SA destination doppelgangers: How far from home would you need to go for a good break?

2018-10-03 12:00 - Chanel Cartell and Stevo Dirnberger, How Far From Home
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Nine destinations that look so much SA

We know travelling abroad means getting away from home (and if you’re like us, you’ll want to see how far from home you can actually get), but what if you love South Africa so much, that you actually want some of that local gees with you, whilst in a foreign land?

Call it a cure for homesickness, if you want.

Or maybe, like us, you just get the sheer kick out of seeing something thousands of kilometres away, that looks so similar to the beautiful country you call home.

Either way, we thought the following nine locations were a really great collection of South African doppelgangers - at best you can do the local version first and then plan to its international counterpart to see if we were right after all... 

  • The Beaches of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - Look similar to: The beaches of Cape Town

You have to admit, the combination of winding coastline, and “sugarloaf” mountains tapering into the ocean, make Rio de Janeiro a definite contender for Cape Town’s twin sister. Add to it the electric energy and picture-perfect sunsets, and you’re practically strolling along the Seapoint Promenade (when in fact it’s Ipanema).

READ: Quick Guide to Brazil: Visa-free travel for South Africans

Best time to visit: we visited in mid-June and were very happy with the temperate weather and smaller crowds. If you’re wanting to partner your beach holiday with the famous Rio Carnival, though, book your trip for February.

  • Horseshoe Bend in Arizona, USA - Looks similar to: Blyde River Canyon

Arizona’s 1300m-tall red rock formation, together with the perfect U-shape of the Colorado River curve, make this one of our favourite lookalikes. Blyde River Canyon is definitely greener and more lush than the American counterpart, but both are equally impressive.

Best time to visit: Luckily Arizona is a year-round destination, so you can’t go wrong, but if you’d prefer to avoid the crowds, August-September would be a good time.

  • Tulip Fields in Holland, The Netherlands - Look similar to: Namaqualand

Ok, we know we’re comparing farmed tulips with wild gousblomme, but the colourful blooming fields found in most parts of Holland (such at Rotterdam and Amsterdam) reminded us so much of the annual  phenomenon of Namaqualand, that we had to include it in the list.

Best time to visit: It’s going to be nearly impossible to avoid the crowds here as the flowers only bloom for a few weeks each year (mid-April to early-May) but our recommendation is to rent a car and drive away from the main city centres, instead of visiting the gardens that most of the tour buses visit.

  • Soca Valley in Slovenia - Looks similar to: Bourke’s Luck Potholes

Both locations have had raging waters form wild, curvy formations in the rock, creating a fascinating network of river crossings, caves and tunnels. Soca Valley (like the potholes found at the mouth of Blyde River Canyon) can enthuse any geographical and outdoor-loving travellers out there, so make sure you add this European beauty to your travel plans.

Best time to visit: For a crowd-less trip, come in Spring (April) or early Autumn (September) and make sure to book yourself all the available activities, such as kayaking, canyoning, and rock-climbing.

  • The Big Five in Maasai Mara, Kenya - Looks similar to: The Big Five in Kruger National Park

Let’s be honest, we could’ve chosen any national park in Africa really, but we particularly loved how concentrated and rich in wildlife the Maasai Mara in Kenya is. Home to all members of the Big Five, this might be a great alternative to your annual Kruger Park holiday (especially if hot air balloon and jeep safaris are your ideal way to spend time abroad).

Best time to visit: For the world-famous wildebeest migration, (and to see the most wildlife) head there during the dry season, between July and October.

  • Sunsets in Paracas, Peru - Look similar to: Sunsets in Tankwa Karoo National Park

Not normally considered for a hot, desert location for a holiday (as Peru’s main attraction is of course Machu Picchu) but we absolutely loved our time going sand-boarding and 4x4 racing in the dunes of Peru. The colours and dry air reminded us of our trip to Tankwa Karoo, so thought we’d add it to the list, for anyone craving some of Tankwa’s dust, abroad.

Best time to visit: For the best weather, head there between March and November.

  • Tisa Rocks in Bohemian Switzerland, Czech Republic - Look similar to: The Valley of Desolation

Equally terrifying when looking down, these unique formations of sandstone could be the Valley of Desolations’ distant cousins. Used as the filming location for The Chronicles of Narnia, they’re still a fairly hidden gem in the beautiful Bohemian Switzerland National Park in Czech Republic.

Best time to visit: Every season will bring with it magical photo opportunities, but for a lookalike shot, we suggest visiting in late Summer (August-September).

  • Cherry Blossom Season in Japan - Looks similar to: Jacaranda Season in Pretoria

With a slightly lighter shade, but equally towering and beautiful, Springtime in Japan is a feast for the eyes. Hundreds of avenues fill up with colour, just like the many streets in Pretoria and Johannesburg during September.

Best time to visit: As Japan is in the Northern Hemisphere, you’ll need to go during the northern Spring, meaning April.

North Cape in Norway - Looks similar to: Cape Point


You’re going to need to use your imagination a little bit with this one, but if you can imagine the polar opposite (literally) of the southern most tip of Africa, you’ll find yourself at the northern most point of mainland Europe – the North Cape. Freezing on most days, and dark for 4 months of the year, this is certainly one “lookalike” that should be on every South African’s traveling bucket list.

Best time to visit: Depends on what type of holiday you want – for days with no darkness visit between June and August, and for days with no light visit between December and February (but expect temperatures to drop to -30°C).

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