A Top 10 List of Southern Africa's Best Destinations

From tawny savannah plains to white sand beaches and snow-dusted mountains, Southern Africa is a place of a thousand different landscapes. Its people are just as diverse, and new experiences wait around every corner. Come face to face with exotic wildlife whilst on safari in the Okavango Delta or in Kruger National Park, or swim in the warm waters of Mozambique's tropical Quirimbas Archipelago. Victoria Falls is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, while Cape Town is famous for its award-winning vineyards and gourmet restaurants. Discover the region's top 10 highlights below. 

  • 01 of 10

    Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Zambia

    A Top 10 List of Southern Africa's Best Destinations
    ••• Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Zambia. Rob Verhoeven & Alessandra Magni/ Getty Images

    Known locally as Mosi-oa-Tunya, or The Smoke That Thunders, Victoria Falls is the largest waterfall in the world in terms of volume. During the rainy season, over 500 million liters of water plummet over the edge of the precipice. Located on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, the falls are best viewed from the air, or from one of the viewpoints strategically placed on the edge of the Zambezi River gorge. Here, the spray from the falls is so impressive that you'll find yourself soaked to the skin in seconds.

  • 02 of 10

    South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

    A Top 10 List of Southern Africa's Best Destinations
    ••• South Luangwa National Park, Zambia. Marco Pozzi Photographer/ Getty Images

    Famous for its walking safaris, Zambia's South Luangwa National Park allows you to immerse yourself in the wonder of the African bush. Keep an eye out for a plethora of wild animal species (60 in total) - including large prides of lion, herds of elephant and solitary, enigmatic leopards. Life in South Luangwa revolves around the water, and the Luangwa River is full of hippos, crocodiles and colorful waterbirds. Birding is especially rewarding here, with over 400 avian species recorded within the park's boundaries.

  • 03 of 10

    Cape Town, South Africa

    A Top 10 List of Southern Africa's Best Destinations
    ••• Cape Town, South Africa. Grant Duncan Smith/ Getty Images

    Nestled at the foot of South Africa's iconic Table Mountain, Cape Town is arguably the most beautiful city in the world. The surrounding area boasts serene vineyards, spectacular beaches and soaring mountains. In the city center, culture is king. Discover world-class restaurants and designer shopping malls interspersed with rustic markets and fascinating museums. Cape Town is also full of historic sights - including District Six, Bo-Kaap and Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent most of his incarceration. 

  • 04 of 10

    Chobe National Park, Botswana

    A Top 10 List of Southern Africa's Best Destinations
    ••• Chobe National Park, Botswana. Williececogo/ Getty Images

    Located in northern BotswanaChobe National Park is home to one of Africa's highest concentrations of wildlife, including all of the Big Five. In particular, the park is famous for its elephant population, believed to be one of the largest in the world. The centerpoint of the game reserve is the Chobe River. Here, animals gather in their hundreds to drink, play and in some cases, hunt. A river safari is a rewarding and uniquely special experience, giving you the opportunity to look out for the park's abundant birdlife as well.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

    A Top 10 List of Southern Africa's Best Destinations
    ••• Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique. Paul Miles/ Getty Images

    If you're looking for the ultimate beach vacation, look no further than Mozambique's remote Quirimbas Archipelago. Comprising 32 coral islands strung out along the country's northern coast, the archipelago is a paradise filled with white sand beaches, slender palms and turquoise waters. Beneath the waves, teeming reefs await - making this a popular destination for snorkelers, scuba divers and deep-sea fishermen. Ibo Island is also known for its crumbling yet magnificent colonial architecture. 

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    Okavango Delta, Botswana

    A Top 10 List of Southern Africa's Best Destinations
    ••• Okavango Delta, Botswana. Kelly Cheng Travel Photography/ Getty Images

    With its water levels dictated by the annual flooding of the Okavango River, the Okavango Delta is a very special habitat with a staggering array of animal and birdlife. The best time to visit is from May to September, when the Delta's wildlife is confined to small islands created by the rising floodwaters. This aquatic landscape allows you to explore via mokoro, a traditional canoe; or on foot. There are several luxury lodges in the Okavango Delta, but for a truly memorable experience, arrange to spend at least one night under canvas.

  • 07 of 10

    Lake Malawi, Malawi

    A Top 10 List of Southern Africa's Best Destinations
    ••• Lake Malawi, Malawi. Michael Runkel / robertharding/ Getty Images

    The third largest lake in Africa, Lake Malawi accounts for almost a third of Malawi's total area. A stunningly beautiful freshwater lake, it's so vast that at times standing on the shore can feel like standing on the edge of the ocean. Expect golden beaches, rustic fishing villages and a plethora of watersports. These include powerboat cruises, sailing, kayaking, swimming and scuba diving. If you do decide to take the plunge, keep an eye out for Lake Malawi's beautiful cichlid fish. There are at least 700 species living here, of which all but four are endemic.

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    The Wild Coast, South Africa

    A Top 10 List of Southern Africa's Best Destinations
    ••• Wild Coast, South Africa. Jessica Macdonald

    Also known as the Transkei, the Wild Coast is a stretch of ruggedly beautiful, untamed coastline in South Africa's Eastern Cape province. With plunging cliffs, big waves and breathtaking abandoned beaches, it is the ultimate place to reconnect with nature. Predictably, it's a hotspot for rock and surf fishing, hiking and surfing. The Transkei is also the homeland of the Xhosa people, whose pastel-colored rondavels perch on the hillsides above the beach. In the north, Port St. Johns is considered the best jumping-off point for the annual Sardine Run.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Sossusvlei, Namibia

    A Top 10 List of Southern Africa's Best Destinations
    ••• Sossusvlei, Namibia. José Gieskes Fotografie/ Getty Images

    Part of the ancient Namib Desert, the Sossusvlei dune sea is a fantasy landscape of soaring sand peaks framed against the deep blue desert sky. Stay within the park's borders at Sesriem Campsite in order to gain early access to the dunes. Climb iconic Dune 45 in the dark, and experience the spectacle of sunrise from its summit. Sossusvlei is a hiker's paradise, and a dream for photographers. Ancient oasis Deadvlei is particularly atmospheric, with a basin of cracked white clay pierced by fossilized tree trunks and framed by red sand dunes. 

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    Kruger National Park, South Africa

    A Top 10 List of Southern Africa's Best Destinations
    ••• Kruger National Park, South Africa. Thomas Retterath/ Getty Images

    Situated on the Mozambique border in northeast South Africa, Kruger National Park is a place of superlatives. It's the oldest, largest and best known of the country's game reserves. It's also one of the best places in Africa to look for the Big Five - including rhino, elephant, leopard, lion and buffalo. There are a range of accommodation options available, and well-maintained roads offer you the freedom of a self-drive safari if you so wish. Night drives are also possible, allowing you to experience the thrill of life after dark in the wilds of Africa.