The American rock band Toto may have had a hit song describing the rains in Africa but imagine their enthusiasm had they stayed for the brilliantly calm, crisp setting that generally follows a downpour in our part of the world. Carefully planning winter holidays – including your wardrobe – around the weather can be extremely rewarding, especially if you have access to these spectacular views.
Lion’s Head – Cape Town
While Table Mountain generally enjoys both more screen time and visitors throughout the year, the broadly more accessible Lion’s Head that flanks this natural wonder is also noteworthy in terms of its unique sense of occasion. With its peak some 670 metres above sea level, Lion’s Head offers visitors blessed with even a degree of fitness, a slow and steady ascent to a 360-degree viewpoint of the Mother City. With no entry fee, this view is especially popular ahead of a spectacular sunrise or sunset – the walk back down generally manageable while using a head torch. Be aware that this peak can get especially busy ahead of a full moon.
Valley of Desolation – Eastern Cape
Sited 14 kilometres outside the picture postcard town of Graaff-Reinet, visitors to the Valley of Desolation are treated to spectacular views of the Camdeboo National Park, a diverse selection of fauna and flora and the dramatic sight of Dolerite rock formations forged by 100 million years’ worth of volcanic and erosive forces.
Accessible by car, this attraction also offers hikers the option of several well-marked routes, including the option to overnight.
Sani Pass – KZN
A touch more planning might be required – both in terms of weather and travel arrangements – before you can enjoy the spectacular views from one of the highest points in South Africa, but the rewards speak for themselves. Generally, only accessible with an all-wheel drive vehicle, the Sani Pass is a 9-kilometre-long stretch of untarred road that links the village of Himeville in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province with Mokhotlong in Lesotho. At its peak some 2 800 metres above sea level, visitors are offered an uninterrupted view of the Drakensberg escarpment.
Plan to spend time at the Sani Mountain Lodge, home to the highest pub in Africa.
God’s Window – Mpumalanga
Offering panoramic views over the surrounding Blyde River Canyon and Lowveld valleys some 900 metres below, God’s Window is an amply named tourist attraction situated outside of Graskop in the province of Mpumalanga. Time your visit to this part of the world to coincide with its wettest month (January) and the reward is the added attraction of several massive waterfalls.
A popular detour for many visitors en route to the Kruger National Park, this area of the country is also known for its diverse flora and fauna, best enjoyed via several hiking trail options.
Cape Point – Western Cape
The southernmost point on the Cape Peninsula, while the always turbulent sea conditions and often gusty winds might indeed suggest this is the point at which the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, the fact this happens closer to Cape Agulhas doesn’t detract from the dramatic scenery surrounding Cape Point. One of the most visited tourist sites in South Africa, the national park in which this attraction is located is home to more than 260 recorded species of birdlife, including Ostriches who prefer to walk.
Sharing the view over the sea are two lighthouses, the oldest of which dates to the 1850s. The still functioning new lighthouse has a beam that stretches up to 60 km in each direction, alerting sea-going vessels of the treacherous coastline below. A winter’s day visit only adds to this drama.