Get ready for autumn with SA escapes to mountains, the Karoo and everywhere else that's cooling down

As the sunny days get cooler and the leaves start shedding their greenery, autumn's the season to head inland where it's not too hot and not too cold.

This is the time to traverse South Africa's mountains, taste some wine, enjoy cooler weather in the Karoo, Northern Cape and Free State and experience the start of great diving off the coast of KwaZulu-Natal.

This is when you let go of the old and marvel in the beauty of time passing - and this selection of itineraries and guides will help you figure out where you want to watch the leaves turn from green into the colours of sunset. 

READ: From Cape Town to the Sunshine Coast: Press refresh in these cool local summer escapes 

Be seduced by the isolation and golden beauty of Die Hel 

Nature is the perfect balm for when you want to retreat into yourself, and despite its ominous name, a road trip to Die Hel in Swartberg Nature Reserve is just what the universe ordered. 

The deeper you drive into the mountains, the more awe-struck you become. It was springtime, and patches of snow were still visible from a recent snowfall, but it was clear the fynbos was thriving with the extra water. Besides the stunning vistas of gorges and golden-hued mountains, the biodiversity is another mind-blowing experience.

Scenic panorama of gamkaskloof

3 days in the deep Karoo: Where a canoe trip is rewarded with lamb 'tjoppies'

The N1 stretches across the beige, then brown, then green landscape in a straight, almost never-ending straight line. Arid in parts, warm in most, and friendly in all, the Karoo is far from big cities, but close to home. 

There is something about slowly trekking your way up to the deep Karoo. From billionaire's mile in De Doorns' grape country, where money almost-literally grows on vines, to the historic, one-street town of Matjiesfontein, where you stop for a mandatory stoep coffee at the Lord Milner before continuing on to Beaufort West and the Three Sisters Shell Garage to buy a refreshing coke. 

Karoo

Barrydale: Hit pause in this Klein Karoo dorpie before taking on the Garden Route 

It's a town people tend to pass through on their way to the Garden Route. But by only stopping for a milkshake or a quick bite to eat, you miss the essence of this wonderful place. 

Barrydale is a small dorpie, located on the border of the Overberg and Klein Karoo regions of the Western Cape. And it is as klein dorpie as it gets!

A short escape to the Klein Karoo where cheetahs roam

The Western Cape isn't exactly a premier wildlife destination, focused more on its natural landscapes, marine life and coastal activities to entice visitors. 

But just under a three-hour drive from Cape Town you'll hit the Klein Karoo, and with it the Inverdoorn Private Game Reserve.

At first it seems a little unassuming, turning off into the middle of nowhere down a dusty road typical in this region. But instead of your typical game lodge with the flamboyant African decor, Inverdoorn instead opted for something a little more Karoo chic.

Cheetah

SA wine itineraries to help you drink your way through 2020 

New decade, new me.

But we all know you'll still be you - the one who loves to end the day with a glass - or bottle - of wine. There's always been something about that grapey, fermented bliss that helps melt the world away.

And autumn is just after harvest season, which means you can be the first to try the industry's newest batch of wines.So why not take your wine-nose on the road (but not in hand while driving) with a long weekend to the gorgeous but varying vineyards of South Africa. 

wine tasting overlooking platteland

Tour de Braai: A 5-day gravel ride from George to Swellendam 

If there's one way to enjoy proudly South African food while cycling through some of the most iconic passes in the country, it's with Jan Braai's Tour de Braai.

If you're a keen cyclist then this event should be on your travel-bucket list as riders get the opportunity to tackle iconic passes such as Montagu Pass and Rooiberg Pass. Then spend the nights soaking in luxury at accommodation spots in Oudtshoorn, Calitzdorp, Rooiberg Lodge, Riversdale and Swellendam.

A rare rainy day in Worcester 

When it rains in Worcester, everyone will tell you how often it doesn't rain.

Known for its 30-degrees-plus weather that births wine from the sun's warm embrace and dry soil, it took everyone by surprise when the heavens opened up on a tour through its winding mountains and valleys.  

view of the dam from mountain

Cheese, bougainvillea and slow living in the Great Karoo 

Hedonism is a dish best served in Prince Albert.

Quiet views of the Swartberg Mountains, a local dairy that makes mouthwatering cheese - complete with cheese cellars- and a picturesque Main Road where t he smell of Karoo lamb is commonplace. 

