Winter is for friendcations

With temperatures dropping, the cold season might seem an unlikely time to travel within the country. However, the truth is that South Africa is a winter’s paradise. Each province displays winter differently from the next, giving travellers a variety of options depending on how you would like to experience the season and what type of vacation you want to enjoy with friends. 

Many of us find ourselves staying indoors during the colder months, giving way to less socialising and for some, isolation. To keep the winter blues at bay it is important to keep up communication with friends and what better way to do this than with a winter friendcation?

Hiking and biking in the Valley of 1000 Hills

Across KwaZulu Natal in winter, the landscape is mostly dry with temperatures averaging around 23 degrees Celsius. Situated in between Durban and Pietermaritzburg is the scenic Valley of 1000 Hills named so because of the endless mountainous hills spread across the landscape. 

Adventure lovers will enjoy bonding by taking up one of the many activities in the area that provide both a taste of adventure and scenic enjoyment. Hiking, biking, trail running, climbing and river activities are all options on a friendcation to this beautiful destination.

A summery winter safari

Believe it or not, winter is one of the best times to go on safari in South Africa. The Kruger National Park is known for being one of the world’s most iconic wildlife safari destinations in the world. It not only offers an excellent escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, but it’s also where you can find some of the best wildlife on the continent. 

Anton Gillis, CEO of Kruger Gate Hotel comments that, “It is also one of the biggest nature conservation areas in the world, covering almost 20 000km². Escaping to the Park for a holiday can do wonders for mental health as an escape in nature has been proven to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.” 

For those that choose Kruger National Park as a friendcation destination, there is so much to do. Guided and self-drive game drives and wilderness walks are amongst the most popular activities, but there are also other ways to explore the park and its wildlife diversity. 

Backpacking trails allow you to explore the park in a truly unique way, and there are various rest camps along the way to overnight at. Also, consider doing a birding safari where you can see over 500 different species of birds,” says Gillis. 

The best time to visit the park is June to August, as mid-winter is the dry season and many animals will stay close to watering holes. This makes game spotting that much easier. 

Self-care and a restful hideaway

Winter, for all its cloudiness and grey skies, gives us the feeling of wanting to slow down, preferably while relaxing under a warm blanket. If a slow winter hideaway sounds appealing to you, the perfect addition to it could be an element of self-care. 

This might mean using the time away to switch off your phone, catch up on conversations, sleep, and book time to get cared for by professional wellness practitioners. A self-care holiday in winter should also include drinking lots of water and eating fresh fruit and vegetables. This helps to hydrate drier winter skin and boost the immune system. 

“At the Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront, we have an ESSE hydro-boost facial – a treatment that boosts and builds healthy skin naturally which is perfect for winter skin renewal,” notes Sabashni Naidoo, Managing Director at Amani Spa Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront. “We also have a BABOR skin renewal treatment, which reinvigorates and instantly rejuvenates the skin.”

Retreats are also great activities to enjoy with friends and they usually incorporate self-care activities like yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practice. 

A scenic family food adventure

Bonding with friends has to do with having many a heart-to-heart together and if the way to the heart is truly through the stomach, then bonding through enjoying food makes sense. The country is a food lover’s paradise and is more and more becoming a place to explore vegan and healthy eateries. Look for resources for healthy eateries like The Inside Guide or VeganSA’s vegan restaurant listings and go from there. 

Before leaving for your trip plan your culinary exploration by booking either breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner somewhere new each day. Opt to have some meals at your accommodation to save on expenses and look for winter set menus to enjoy. Across Cape Town’s Winelands like Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, restaurants hold winter set menus with discounted prices of around R350 per person.  

Depending on what type of travellers you and your friends are, you might want to enjoy a hikers’ holiday, safari, pampering retreat or adventure. Whichever option you choose, if you know where to look, there are options for everyone across South Africa.

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