Eight visa-free destinations SA passport-holders must see

These bucket list destinations are totally worth travelling to.

As South African travellers, its easy to get downhearted about the restrictions the world seems to place on our passport. It seems every one of the world’s major super-powers has an obstacle course of hoops that we need to jump through just to get a visa, but things aren’t as bad as they seem. Currently, there are 94 different countries that South Africans can travel to without a visa and a further 19 are said to be considering waiving visa restrictions in the near future.

In the meantime, there are plenty of incredible bucket-list destinations that South Africans can visit without needing to pay for those restrictive visas. Here are eight of the best:

1.) The Rio Carnival, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The Rio Carnival is an annular carefully staged spectacular, where teams of competing Samba dancers parade through the street in an explosion of colour and light. The city takes on a party atmosphere as tourists mix with the locals in large street parties in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. As an added bonus, Rio is also home to the famous Sugar Loaf mountain, which is the home to the famous Christ The Redeemer statue.

2.) Glaciers National Park, Patagonia, Argentina

The entire Patagonia region is a stunning place to visit affording visitors mountain passes and glorious views the likes of which cannot be replicated anywhere else on earth. The heart of the region though is the Glaciers National Park where advancing and retreating glaciers provide a spectacle of cracking ice and thunderous explosions as enormous blocks of ice break free and smash into the lakes below. While the south of the park is the largest ice cap outside of Greenland and Antarctica, the north offers plenty of hikes and opportunities for mountain climbers are plentiful.

3.) Lalibela, Ethiopia

Lalibela is a medieval city, designed to become a new Jerusalem and built by King Lalibela as early as the 12th century. The complex of stone hewed churches is now a world heritage site and a mind-blowing experience for anyone who goes. If you visit during one the large religious festivals, when white-robed pilgrims throng the streets and courtyards carrying lamps under the moonlight, you will be seeing Christianity in one of its earliest forms still alive today.

4) Tsingy de Bemaraha, Madagascar

Tsingy de Bemaraha on the west coast of Madagascar is a nearly impenetrable labyrinth of limestone needles. The grey stone claws at the sky in sharp razors creating an otherworldly atmosphere. It is so difficult to travel in this area that much of the local fauna and flora are totally undisturbed and an estimated 47% are found nowhere else on earth. Madagascar’s wildlife is worth travelling for alone as there are literally hundreds of species, including the numerous lemurs and the elusive Fossa, which are unique to this country.

5) Havana, Cuba

The capital of Cuba, Havana, is known for its old-world charm. Cut off politically by the United States in the 1950s, much of this city’s attraction lies in the historic atmosphere that seems to come from a forgotten age. The city oozes culture. Visitors should start in La Habana Vieja, or the Old Town, where crumbling colonial buildings and vibrant mid-century structures stand side by side and outdated American cars can be seen cruising the streets. Watch cigars being hand rolled in the factories or visit a rum distillery that’s still making this spirit the same way they have since the 1800s.

6) The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

Located about one and a half hours by car from Galway, the Cliffs of Moher will be familiar to anyone who has heard of Ireland. Visited by close to a million people from across the globe each year, the cliffs stretch for eight kilometres along the Atlantic and rise some 214 meters at their highest point. With the cold ocean battering at their sheer faces and rolling green fields above, the rugged beauty of the cliffs provides the quintessential image of this beautiful country.

7.) Ngorongoro, Tanzania

Tanzania is a country packed with beautiful attractions from the soaring heights of Mt. Kilimanjaro to the beaches of Zanzibar, but it’s in Ngorongoro that it really excels. Located between the Serengeti and Lake Manyara, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is home to the famous volcanic Ngorongoro Crater, which has a plentiful supply of water, and is, therefore, the place to see wildlife all year round. Wildlife enthusiasts should visit at least once in their lives as sightings of all the big five are plentiful and the sheer magnitude of the game difficult to imagine.

8.) Cappadocia, Turkey

This ancient region of Turkey is famous for its strange rock formations and unique lunar landscape. Ancient houses have been carved into cliff walls. Most of these homes, which often started out as simple caves, are now available to rent to tourists, and staying in one is a unique way to spend an evening. While you are there, take a hot air balloon down the valley to truly appreciate the wonder of this unique place, or go on a history tour of the region which is steeped in ancient, and medieval culture. The underground cities that extend as far as ten levels deep are a must-see, while the sunsets and sunrises in the region have to be among the best in the world.

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