My five favourite South African scenic drives

Posted by Theresa Lozier on 22 June 2011

Few things in life bring to mind such idyllic thoughts of freedom than the road trip: driving through wide open spaces, the wind in your hair and the thought that you can go just about anywhere. Most visitors to South Africa have heard of the Garden Route, but with its stunning natural landscape, impressive rock formations and deep gorges, South Africa has even more to offer. Try one of these scenic drives on for size and you’re guaranteed a view you’ll remember for a lifetime.

Camps Bay to Chapman’s Peak, Cape Town

Begin your journey just five minutes from the City Bowl. The well-maintained road descends into the arms of famed Camps Bay, framed on your left by the Twelve Apostles, and on your right by the sea. The road hugs the mountains and meanders south through Hout Bay, culminating in Chapman’s Peak Drive, where dramatic rust-coloured cliff faces extend upward from the crashing sea.

Sani Pass, Drakensberg

This drive is not for the faint of heart, the novice driver, or the average rental car. The landscape is stark, the road is unpaved and potholed, and don’t even think about the state of the guardrail (there isn’t one). One treacherous hairpin curve after another, this adventure road climbs up into the clouds until you reach the mountain kingdom of Lesotho where you’ll want to calm your nerves with a drink at the highest pub in Africa.

Swartberg Pass, Klein Karoo

Between Oudsthoorn‘s Cango Caves and Prince Albert, this unpaved road tip toes along the mountain’s edge, offering sweeping views of the shrubby Karoo landscape far below, a gentle welcome before it takes you on a journey of secrets, bobbing and weaving its way through canyon rockwalls as old as fossils, giant proteas that flower pink and yellow in season, and endless varieties of the fynbos so unique to South Africa.

Route 62, Western Cape

Rolling vineyards, tidy farmhouses and quaint country villages give way to the dry openness of the Karoo between Ashton and Oudsthoorn on this scenic alternative to the N2, dubbed the longest wine route in the world. On a summer’s day the heat along this route rises in shimmering waves – if it’s too much, take one of the many roads heading south towards the sea where you might be lucky enough to find a cooling waterfall bursting from the craggy mountain face.

Seweweekspoort, Klein Karoo

The lines in the jagged rock walls that line either side of this narrow road reveal the crushing tectonic power that formed them – vertical lines slope to horizontal and back again. Hues of red, orange and yellow blanket the space. In the quiet of centuries passed, one can’t help but think back to the days of pioneers, when this keyhole through the seeming impenetrable mountains provided a merciful escape from the hardships of the interior.

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