Wanderlust-filled escapes, both near and far, to experience firsthand in 2020

2019-09-01 01:07
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As the decade is set to turn, the year 2020 holds some interesting options when it comes to travel.

Expanding flight routes means as travellers we have access to wider choice. If anything, sustainable practices and eco-friendly travel options are even more important than before. For families considering micro-trips to the full-extended sabbatical, deciding on just one epic experience for the year ahead is going to be tough. 

In the year that's been, we've sampled some of South Africa's most choice offerings, suitable to a selection of budgets. Far-flung destinations have the ultimate stop-over appeal, with a few lesser-known gems thrown in for a good mix of the exotic.

one of the following 20 wanderlust-infused options might just be what you're looking for, and if you haven't already - sign-up for our weekly Traveller24 newsletter for more destination planning guides and tips. 

READ: Your 2020 trips to take list that will make you wish you had unlimited leave  

1.   A giant's playground in the Cederberg

If your heart needs to be quiet - just for a little while - the Cederberg offers a calming respite within the Cape Floral Kingdom. 

It's a landscape that feels like it belongs on another planet, and that at any moment you just might start running out of oxygen. But what runs out instead is life's baggage, deflating away into cool rivers, dances in the dust, pink proteas and ancient trees fighting against its own extinction. 

A whispering place where the voices of ancients wind their way through cracks and bristling fynbos, the Cederberg Wilderness Area is a place where you'll leave with bruises from exploration.

WATCH: The thousand-year-old trees of Cederberg threatened by climate change  

2.  From sand dunes to fynbos, veld and vlei: The rapidly changing landscape of De Hoop 

Situated in the Overberg's De Hoop Nature Reserve about 3 hours outside of Cape Town, the luxurious De Hoop Collection is a buy 1-get-1000 deal.  Part of Cape Country Routes, it is known for its land-based whale watching in season. However, De Hoop Collection is a buffet of unlimited treats. It's sweet, salty, tart and more.

It has something for every palette and serves it to you on a silver platter. All you have to do is indulge in it. So rich in biodiversity, it is home to rare species of fynbos, marine life and has an 70km of coastline flanked by towering sand dunes. This is nature porn at its best. 

SEE: PICS: 90% of southern right whales are at De Hoop on the Overberg coastline right now

3. Skiing in Lesotho – an African winter wonderland   

A few hours drive from Joburg, through the golden Free State lies a snowy playground for couples, friends and, particularly families wishing to discover and experience an unexpected African winter wonderland, Afriski Mountain Resort.

We are not used to underfloor heating, log cabins, glühwein, snowsuits and ski slopes. The altitude of 3 050m above sea level is also hard to breathe in. But it’s magical. You'll have to plan carefully as when to take this escape. Read more here

READ: There are many roads that lead to Lesotho but here's why the Sani Pass is most special

4. Terceira, Portuguese Azura island - why you should visit this Portuguese island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean

The Azores archipelago is an isolated part of the world, almost right in the middle between Portugal and the Americas. For South Africans, it's not exactly the first place that springs to mind when they think of an island holiday. Its capital of Angra do Heroísmo will make you feel like you teleported back in time.

Classic Portuguese architecture is prevalent throughout the city, which you can pretty much walk flat in just over an hour. Churches, houses, shops, pavement restaurants - all are painted in a flurry of colours as cars drive past on cobbled streets. 

ALSO WATCH: Diving a shipwreck in the Azores archipelago


5.  Buen Camino! The many roads that lead to Santiago de Compostela

The Camino de Santiago has become one of the most famous hikes and is certainly one of the most popular pilgrimage experiences in the world.

Irrespective of your age, background, creed or faith these ancient paths that lead to the phenomenal Santiago de Compostela Cathedral - where the remains of St James are said to be buried – have a special yet different meaning for each person who undertakes the journey.

If anything, it's personal. But why is the Camino so popular? Local bespoke travel planner Yolandi van der Wath of Tours to Israel & Beyond, confirmed that bookings from South Africa for the Camino have been increasing steadily. "It is the ultimate travel with a purpose experience. As with any other trip, the journey already starts at home with physical and mental planning. But when doing a Camino there is also the inner journey that awaits you, and for this you cannot plan. You can only go and receive."

WATCH: Mussels, tradition and wild beauty in Spain's Galicia


6. A long weekend in Swakopmund - the most German place in Africa  

Swakopmund might be one of the oddest towns in Namibia.

Strolling through its streets you might think instead of an African town you've stumbled into a wormhole that's transported you to Germany. Signs like 'bäckerei' and 'willkommen' are plastered everywhere, the bookshop is pretty much dedicated to the German language and you'll actually struggle to figure out who's a tourist and who's a local (the tan normally helps).

Beyond the language, cuisine and architectural styles also make sure that you never forget about Namibia's German colonial roots, although the streets named after prominent Namibians remind you of their own struggle for freedom. 

7. Welgevonden's Mhondoro, where elephants drink from this lodge's pool

Zebras munching on yellow blades, a wildebeest looking for a mate, warthogs out on a family stroll - all while never leaving the laziness of a wildlife lodge.

