Depending on where you’re travelling in Africa, it can sometimes be a struggle to find suitable accommodation – or any accommodation depending on how remote you are! – but you won’t find that problem in South Africa. From boutique boltholes and city slick hotels to luxury bush camps, this is not a country that’s short on fabulous places to stay. There’s also no shortage of exciting places to visit in South Africa and if you need any help deciding where you want to go then be sure to have a read of our country guide. If you know where to go but don’t know where to stay or you’re just looking for a little inspiration, read on for our guide to the best lodges in South Africa.
Marataba Mountain Lodge
We’ve talked about it a few times before and we really do love Waterberg for an off-the-beaten-track adventure. It’s easy to reach from Johannesburg, either by plane or car, and is a veritable wildlife gem packed with more animals than you can shake a stick at as well as incredible landscapes. Marataba Mountain Lodge will only heighten your experience. This chic eco-lodge houses just five suites complete with king-sized beds and floor to ceiling windows that make the most of those views. Add to that an absolute abundance of animal sightings including the always sought after Big Five (with both black and white rhino), cheetah, hyena and many, many more. Birders will also be in heaven with the myriad species found sweeping the skies above the lodges – not forgetting South Africa’s largest colony of endangered cape vultures. The beauty of this lodge is the way it seamlessly blends luxury design with the wilds that surround it – an unforgettable experience.
&Beyond Phinda Rock Lodge
Phinda Private Game Reserve is a 28,555-hectare safari wonderland set in the wilds of South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal. The reserve’s placement and its seven distinct ecosystems, ranging from lush and fertile marshlands to an arid and rare sand forest, means it has an incredibly diverse range of wildlife. Explore on game drives, walking safaris or by boat and spot everything from the Big Five and large game such as elephant and giraffe, to much smaller species such as bush babies and the red duiker. You’ll even have the chance to take night time turtle drives in the right season! There are only a handful of lodges in Phinda (excellent for ensuring no overcrowding of vehicles), and whilst we don’t like to play favourites, we do love the &Beyond Phinda Rock Lodge. Built high into a cliff face, with six chic suites offering unbeatable views across the bushveld, this is accommodation like you’ve never seen it before. As well as offering incredible views, each romantic suite also features a private plunge pool and outdoor shower. With designer decor, delicious cuisine, al fresco dining, bush banquets and a rooftop terrace for viewing stars, this is lodge is romance squared.
Easily one of the top stars of the Cape Winelands and the one we’re almost certain you’ll have heard of before, we absolutely couldn’t leave this off our list of best lodges in South Africa! Sitting between the famous towns of Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Paarl, Babylonstoren is like nowhere else in South Africa. No corner of this incredibly stylish wine farm has been overlooked, and every single detail has not only been thought of but executed to the highest level. Here you’ll find award-winning wine, farm to table dining like you’ve never seen before, undeniably chic farm cottages, a spa with an incredible list of relaxing and beautifying treatments, and gardens you could only dream of. We sound like we’re gushing (and we are) but we strongly urge you visit this dreamy spot if you’re in the area. Stay a night so you can enjoy more of that delicious wine, but if that’s not an option, there are still lots of activities to enjoy: take a tour of the gardens and learn about the produce and plants, eat in the casual (but beautiful) Greenhouse or the award-winning Babel, wander through the prickly pear maze or take a lie down in the chamomile meadow… like we said, dreamy.
If Babylonstoren is the Cape Winelands bells-and-whistles stop, La Cotte is the place to relax and escape the hubbub. With rooms that look as though they’ve jumped off the pages of Conde Nast Traveller and a choice of cottages to suit all types of travellers, we are absolutely in love with this spot. This Franschhoek bolthole has eight traditional ‘Forest’ cottages, perfect for families, and a selection of one, two and three bedroom ‘Orchard’ cottages that are style personified, each with its own private pool. If you’re travelling in a big group there’s also the unbelievably tasteful manor house. Here you can enjoy the beautiful French town of Franschhoek in your own time – wander down the hill and explore the shops, markets and restaurants or take a trip on the famous wine tram and sample some of the area’s famous vino! As well as being an excellent jumping-off point for the winelands, these beautiful cottages are the perfect place for those who just want to escape the world and hunker down. Spend long sunny days relaxing by the pool, try your hand at a traditional South African braai in your cottage and watch the sun set as you sip on some locally grown and produced wine, what could be better?
Emily Moon River Lodge
South Africa’s Garden Route is arguably one of the best known trips to take in the country. The coastal road from Mossel Bay to Plettenberg Bay (although you’ll likely start in Cape Town and we’d definitely recommend making a stop in Hermanus or the Overberg region to kick things off) is famous for a reason and its winding corners, incredible topography and ocean views rival any in the world. If you’re going to hire a car and take this road trip (which we strongly recommend you do!), then consider hanging your hat for a night or two at the quirky Emily Moon River Lodge. The 14 luxury suites and two family suites are decorated with beautiful pieces and rare artefacts from across the continent, meaning each is utterly unique. As well as its stunning suites, the lodge is also home to an excellent restaurant serving hearty breakfasts, lunches and dinners made from locally sourced produce and a bar that not only makes delicious pizzas but also offers an incredible sundowner spot overlooking the Bitou River.
