South Africa offers an endless variety of wonderful experiences, so much so that it is almost impossible to come up with a list of the very best.
You can enjoy the sweet scent of a desert that amazingly turns into a colourful carpet of flowers in Spring, you can choose to see the big five in one of the world's most recognised national parks, or simply take a journey into a deeper understanding of the country and humankind through some of the country's heritage sites.
These iconic places include Robben Island, a former political prison that now stands as one of the key world heritage sites in South Africa; Table Mountain, home to some of South Africa's most breathtaking views; and the fossils-based World Heritage site, The Cradle of Humankind, which includes the Sterkfontein Caves. There are currently over 200 caves on sight, making it one of the best places in the world to discover human history.
There are vibrant cities and thrilling townships to give you a memorable South African urban experience, or there are blue flag beaches to chill out on, and some of the world's best 'super-tubes' to be surfed. South Africa boasts more than 3,000 kilometres of coastline, with pristine beaches, fishing communities, golf estates, and an unforgettable marine wonderland for you to explore.
For nature-based experiences, South Africa has few equals. The country boasts the third highest level of biodiversity in the world. In this country of amazement, you'll find the oldest meteor scar in the world, the Vredefort Dome, recently declared a World Heritage Site. The meteor plummeted to Earth nearly two billion years ago, predating the heady days of oxygen and multi-celled life!
About the size of Israel, the Kruger Park is the greatest of South Africa's many national parks. On guided walks, drives or self-drive, visitors have the best chance of spotting the Big Five (elephant, lion, leopard, rhino and buffalo) in this park.
A thousand kilometres of mountain majesty, the Drakensberg (Dragon Mountains) is the adventure tourist's playground. The exceptional natural beauty of its soaring basaltic buttresses and golden sandstone ramparts, make way for rolling high altitude grasslands, pristine steep-sided river valleys and rocky gorges. Full of game sanctuaries, Bushman rock art sites, challenging peaks and cascading waterfalls, the views in the Drakensberg will compete with anything the rest of the world has to offer.
The Greater St Lucia Wetland Park has both one of the largest estuary systems in Africa and the continent's southernmost coral reefs. In granting it World Heritage status in 1999, the World Heritage Committee noted the park's exceptional biodiversity, including some 521 bird species. Situated on the central Zululand coast of KwaZulu-Natal, the park is made up of 13 adjoining protected areas with a total size of 234,566 hectares. Its remarkable biodiversity is a result of the park's location between subtropical and tropical Africa.
Mapungubwe - "place of the stone of wisdom" - was South Africa's first kingdom, lasting for 400 years before it was abandoned in the 14th century. Its highly sophisticated people traded gold and ivory with China, India and Egypt. The site lies on the open savannah of the Mapungubwe National Park. A free-standing structure rising 30 metres above the surrounding grasslands, Mapungubwe is topped by impregnable cliffs all around.
Since its discovery in 1932 this Iron Age site has been excavated by the University of Pretoria. The remains in the Mapungubwe cultural landscape are a remarkably complete testimony to the growth and subsequent decline of the Mapungubwe state. What survives are the almost untouched remains of the palace sites and also the entire settlement area dependent upon them, as well as two earlier capital sites, the whole presenting an unrivalled picture of the development of social and political structures over some 400 years.
The Tugela Falls features the second highest waterfall in the world, where the water tumbles 850 metres, and the Blyde River Canyon is the third largest canyon in the world.
South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique are tearing down fences between the countries' game parks to create a 35,000 square kilometre game park which will become the largest conservation area in the world. And the country is ranked number one in the world for its floral kingdom.
You can choose to sift through unmatched cultural and wine routes or you can opt to learn a lot through the country's world heritage sites. You can watch whales doing acrobatics at the world's whale watching capital, or come up close and personal with the great white shark. Or simply take part in any of the endless adrenalin pumping adventure sports that are on offer - in the air, sea or on land.
But nothing beats actually meeting people. South Africa's many cultural villages offer a close-up insight into the country's traditional cultures. In the major centres, township tours - conducted with sensitivity and pride - will put you in touch with real South Africans and their history.
In the 2006 Reader's Travel Awards by UK magazine Conde Nast Traveller, South Africa's scenery scored 97.8% - the highest in the world - with the country being voted the world's fifth-best tourist destination. Memorable is the word you can use to fittingly describe any South Africa holiday experience and there are many reasons why.