This is known as a 'sofa safari' - the idea that you don't have to don a wide-brimmed hat and some veld shoes to see wild animals. In some places, they come to you, and at Mhondoro Safari Lodge & Villa, they come with out-of-this-world photo opportunities.

You might have heard of them - this is the place where elephants drink from their salty swimming pools, making for one extra selfie. At just the right height for their thirsty trunks, the lodge and villa pools have become a favourite watering hole. Read more here.

8. Singapore Sling: Caught between a merlion and a sky garden 

Singapore is fascinating. And overwhelming. But mostly it’s exhilarating.  Coming from a country like South Africa where wild, open spaces form such a naturally broad part of daily life, it struck me front and centre how this city-country, smarting for space, is so future-focused in its architecture and design. 


At 50kms long and just 28kms wide, they are rising higher and higher in their buildings but are ever mindful of the need for eco-spaces, green spaces - to ensure the very well-being of its people. It's also the ultimate stop-over holiday destination - with its award-winning airport Changi specially designed for this sort of traveller.  Singapore Airlines' passengers who are in Singapore for 24+ hours are eligible for a Singapore Stopover Holiday (SSH), including a one-night hotel stay, round-trip airport transfers, complimentary rides on the SIA Hop-on Bus & free admission to 15 attractions. Book a “multi-city” trip and enjoy the best Singapore has to offer. 

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

9.  From Bled to the Soca Valley: Exploring all the blues and greens in Slovenia

Slovenia? Slovakia? No one really knows the difference between the two or where these countries even are, right? I went to Slovenia with an -enia because of the nature.

Slovenia is ‘Little Switzerland’ in a sense. Here, you won’t find chocolates or cuckoo-clocks aplenty, rather every hue of green and every hue of blue. It’s clean, quiet, is a wine and cheese producing country and it’s much cheaper spending a week here than it would be in Switzerland.   

But the Robertson Wine Valley, though home to some incredible big name brands like Graham Beck and Springfield wines and wine festivals like Wacky Wine, this area remains relatively untapped. 

A big shame, as it's home to some of the coolest people, who produce exceptional quality products like olive oil, lavender essential oils, wine, craft beer and more. Offering up 'micro-boutiques' situated in McGregor, Robertson and Bonnievale. The Wine Valley Safari is a safe, reliable and convenient means to fully breathe in and discover the Robertson Wine Valley in all its glory.

11. The jungles of the Seychelles, a window to a world long gone

Beautiful beaches and a chill island vibes, the Seychelles has an abundance of resorts and hotels to choose from for your next exotic holiday.  The first thing you'll notice after landing in Seychelles is that you're suddenly feeling a lot more relaxed from when you first stepped onto the plane.

Surrounded by jungle from a world long gone, the island destination was lucky enough to retain much of its natural splendour, with almost unreal beaches as its crown jewels. Air Seychelles has started flying their brand new A320neo, the first of its model to fly in Africa and the Indian Ocean. 

QUICK GUIDE TO SEYCHELLES: Visa-free for South Africans


12 . All the wanderlust filled roads that lead to Rome

 Italy is one of those destinations most people dream of visiting. Like Britain's London or France's Paris, all wanderlust-filled roads eventually lead you to Rome. From its fine Renaissance Heritage draw-cards to its sublime Amalfi Coast beaches, there is so much to check off the Italy bucket list.  Alitalia has also upped connectivity between SA and Europe, re-launching its Johannesburg to Rome route after initially cutting the long-haul service about 17 years ago.The flight is also key to the European summer season planning, with the point to point connectivity being a night flight – arriving in the morning in both OR Tambo and Rome Fiumicino Airport.

Added to that, the Italian Tourism Board is developing niche programmes for SA travellers, encouraging them to explore Italy beyond the main, popular cities such as Rome, Milan and Venice.  

READ: Quick Guide to Italy: Mamma Mia of your Italy trip planning sorted!

13. Go back in time by spending 48 hours in Montagu

Sitting on Route 62, is the small Western Cape town of Montagu.  It has a lot of charm, character and romance.

It is quiet, yet awake. Subtle, yet bold. Surrounded by the Langeberg mountain ranges, the town sits in this little nest Mother Nature has lovingly protected over the years. Kept secret, almost.  Now, many young families are moving into this old town, as new developments are popping up all over, like Piet Se Pad. 

Montagu is pretty with its historic and white-washed buildings and is clean (so clean and pristine!). Go for a coffee at one of the many spots dotted around town or visit the Saturday market for some friendly people are old school church bazaar-type handmade goods, like fudge. It's nostalgia all the way, baby. 

 14. Cruising from Durban to Pomene

Mozambique's Pomene - a peninsula that's quite difficult to get to via car, is used by MSC as one of their shore stops - making for a unique cruise experience for locals.  Pomene is as tropical as you expect it to be, with boundless options to keep you entertained. Spend the morning on the beach before the crowds take over, or opt for an excursion to the Pomene Hotel ruins just before lunch. You're only going to really have time for one excursion, so pick one that will excite you the most. If you want to spend time at the ruins - which are stunning - then rather take the transfer option than the quad bikes - on the latter they rush you through the ruins to get back for the next group. 

