The ultimate 2024 travel guide for South Africans

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Wanderlust is calling as 2024 travel trends tempt the intrepid to indulge their bucket lists. Many South Africans are strategising how to access coveted destinations without breaking the bank. The solution? Swap far-flung hotspots for alternatives that still capture the spirit of trending travel styles yet are closer to home.

“By aligning global interests with regional opportunities, destinations, and similar trends, local jet-setters can still satisfy their curiosity,” says Antoinette Turner, General Manager for Flight Centre South Africa.

Music festivals tap into community connection

The surge in travel searches linked to major music events shows that music concerts and festivals are increasing as a draw-card to destinations. Travel technology company Amadeus reported in its travel trends report that the increase in music travel, or ‘gig tripping’ as Conde Nast Traveller termed it, comes as a post-pandemic longing for connection and community.

The Swifties are travellers too, it seems, with Amadeus noting the significant “correlation between bookings and the dates of Taylor Swift concerts.” Not a Swiftie? South Africans need not pay the big bucks for overseas concerts when Cape Town and Johannesburg host plenty of top acts.

Each summer, the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden fills its hillsides with revellers at its popular Summer Sunset Concerts, this year sporting a line-up that includes Matthew Mole and Mango Groove.

In September, Saffers can catch James Blunt performing in Cape Town and Pretoria, and beyond the headliners, Johannesburg’s trendy Braamfontein neighbourhood continues to be the go-to spot for intimate gigs from talented local musicians.

Wine and dine with farm-to-table feasts

Food and drink take centre stage for many UK leisure holidays, with guests expecting quality eats at varied price points, according to PoB Hotels’ whitepaper ‘Cultivating Luxury. Luckily, South Africans can easily indulge in regional flavours, with the Western Cape’s famed wine estates leading the way.

With abundant hyper-local, seasonal produce straight from the source, Stellenbosch’s 120+ wine farms facilitate exceptional gourmet experiences, whether at the acclaimed Babylonstoren or trendy markets.

Art immersion without the airfare

According to Tatler’s list of 2024’s top travel trends, unique art encounters will attract culture vultures to destinations boasting singular private collections and world-class galleries. Luckily, you don’t need to travel far for a dose of art tourism. Johannesburg has earned a name for itself as South Africa’s contemporary arts capital, increasingly housing exceptional creative showcases from regional artists.

Check in at the art deco -inspired voco Johannesburg Rosebank hotel, where an art butler offers insider perspectives during a guided tour of the hotel’s collection of 750+ unique local artworks. When in Jozi, art-minded travellers shouldn’t miss the Maboneng Precinct either, a hot-spot for incredible street art, weekly food and design market, and integrated urban spaces.

Wellness journeys bring purpose

Seeking meaningful mind-body nourishment, conscious adventurers opt for trips that create positive change on personal and global levels. Yes, sustainable, mindful and wellness travel — no matter what you call it – is still very much a thing for 2024.

According to the Global Wellness Institute, wellness tourism is expected to reach $8.5 trillion by 2027; it’s a sector that is outpacing general tourism growth. South African wellness seekers need not traverse the globe to travel with purpose or find their inner chi.

Simply journey ever so slightly north across the border to the peaceful Chobe River region, the river forming a tranquil border between Namibia and Botswana’s Chobe National Park. Removed from your daily routine’s constant buzz, here in this remote corner of southern Africa, stillness and serenity gently restore inner equilibrium.

And if the trend of silent travel has you intrigued, there’s no better place to find true quiet than travelling on a river, miles away from any civilisation, with the sounds of nature – roars, hoots, and splashes – only interrupted by your merry laughter or clinking glasses breaking the silence. Beat any potential safari fatigue with ‘new’ ways to safari – such as a river safari on the luxurious Zambezi Queen, offering a hassle-free way to enjoy a bush break, where comfort reigns supreme, and the game viewing comes to you.

A trip to Africa, done right, also hugely benefits the local communities, where tourism is desperately needed to support community and conservation. Destinations on the 2024 hot list – and swops you can make as a South African: According to Flight Centre’s whitepaper, South Africa’s Year in Travel 2023, Mauritius, Dubai, Phuket, Bali, Ras Al Khaimah, Zanzibar, Maldives, Paris, Venice, and Singapore rank among South African travellers’ top overseas spots for 2024. A multitude of regional alternatives stand ready to satisfy the globally curious too, if the global trending destination is just that bit too much out of reach.

Trade the Caribbean for the Vanilla Islands or St Helena

The poetically named Vanilla Islands (Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Reunion, and Seychelles) provide handy swaps for South Africans to trade the Caribbean for the Indian Ocean islands. Forbes Travel Guide’s 24 Top Destinations for 2024 included the Grand Cayman and the Dominican Republic (the Caribbean’s most popular destination last year, said the Caribbean Tourism Organisation).

But the Mauritian shores, in particular, readily stand in for pricey Caribbean retreats, just a short four-hour flight from Mzanzi. For a touch of ‘très chic’, brush up on your French skills and head to Reunion Island to dip into their charming tropical-island-meets-France feel, complete with an active volcano and tropical lagoon-lined coastline.

And if you’re less of a fly-and-flop traveller and more of an adventure seeker, St Helena Island in the Atlantic Ocean is a breath of fresh air and one of the most remote islands in the world.

Ecuador, particularly the Galapagos Islands, and the rest of the South American continent is gaining increasing attention for 2024. Where Ecuador’s markets overflow with tapestries and textiles, you can find the vibrancy, colour, energy, and culture a little closer to home in Mozambique. Experience Mozambique’s vibrant streetside commerce and diverse culture-and-architecture mix by strolling lively Maputo, before taking to the beach.

Add a touch of the culinary to your journey through Mozambique, sampling the most amazing speciality food (and drink) on a Maputo food tour. “The Maputo food tour was one of our new day tours released in 2019, and it quickly became our bestseller,” says Natalie Tenzer-Silva, Director of Dana Tours, a leading tour operator in Mozambique. “Highlights include a tasting of traditional street food, Badjia (bean dumplings fried in oil), Matoritor (a coconut sweet), and fiery Piri Piri.”

That cool customer

Coolcationing remains a trend for 2024, with rising temperatures globally driving the need for cool holidays over sun-seeking. According to travel network Virtuoso, 82% of its clients are considering destinations with more moderate weather in 2024.

In 2023, the northernmost destination booked by global Flight Centre customers was Longyearbyen on the Norwegian island of Svalbard in the Arctic Circle, where summer temperatures reach a rather cool 7 °C. On the other side of the world, Ushuaia in southern Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego also tapped into cool climate curiosity as 2023’s southernmost destination for Flight Centre travellers.

Here, by contrast, summer temperatures are positively roasting at 13 °C! To tick cool weather boxes closer to home, bundle up for South Africa’s coldest town, Sutherland (also a favourite spot to tick off the astro tourism trend thanks to its incredible stargazing opportunities).

Whether you choose to go big or go closer to home in 2024, you’ll find a wealth of trendy spots to satisfy your wanderlust.

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