How to travel abroad without leaving SA

Swim in Langebaan’s lagoon while imagining you’re in the Maldives, or channel the rush of New York City by taking in the bright lights of Sandton.

Whether you’re looking for astounding natural beauty, dazzling cities and once-in-a-lifetime cultural experiences, you can find all that and more at home.

“We’re incredibly lucky to live in SA. There are so many amazing experiences, all with a touch of international flair, available on our doorstep,” says Nicky Potgieter, Flight Centre’s Leisure Marketing Leader.

Here are Potgieter’s current favourites:

France in Franschhoek

Dreaming of sipping a delicious Bordeaux while admiring the endless French vineyard views? Say bonjour in Franschhoek. Founded by the Huguenots or French settlers, visitors can cycle through Franschhoek’s vineyards and enjoy wine tastings at the dizzying array of world-class wine estates.

A member of the prestigious Délice Network of Good Food Cities of the World, the only member in the whole of the southern hemisphere, Franschhoek is a real global foodie destination. A leisurely walk through the little town’s main street offers many opportunities to indulge.

Café Franschhoek is popular for a light lunch or breakfast. Seat yourself at one of the pavement tables, with a pain au chocolat or pop into Big Dog Café, on the main road just before you reach the town. They won the Best Café Design award at the Coffee Magazine Awards in Durban.

Locals also recommend Huguenot Fine Chocolates, a boutique chocolaterie on the main street.

English countryside in the Midlands

Misty tree-lined avenues, and rolling green hills dotted with grazing sheep. On KwaZulu-Natal’s Midlands Meander, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in the English countryside.

Take a seat next to the roaring fire in the Fordoun Hotel and Spa, and feast on a traditional English-inspired pub meal to complete the picture.

The Swiss Alps in the Drakensberg

Dreaming of a snowy white winter? “Head to the Drakensberg. Cathedral Peak Hotel offers the ultimate ‘ski resort in the Alps’ experience,” says Potgieter.

“Take a road trip through the green belly of the Natal Midlands and make your way to the Drakensberg for day hikes, sunset beers, and rounds of Rummikub and Uno by the open fire.

If you have time on your return to Durban, stop at the Nelson Mandela Capture site along the R103, in Howick and make a pitstop at Midmar Dam, the site of the epic annual Midmar Mile,” recommends Angie van der Hoogen, a freelance photographer from Durban.

Mediterranean beaches in Cape Town

From Boulder’s Beach to Camps Bay’s palm-lined sands, you’d be forgiven for mistaking these Cape Town favourites for those of Costa Rei in Italy, Navagio beach in Greece, or any other shoreline in Spain, Croatia or France.

“I have friends and family who love visiting Cape Town from September to November,” says German expat Danica Helfrich, who now calls Cape Town home.

“It’s shoulder season so there are fewer tourists, less queues and the spring weather is perfect. I’d recommend Beta Beach in Bakoven for a quieter and even more stunning Clifton Beach-type experience, and the Roundhouse Café in Camps Bay for its incredible sea views,” suggests Helfrich.

The Thai rainforest in Knysna

Knysna’s forest in the picturesque Garden Route is SA’s answer to Thailand’s rainforests. Nature beckons with numerous walking and hiking trails covering over 600 square kilometres from George to Tsitsikamma.

Once home to over a thousand elephants, it is believed only five remain today, based on photo evidence captured in 2016. You could just get lucky! The forest is also home to many other shy and rare creatures, such as leopards and honey badgers, all accompanied by the call of the prized Knysna loerie.

Knysna and its surrounds are perfect for local tourists,” says Hanlie De Villiers, Sales & Marketing Manager at the Pezula Hotel. “There are several hiking trails, but I always recommend the 3.5km hike to the Drupkelders Rock Pools, where you can take a dip in the pools or splash under the beautiful waterfall.”

The Pezula Hotel, with its breathtaking views over the lagoon and Indian Ocean could very well be a swanky clifftop Thai resort,” says Potgieter.

That’s just the very tip of the iceberg. Hop on the Gautrain instead of the Singapore metro. Admire the European architecture and cobbled pedestrian squares along Cape Town’s St George’s Mall. Swim in Langebaan’s lagoon while imagining you’re in the Maldives. Channel the rush of New York City by taking in the bright lights of Sandton. All of this is right on your doorstep.

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