If you've been yearning to take some time out to explore South Africa properly, we strongly suggest following one of the many amazing routes our country has to offer.
Apart from the relatively well-known options such as the Garden Route, Cape Winelands and Midlands Meander, there are a wealth of smaller, niche routes to opt for in every corner of our country.
Check out these eight that tickle our fancy:
1.The Friendly N6 Route, Free State & Eastern Cape
The N6 runs between Bloemfontein and East London, and offers travellers an opportunity to explore the scenic mountainous regions of the Eastern Cape and Free State. The national road takes you through picturesque farmlands, quaint small towns, forests and right over the Vaal River. Be sure you have ample time (and money) to spend in the magical crafty hamlets of Stutterheim and Cathcart. Along the Eastern Cape section of the route, you will find another delightfully artistic town - Smithfield - take some time out here to check out the galleries, antique shops and eateries.
If you have a soft spot for mountain passes, you will be happy to know that this road will take you right over the well-known Naude's Nek Pass, lying 2 920m above sea level. Just keep a close eye on your weather app if you're heading there in the midst of winter, as these higher regions of the Eastern Cape tend to receive heavy snowfall when temperatures take a plunge.
Check out the Visit Eastern Cape website for more details
2. Genesis Route, Mpumalanga
While Mpumalanga may be best known for its spectacular Panorama Route, the lesser-known 260km Genesis Route takes you into the Makhonjwa Mountains, tracing a sort of figur-8 between Barberton, Badplaas and Low's Creek. These mountains are said to hold archaeological artifacts dating back to the very origin of our planet. Known as the Genesis of Life, this region is home to the first microfossil evidence on earth, sedimentary rocks carrying evidence of ancient tidal environments, signs of massive meteorite impact as well as gold, very old gold!
All these geological wonders and more are pointed out by attractively landscaped lay-bys and viewpoints. Most of the road is tarred, but take note that there are no ablution facilities as you go along.
Check out the Barberton Tourism Facebook page for more information
3. The Quiver Tree Route, Northern Cape
Looking to experience the cream of the Northern Cape crop in one, delightful go? Look no further than the fantastic Quiver Tree Route. Concentrated around the so-called Green Kalahari belt, running along the Orange River, the route will take you through the fascinating towns and settlements of Keimoes, Kanoneiland, Kenhardt, Augrabies, Upington and Marchand.
While the scenery along the route is absolutely breathtaking, ranging from semi-arid vegetation to lush date palm plantations, the real highlight is really the gastronomic treats you get to experience. Apart from dried fruit and biltong, you will also get to taste some of the region's finest wines all produced by Orange River Cellars, the second largest wine cooperative in the world. Then if you want to try something completely out of whack with its surroundings, be sure to pop in at the Kalahari Gateway Hotel's Kalahari Sushi Bar in Kakamas!
Check out Experience Northern Cape's website for more details
4. Cape Country Meander, Western Cape
The Cape Country Meander takes you on a soul-enriching journey of eight delightful Overberg towns: Elgin, Bot River, Caledon, Genadendal, Greyton, Villiersdorp, Tesselaarsdal and Riviersonderend. Located less than an hour from Cape Town, this quaint route provides you with a selection of memorable experiences - from action-packed ziplining in the Elgin Valley, to cuddling up to Alpacas in Villiersdorp, mountain biking in Greyton, brushing up on history in Genadendal and enjoying all the delicacies the region has on offer.
What makes this route great is the fact that you can comfortably do it in a weekend, without missing out on any of the highlights.
Check out the Cape Country Meander website for more details.
5. Beer Route, KZN
Also known as the Brew Route, this route will take you on a journey of breweries - from tiny craft producers to the big commercial guys - surrounding Durban and on into the midlands. Breweries on the route include Congella, The Nottinham Road Brewery, Wartnburger Brauhaus, the Shongweni Brewery and Zululand Brewing.
During your trip you will be treated to a variety of tastings as well as demonstrations from master brewers and of course the gorgeous midlands scenery.
Check out the KZN Tourism website for more details
6. Diamond and wine route, Free State
Connecting the Free State with the Northern Cape, the Diamonds and Wine Route will take you from Bloemfontein to Kimberley, via the town of Jagersfontein on the trail of the mining prospectors from the late 1800s. Although Kimberley is widely known for its big hole and diamond mining activities, Jagersfontein produced two of the biggest diamonds ever discovered. The open-pit Jagersfontein diamond mine was dug by hand between 1870 and 1909 and measures 760m from one side to the other.
Once you've explored all the sparkly history, head on to Jakobsdal for a truly unique wine experience. Home to Landzicht Winery, this little Free State town was the very first location to have a wine cellar in South Africa outside of the Western Cape. Landzicht takes in the grapes of more than 45 producers around the town, presses 2 800 tonnes of grapes and makes 220 000 litres of wine each year. Their semi-sweets, muscadels and merlots are especially popular.
Check out Free State tourism for more details
7. Forgotten Route, Western Cape
Following in the footsteps of the most intrepid colonial explorers, the Forgotten Route takes you right into the wild west hinterland of the Western Cape. Arranged by Wine Flies, the overnight journey takes you from the Kimberley Hotel in Cape Town by bus, all the way to Rawsonville for a bout of wine tasting. From there you head to Worcester station, hop on the trans-Karoo train, which will take you to Matjiesfontein, where you will spend the night in the Lord Milner Hotel. Keep your dancing shoes ready for a good old-fashioned jig at the Laird's Arms pub right next to the hotel, where local John Theunissen will treat you to a few classic numbers on the old piano.
The next day it's back on the bus and on to the Koo Valley for lunch, followed by brandy tasting in Montagu.
Check out the Forgotten Route website for more details.
8. Great Mapungubwe Heritage Route, Limpopo
Linking numerous cultural and natural heritage sites throughout the northern parts of Limpopo, this route will give you a bit of insight into the incredibly rich history of ancient souther African cultures. Simultaneously it takes you right into the heart of wildlife conservation with both the Mapungubwe and Kruger National Park forming part of the journey. Throughout the route, you will be treated to the sight of majestic baobabs, intriguing rock formations and lush bushveld vegetation.
Notable spots along the route include the border town of Musina, the sacred Fundudzi Lake, Royal Dzata museum and Valdezia.
Check out the Limpopo Tourism website for more details.