Tintswalo Atlantic has long been one of our favourite Cape Town hotspots. Set just outside of the city in peaceful Hout Bay, this boutique hotel has it all. To get to this waterside wonder, you’ll travel all the way down a twisting, winding road until you’ll finally spot the secluded property, tucked well away from the world. Tintswalo has just ten boutique suites, all nudged along the pebbly beach, and with unparalleled privacy and views for days. It’s worth mentioning those views too, for not only do they offer an incredible mountain and sea vista, but they also face to the west meaning you’ll see an absolute stonker of a sunset each evening. As well as the beautifully appointed suites, Tintswalo also has a striking lounge and dining area where you can feast on delectable meals and enjoy a sundowner like no other on the deck. You’ll even find a private pool with plenty of sun loungers for heat-loving lizards to get their fill of vitamin D, whilst bibliophiles will always find a secret nook to settle down with their latest read. This is Cape Town luxury at it’s finest.
Londolozi Tree Camp
Onto the Kruger area now, South Africa’s oldest and most famous game reserve. We’ve talked a lot about our love for this spot and its incredible array of wildlife, and if you need any help with planning a Kruger safari then have a little read of the section in our South Africa Country Guide. Due to its huge size (it has a footprint equal to Switzerland!) it’s no surprise that there are myriad options when it comes to safari lodges and camps, so trying to pick our favourites has been hard. Saying that, you can’t go wrong with some of the excellent private game reserves such as Timbavati and Sabi Sands. And hidden within Sabi Sands you’ll find the wonderful Londolozi, itself a private game reserve (we know it can be a little confusing but stick with us) and one of our favourites in the region. It has just five lodges to choose from meaning you’ll enjoy the exquisite combination of both privacy and luxury. We love Londolozi’s Tree Camp. Set high above the ground with an expansive viewing deck overlooking the Sand River, the location is almost unbeatable. It’s also an excellent camp for families, which is sometimes a rarity in the luxury market.
Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel
Found just two hours north of Cape Town, the fishing village of Paternoster is an utter delight. This beach haven has made a name for itself in recent years by attracting some of the best restaurateurs in South Africa. If you’re a foodie then this seaside spot is the place for you, with everything from high-end dining to toes-in-the-sand casual. And if you’re visiting the area you might want to stay a night or two to sample a little bit of everything! The Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel is everything you’d picture when imagining a boutique seaside bolthole. Think whitewashed, windswept cottages, high ceilings, lounger spots for sunny days and warming fires for winter, rain showers and massive tubs… aka heaven! Add to that the property’s star location, just moments from the sand and the sweeping heathlands of wild fynbos, and this is just the place for your Paternoster foodie adventure.
Kwandwe Great Fish River Lodge
Kwandwe, Eastern Cape
Set in South Africa’s often unexplored Eastern Cape, Kwandwe Private Game Reserve is 22,000-hectares of safari perfection. Think Big Five safari spotting, pristine wilderness, sweeping river vistas, game drives, walking safaris and rhino conservation – truly something for everyone. Situated just outside of Port Elizabeth, it’s an excellent addition if you’re driving the Garden Route but you can easily connect via PE’s airport as well. And, as we said, we don’t love to play favourites (but sometimes you have to!) and Kwandwe Great Fish River Lodge makes it a slightly easier choice. Set high on the hills of Kwandwe, overlooking the magnificent river, this thatched lodge is exactly what your safari dreams are made of. The lodge perfectly blends a classic safari feel with modern luxuries: think squishy armchairs, roaring fires and shared dining to swap stories of your day’s adventure, paired with suites that feature their own viewing decks and plunge pools, the best of both worlds! If the accommodation wasn’t enough (and we really think it is) imagine a day spent out in the bush, tracking rhino on foot. Safari doesn’t get much better than that.
Pafuri Walking Trails
We’ve talked luxury lodges, we’ve told you about slick city boltholes, and now it’s time for something wild and wonderful. The Pafuri region is known to safari insiders as the creme de la creme of walking safaris in the Kruger and probably the whole of South Africa (you might say they Pafuri the area to anywhere else! Sorry, we couldn’t resist). This area is an incredible anomaly making up a tiny 1% of the total size of the Kruger but containing an astonishing 75% of the total biodiversity. So whilst there isn’t as much big game in this region (although there are large numbers of buffalo and elephant, with rare sightings of lion and leopard thrown in), it’s the perfect place to get back to nature and explore the bush on foot. Where do you stay in this nature rich spot? Well, that’s where Pafuri Walking Trails come in. Expect a real African adventure here – simple yet comfortable camping, bucket showers, evenings lit by kerosene lamps and, of course, daily walking adventures with expert guides. If you’re looking to get away from everything, this is your spot.