Sporty, stylish, stunning, sociable… If Cape Town was a person, it would be that Hollywood starlet we all secretly envy. The Mother City is unlike any other destination in Africa: Separated from the rest of the continent by a ring of mountains, Cape Town stands as a glittering, metropolis juxtaposed with one of the world's most breathtaking natural landscapes. But good looks aren't the only thing Cape Town has going for it. You'll fall in love with this city's khaki-colored beaches, rolling vineyards, sizzling cuisine, thriving nightlife, and, of course, the spectacular Table Mountain. It may have taken an international soccer tournament to catch the world's attention, but since Cape Town took the global stage, no amount of buzzing vuvuzelas can drown out its magnificence.
Urban, diverse and full of energy, Johannesburg is the quintessential city. With 11 national languages – all of which are spoken in Jo'burg – as well as a thriving economy based off the area's gold deposits, it's no wonder why South Africa's largest city also holds the distinction of being the world's largest city not located beside a river, lake or coastline. But Jozi hasn't always had such a praiseworthy reputation. A political and often violent hotbed during the country's notorious apartheid era (from the late 1940s through the mid-1990s), Johannesburg suffered from racial segregation until apartheid's end in 1994. However, out of this period of inequality rose important political figures, including Robert Sobukwe (the founder of one of South Africa's opposition political parties, the Pan Africanist Congress), Walter Sisulu (a prominent African National Congress politician held for more than two decades at Robben Island) and Nelson "Madiba" Mandela (South Africa's most recognized anti-apartheid leader who eventually became the country's first black president). Another revolutionary leader, Mohandas Gandhi, also got his start as an activist in Johannesburg while working in the city as a lawyer.
Situated roughly 260 miles northeast of Johannesburg, the nearly 5 million-acre Kruger National Park offers some of the best access to wild animals in Africa. The Big Five – buffalo, elephants, leopards, lions and rhinos – all reside here, as well as Nile crocodiles, hippos and rare birds like southern ground-hornbills and lappet-faced vultures. But this sprawling wildlife sanctuary is home to more than just animals. Giant baobab, fever and marula trees tower above the park's savanna, thornveld and woodland landscape. What's more, Kruger's Marula and Nxanatseni regions house the Albasini and Masorini ruins, where Portuguese colonists and members of the indigenous Ba-Phalaborwa ethnic group once traded metal products, beads, clothes and more.