There are few places in the world as diverse as the southern tip of Africa. South Africa has vast grasslands ripe for safari adventures, cosmopolitan cities with beautiful architecture, rugged mountains that give way to pretty wine regions and world-renowned beaches: The country that was once plagued with apartheid has now emerged as a top destination for honeymoons.
What to See:
Cape Town is dominated by the sight of this mesa-like mountain, which most visitors and locals hike. Don't be fooled by fellow travelers who claim the mile-high climb is a "nice walk." The trek to the top, via the Platteklip Gorge trail, is more like a two-hour vertical ascent. But the sweeping city and ocean views make it worth the effort—just be sure to bring extra water and the proper footwear! For those who prefer to enjoy the view without huffing and puffing, a funicular (spinning cable car) goes up and down the mountain from sunrise to sunset.
Bo-Kaap, Cape Town
While most visitors prefer to explore the wharf area and outlying beaches, a cultural must-see is the Cape Malay neighborhood called Bo-Kaap. Cape Malay refers to the country's ethnic minority group that originated in Indonesia, which, like South Africa, was a Dutch colony for several centuries. These immigrants introduced Islam to the country and filled skilled occupants such as tailoring, shoemaking and carpentry. Such examples of Cape Malay's cultural influence on Cape Town are on display in the neighborhood's museum, housed in the area's oldest dwelling, circa 1760s. It's one of many colorfully painted buildings that line the streets.
Stellenbosh WIne Country
South African wines have been gaining international praise for the past few years, and the grape-growing regions of Stellenbosh, located 30 miles from Cape Town, has become a popular spot for visitors. Set on the banks of the Eerste River, the oak-tree-lined town experiences the hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters that create healthy conditions for grape cultivation. Among the region's most flavorful offerings is the Stellenbosh Cabernet Sauvignon. Nearby Constantia Valley, Franschhoek and Paarl also have wine routes.
Where to Stay:
On the picturesque wharf of Cape Town's Victoria and Alfred waterfront stands the stately Cape Grace hotel, a 121-room luxury retreat that has been celebrated as the best hotel on the continent. Rooms offer views of the sparkling marina and the international yachts docked there, as well as Table Mountain, the mesa-like mountain that rises over the city. Each room is individually appointed in period furnishings, and one-of-a-kind antique pieces are scattered around the hotel. In the Signal Restaurant, decadent breakfast buffets and lavish tasting menus featuring local meats, seafood and wines are on offer; lighter fare is served in the Bascule Bar. The spa is an oasis of serenity. For a treat, reserve the hotel's yacht for a champagne-and-canapés cruise at sunset (room rates start at $550 a night; capegrace.com).
The Westcliff Hotel
The Westcliff Hotel, perched high above the quiet outskirts of Johannesburg, can claim, "Oprah slept here." From the Polo Bar terrace and infinity pool, you can gaze across a landscape punctuated by purple jacaranda trees; you may even spot elephants in the open zoo located below. Accommodations are scattered over the grounds, which once belonged to a private estate. All offer oversize marble baths, slumber-inducing beds and such amazing service, you'd think you were an international celebrity, too (room rates start at $275 a night; westcliff.co.za).
From top: Photos courtesy of South African Tourism (4); Photo courtesy of Cape Grace; Photo courtesy of Orient-Express Hotels