffee Shack, you have the choice to venture off on your own or join for daily trips–surf lessons are offered too.
After a day in the sun, make your way back to the Coffee Shack for an incredible home-cooked dinner. If you run into any travelers who’ve experienced Coffee Bay, there’s a good chance they will rave about the Coffee Shack’s legendary dinners.
If you’re really trying to save, just pack a tent. The majority of hostels in South Africa offer a far cheaper option for an area to pitch your tent. Nightly rates are as low as $9.Google+