10 underrated small towns and villages in South Africa

Posted on 23 January 2024 By Jordyn Johnson

South Africa is peppered with beautiful towns so we asked our readers for their favorite underrated small towns and villages. Narrowing the suggestions down to just 10 proved challenging.

Main roads are lined with quaint coffee shops, people walking home with shopping bags, and streets where cars drive slowly. That small-town magic pulls on many a heartstring.

1. Kleinmond, Western Cape

South Africa's underrated towns

Picture: Aaron Yun

Between the mountains and the ocean sits the beautiful town of Kleinmond. There are multiple hiking trails that take you through the mountains, or the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve with views that will take your breath away. The swimming beach is nearby, as well as a small promenade that runs along the beach.

Visit Harbour Road for any retail therapy you may need, or grab a delicious bite to eat from one of the roadside artisanal coffee shops or restaurants. Search for the wild horses in the Rooisand Nature Reserve, visit the penguins in Betty’s Bay, or for a slow scenic trip along Clarence Drive.

2. Underberg, KwaZulu-Natal

Picture: Daniel Way from Unsplash

Beneath the uKahlamba-Drakensberg mountain range, you will find the quaint farm town, Underberg. The town has several grocery stores, hardware shops, a butchery, and restaurants among other things. The roads are dusty and visited often by people from neighbouring farms and small holdings.

Nearby, the Mzimkhulu River runs and is perfect for fly-fishing, swimming, canoeing, and tubing. Go for hikes, have a look at the rock art sites, or even brave the Sani Pass and have a drink at the highest pub in Africa. The Himeville Nature Reserve and the Swamp Nature Reserve are perfect for nature lovers, and the Khotso Horse Trails ride out every day at 9 am.

3. Bedford, Eastern Cape

Picture: Suzi-kate – Wikimedia Commons

Bedford is famous for its Country Gardens Festival, held in October/November each year. Big gardens, tree-lined streets, and the South African Rosarium (national collection of old roses) make this village a gardener’s playground.

However, this historic village offers even more than that. There are spectacular views of the Kaggaberg Mountain, as well as farms that cover the grasslands right into the Mankazana, Cowie, and Baviaans River valleys. Activities include bird-watching, hiking, cycling, fishing, golf, and so much more. Be sure to try something tasty at the beloved Deli or De Oude Fabreek.

4. Parys, Free State

South Africa's underrated towns

Parys is the perfect weekend destination with a small-town farm atmosphere, open spaces, and starry night skies. Situated within the Vredefort Dome (the world’s biggest meteorite impact site), and along a beautiful section of the Vaal River, Parys is the ideal getaway.

READ: 6 things to do in Parys, the Free State’s adventure capital

If you’re not in the business of lazing around on your weekends, there are lots of activities on offer. Spend time fishing in the river, or try out river rafting. You can do mountain biking, golfing, take a heritage tour, or visit one of the nearby game reserves. Definitely indulge in a delicious meal at one of the coffee shops or restaurants around town.

5. Haenertsberg, Limpopo

Picture: Mia Louw

This dainty village is perched on the slopes of the Wolkberg and Drakensberg mountains, also known as the Great Escarpment, in Limpopo. Due to its high rainfall levels, this town harbours some of the country’s most stunning indigenous grasslands and forests. With one main street, only about 350 families live here.

READ: Any excuse for a festival in Haenertsburg

For adventure seekers, it is the perfect spot to visit. The nearby George’s Valley will leave you spoilt for choice, offering everything from abseiling and rock climbing, to tubing and hiking. The Magoebaskloof Canopy Tour is another perfect way to enjoy the beautiful wilderness of Haenertsburg. Situated in a location untouched by urbanisation and home to many animals, you can expect to glide through peaceful forests and past misty waterfalls.

6. Dullstroom, Mpumalanga

South Africa's underrated towns

Nestled in the Mpumalanga Highlands, Dullstroom is a charming town conveniently situated halfway to the Kruger National Park. At an altitude of 2100 meters above sea level, it is the highest village in South Africa which makes it a popular training spot in summer for top European Athletes.

READ: Dullstroom: Life on High

If you love to cast a rod, its crystal-clear dams are perfect for trout fishing. If you are more of a golfer, then you can play a few holes on the Ernie Els-designed championship golf course. There are also plenty of cultural experiences to enjoy such as delicious restaurants, coffee shops, and even a world-renowned whiskey bar.

7. Victoria West, Northern Cape

Picture: Peter Frost

Victoria West sits between two typical Karoo koppies and holds a variety of traditions and history. It was bought by the Dutch Reformed Church in 1843, and named Victoria in 1844 after the British queen. ‘West’ was later added to show the difference between this town and an Eastern Cape district.

The traditional old buildings and churches will charm you, and you can learn more about the town through a guided tour. The Apollo Theatre is a declared heritage site and regularly hosts film festivals. Visit the regional museum and gunpowder magazine to immerse yourself in some South African history. There are also several charming cafes and restaurants, as well as multiple hiking trails to take advantage of.

8. Stanford, Western Cape

South Africa's underrated towns

Picture: Peter Frost

Stanford was built below the Klein River mountains in the Overberg and resides alongside the Klein River. It historically dates back to 1707, and it’s certainly retained its old town charm. The streets are lined with trees and quaint Victorian buildings. The original market square is still there, as well as the village green where children play cricket on weekends.

Spend your time in Stanford wine tasting at the surrounding wine farms, take a guided tour at the big cat sanctuary, Panthera Africa, or take a leisurely river cruise. There are also mountain biking and hiking trails that lead to old cave paintings, and twitchers will love the abundant birdlife.

READ: Stanford – the quintessential weekend guide

9. Kei Mouth, Eastern Cape

South Africa's underrated towns

Picture: Hassan Amra from Unsplash

Kei Mouth is a seaside village and the southern entry point to the Transkei. The rugged coastline and warm Indian ocean make this the perfect summer holiday spot. If swimming in the ocean isn’t what you’re after, has a lot more to offer. There are fishing spots, horse riding companies, township tours, hiking trails, birding spots, and a game reserve close to the village.

There are five restaurants to suit any tastebud, and the Country Club boasts a golf course and squash courts among other things. The ‘Pont’ in Kei Mouth is only one of three that are left in the country, and taking the pont (a very small ferry), along with vehicles and livestock, across the Great Kei is a truly unique experience.

10. Kaapsehoop, Mpumulanga

South Africa's underrated towns

Picture: Jordyn Johnson

The misty town of Kaapsehoop is set high above The Cape Valley in Mpumalanga. Established during the gold rush and famous for its wild horses that roam about of their own accord, Kaapsehoop holds a rich history that can be felt as you walk past old homes and views that go on forever.

Kaapsehoop offers various hiking trails that can take you through forests, to the Battery Creek Falls, or up to the escarpment where you feel like you’re on top of the world. Have a picnic in the pear orchard, go on a Scootour, or visit one of the restaurants that line up at the entrance of the town. Don’t forget to take a trip out to Kay’s Cafe about a 10-minute drive outside of town, where you can enjoy meals made from ingredients from their garden.

Pictures: Getaway gallery

ALSO READ: 10 Coffee Shops in Johannesburg to visit in 2023

Follow us on social media for more travel news, inspiration, and guides. You can also tag us to be featured. 

TikTok | Instagram Facebook Twitter

yoast-primary - 1015476
tcat - Dorps
tcat_slug - dorps
tcat2 - Dorps
tcat2_slug - dorps
tcat_final -