23 of the best places to see in South Africa

CNN  — 

The wonders of South Africa are nothing less than glorious – making it an ideal place to travel.

First there are the stunning natural areas:

Kruger National Park: If you dream of spotting Africa’s “Big Five” – lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and Cape buffalo – this is the place to go. But it’s also an excellent place for birding, too.

Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve: Less famous than Kruger, this reserve in the northeastern part of South Africa is nevertheless a stunning spot. It has a 33-kilometer gorge, abundant wildlife and dramatic landscapes.

Hermanus, Western Cape: It’s not just land animals that make South Africa so compelling. This beautiful location is where to go for whale watching.

And it’s not just the nature that draws in tourists. The history and man-made attractions are incredible, too:

Robben Island: This notorious prison island off the coast of Cape Town is where Nelson Mandela was held during the apartheid era. There’s no better place to understand where South Africa has been in contrast to the present and hopes for the future.

Bo-Kaap: This colorful Cape Town neighborhood is an ideal location for some urban exploration. Arrive here hungry – Bo-Kaap is known for its delicious Cape Malay cuisine.

Johannesburg: The legislative capital of the country, as well as its largest city, is no longer content to sit in Cape Town’s tourism shadow and is emerging as a travel destination in its own right.

And these are just the tip of the iceberg. Click through the photo gallery atop this story for a real eyeful of the best South Africa has to offer.

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