Pre-book as much as possible - that's the real art to saving money while on a cruise. The earlier you book, the bigger discounts you can get on drinks packages, spa treatments, private deck access and the various shore excursions. Don't think you'll just decide when you get there - the price is almost double on the ship and by the end of your cruise your going to lose all the stress-relief from your holiday as soon as you look at your US-dollar bill.

READ: MSC adds second ship to SA 2020/2021 cruise season - why this is great news for SA tourism

 15. Discovering the wonders of the Garden Route

There are a lot of nooks and crannies on the Garden Route that can sometimes go unnoticed by even the most seasoned visitor. Aloes overlooking rich sunsets, waves for the perfect surf, a storybook cave dwelling and the sweetest treats made by locals. 

Beautiful, interesting and slightly thrilling spots include Carmel Guest Farm, just outside of George overlooking Victoria Bay, this faith-based wellness retreat is geared towards introspection among the aloes and connecting with the universe. Victoria Bay itself is a surfer hotspot, a row of holiday homes available for rental tightly hugs the ocean and has a tiny beach and tidal pool for those who don't want to take on the waves.

16. For the luck of the Irish...  

Ireland is rich in lush natural beauty, runs deep with river veins and is dense with cathedrals galore.  Discover the history and architectural wonders that tell the story of the different Irish cities.

Get lost in breathtaking countryside towns that are more nature than concrete or find yourself in the bustling city of Dubling hopping between Cathedral tours and pubs and back.

Take to the streets with your feet and a map in hand and navigate your way around the quaint and quiet towns decked in niche cafes and stores.

Or tuck yourself away with a good book in one of the many city parks offering green havens amid the concrete centres.

SEE Ireland’s Top Insider Experiences

  17. Get swept away in super-city Sau Paulo

If you’re thinking about visiting South America in the near future – then Latin American airline LATAM's launch of the new Airbus 350 on the route between Johannesburg and Brazil is great news for you. Similarly, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil as well as Chile, Lima and Cuzco in Peru are firm favourites for South Africans too.   

Brazil as a visa-free destination, is a favourite for South African travellers. With most direct routes from OR Tambo International in Johannesburg touching down at its airport hub Guarulhos International Airport in the capital city of São Paulo - you'll find yourself with a day or two to explore this super city at one point or another. It's rough-around-edges appeal, with favela upon favela resembling what can best be described as the Western Cape suburbs of lower Wynberg or Hanover Park en masse - its most notable difference being that these low-income blocks of flats fall just short of being labelled skyscrapers, dotting the city's skyline as far as the eye can see and wander. With an estimated population of 12-million within its immediate city borderlines, strongly divided along economic social lines of north and south - the sprawling reason why is obvious.

Snapshot Brazil:  Day-tripping São Paulo's Mercado Municipal Market

 18. Blue Train travel: SA's icon sleeper train journey

Sure you can find cheaper alternatives, but the world’s most popular sleeper trains are an experience of note for a reason. Lavish food, decadent wine selections, all swirled together with cognac and some of Cuba's finest smoking pleasures - Traveller24 recently joined The Blue Train for a leg down from Pretoria to Cape Town - see our insta-stories from the journey here

With its fine wooden finishes and staff that set the standard for silver service, this window to Africa runs to a rhythm of a bygone era. Taking it slow comes naturally and enigmatic five-star hotel on train-tracks ensconces a lovely mix of local and foreigners on - but admittedly mostly foreigners from the likes of UK, Australia and of course the United States who pay top dollar for the trip. Can you imagine the experience is of such high esteem that even a third generation Blue Train traveller was on board - sharing how his grandparents and parents had done it in the 40s and 60s respectively.  

READ: The world's 12 most amazing train journeys

 19. The Bard, the Shard and Buckingham Palace

London is a frenetic city, dealing with its own Brexit woes. However, its appeal for South Africans remains as they visit family or friends, even with the murderous pound exchange rate.

In 2018 two key airlines Virgin Atlantic and British Airways improved connectivity to the iconic city. In October 2018, British Airways launched its three weekly flights from Durban to Heathrow, London - also improving its connectivity via OR Tambo in Johannesburg. Virgin Atlantic in turn added a second daily route via Johannesburg, operating its Boeing 787-9 aircraft and thereby adding an additional 188 000 seats between Johannesburg and London Heathrow.  

READ: London tops Tripadvisor's 2019 Best 25 Cities list: Where will you go next? 

20. The wild things of Shamwari

It might sound redundant: Wildlife is wild. That is kind of their 'thing'. But not all wildlife is equally as wild. 

Just 75km outside Port Elizabeth awaits a luxurious, malaria-free, wildlife experience like no other. Shamwari Game Reserve is one of the largest private conservation initiatives in Southern Africa. By staying here, you feed directly back into conservation. 

Home to five of South Africa's seven biomes, the landscape is bushy, almost forest-like. Plains and plains of green roll out before you as you strap-in and enjoy the, often bumpy, rollercoaster ride provided by the dipping hills of this rugged Eastern Cape terrain.    

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