A beautiful dorpie escape!

Karoo

A giant's playground in the Cederberg 

If your heart needs to be quiet - just for a little while - the Cederberg offers a calming respite within the Cape Floral Kingdom. 

It's a landscape that feels like it belongs on another planet, and that at any moment you just might start running out of oxygen. But what runs out instead is life's baggage, deflating away into cool rivers, dances in the dust, pink proteas and ancient trees fighting against its own extinction. 

rieldans group from elizabethfontein primary schoo

A guide to the Kalahari Red Dune Route

While the Northern Cape is the biggest province in South Africa, we make no bones about the fact that it certainly isn't the lushest. However, it's road-trip appeal lies in the unique, almost alien-like landscapes that stretches on for miles towards the northern expanse of this extraordinary African continent.

Beginning in The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, it showcases the Kalahari through a wide range of activities including desert walks, dune-boarding, 4x4 trailing for the adventurous, game drives, guided walks, birding expeditions and other eco-inclined activities for nature-lovers.

Legends and folklore on the 4x4 Shipwreck Trail sitting on the Diamond Coast, Northern Cape 

Take on the open road. Discover misty seaports and mining legends. Dance with the daisies. Feast with the First People. Shield your eyes and get out into the vast desert sands. The Northern Cape has much to offer travellers. This is about one of the most unique experiences - a 4x4 Shipwreck Trail on the Diamond Coast. 

Through the years, the stormy Atlantic Ocean has often been an obstacle, preventing many ocean-going vessels from completing their voyages and sending them to a watery grave on the coastline between the Koingnaas and Kleinzee.

kleinzee, car, vintage, northern cape, namaqualand

Drakensberg to the Elephant Coast - The long and short of KZN road trips 

Durban is one of South Africa’s top destinations for a number of reasons. It’s got it all – from scenic coastlines and wild nature, to rich culture and delicious food.

During the peak holiday periods the crowds can be a bit overwhelming, so plan your escape and check out these exciting and fun road trips out of the city.  

Drakensberg

AfriCamps is opening its first KZN glamping spot - and wow! 

AfriCamps has just announced that it's opening its 9th glamp in South Africa, and this one will be in the beautiful Kwazulu-Natal Midlands.

Want to be close to nature but not compromise on comfort? Tourists around the world are increasingly opting for glamping getaways, and AfriCamps offers fully equipped luxury canvas tents in spectacular nature spots.

glamping

Chasing shade in the Drakensberg - wining, dining and ziplining 

Kwazulu-Natal is known for its greenery. However, it starts getting drier in autumn, and brags with late afternoon pink sunsets instead.

But the Northern Drakensberg’s Champagne Valley is not known for its bubbly wine. It is a hub of activity. Quite literally.  

The ‘berg’ is the ideal place to throw some shade in the cooler months – especially for Capetonians wanting a quarter-year break to a SA destination that is awkwardly similar to the Mother City (mountains, wine, craft beer, hiking) – only in the 'berg' it’s much drier and warmer from sun-up to sun-down.  

Drakensberg

Learning to swim like a fish in Sodwana Bay: What you should know about doing your PADI certification 

One of the best times of the year to dive along the KZN coast is in Autumn through winter, when visibility is at its best. 

And not only one of the best diving spots in the country, Sodwana Bay in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park also tops the world rankings. 

If you don't have your PADI certification yet, combine the course with a cool holiday in KZN when the humidity won't destroy you as much as in summer. 

Diving equipment next to a pool

From fishing in Kroonstad to bird-watching in Bloem, discover the hidden gems of the Free-State 

If you have heard of the Gariep Dam, South Africa's engineering masterpiece then you have some idea about the Free State and what it has to offer.

From small charming towns to fields filled with flowers, Free State is a traveler's dream location.

Discover a variety of unique experiences exclusive to the Free State province.

Isolated spots in SA's mountains for when you feel like being a hermit 

Sometimes all you want to do is pack up everything, leave the city lights behind and become some mountain hermit that occasionally shouts at hikers.

That fantasy becomes especially more clear in the mind whenever you get gridlocked in Cape Town or Johannesburg traffic, and when the internet goes down on Mondays.

Luckily, South Africa has an abundance of mountainous escapes where you could pretend you're a hermit - if only for a few days. 

fynbos and mountains

(Photos: Traveller24)

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