South Africa

Overview

Introduction

South Africa is an exciting place to visit. Cape Town, with its vibrant nightlife, stylish young people and beautiful surroundings, has become one of the most desirable destinations in the world. And the country's natural attractions are as appealing as ever: the green vineyards and rocky coast of the Cape; the arid landscape of the Karoo; the rich farmlands of the Free State and Mpumalanga; the snowcapped peaks of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg range; and the verdant hills and wide beaches of KwaZulu-Natal.

The country also has about 20 national parks and several hundred game and nature reserves, along with some of the finest safari lodges on the continent. Your surroundings can be as wild or as genteel as you want—or both.

Progress as a nation has been uneven, however, and huge inequities remain between rich and poor. Still, there has been much reconciliation among the people of South Africa—and, on the whole, a surprising lack of animosity between the many ethnicities and cultures.

Emblematic of South Africa's modern transformation from pariah nation to democratic statehood is Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent almost 20 years as a political prisoner, quarrying lime with pick and shovel, prior to his release and eventual emergence as the country's first democratically elected president. Now inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Robben Island is one of South Africa's most popular tourist attractions, and its transformation from dreaded prison to postapartheid icon typifies an astonishing process accompanied by painful setbacks as well as exhilarating victories.

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