4 things to do when exploring Mzansi on a friendcation this winter

A group of friends embrace and enjoy a sunrise after successfully completing a hike. Picture: Unsplash

A group of friends embrace and enjoy a sunrise after successfully completing a hike. Picture: Unsplash

Published Jun 7, 2023


The cold season might seem like an unlikely time to travel within the country, and despite the temperatures dropping, Mzansi is still a winter paradise waiting to be explored.

Each province displays winter differently from the next, giving travellers a variety of options depending on how they would like to experience the season and what type of vacation they 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, so here are four Mzansi destinations perfect for 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 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

A leopard on the prowl at Kruger National Park. Picture: Unsplash

Believe it or not, winter (June to August) is one of the best times to go on safari in South Africa, as mid-winter is a dry season, and many animals will stay close to watering holes, making it easier to spot them.

The Kruger National Park is known for being one of the world’s most iconic wildlife safari destinations. 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.

According to Anton Gillis, CEO of Kruger Gate Hotel, the KNP 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, Gillis said backpacking trails allow you to explore the park in a truly unique way, and there are various rest camps along the way to stay at overnight.

He also suggested doing a birding safari, where you can see over 500 different species of birds with your friends.

Self-care and a restful hideaway

Treat yourself and your friends to a hot stone massage this winter. Picture: Unsplash

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.

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

According to Sabashni Naidoo, managing director at Amani Spa Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront, the Radisson Blu Hotel, Waterfront has an ESSE hydro-boost facial - a treatment that boosts and builds healthy skin naturally, which is perfect for winter skin renewal.

“We also have a BABOR skin renewal treatment, which reinvigorates and instantly rejuvenates the skin,” said Naidoo.

A scenic family food adventure

Enjoy a delicious meal with friends at South Africa’s many local restaurants. Picture: Unsplash

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 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.