'The Rainbow Nation' is aptly named. A land of stark contrasts and colours, South Africa is among the world's most popular destinations.
Of the many fascinating cities to be found here, Cape Town is undoubtedly the highlight. A melting pot of cultures, it is also the gateway to some of South Africa's top tourist attractions: Table Mountain, the spectacular winelands as well as Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent the majority of his 27-year incarceration.
In recent years, Cape Town has even become a popular destination among UK tourists for a long weekend getaway, because it lies in the same time zone and the pound is still comparatively strong against the Rand.
Home to a vast array of flora and fauna, with Kruger National Park topping the list, South Africa is the place for wildlife enthusiasts. The size of Wales, it is filled with a whole host of animal species including the infamous 'Big Five' – lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino.
But the natural wonders do not stop there. If you thought Mount Kilimanjaro or Victoria Falls were the be all and end all of the African continent, South Africa has a few surprises in store. The Garden Route, spanning the Western and Eastern Cape, is spectacular in terms of its sheer diversity, while if you head further east, the Blyde River Canyon and Valley of a Thousand Hills will leave your jaw dropping like never before.
One of the best ways to view all of this is by hot-air balloon, which has now become a popular pastime for tourists. South Africa is also a surfer's paradise, while for the real thrill-seekers there is the world's highest bridge bungee jump and, if your heart's up to it, cage-diving with a great white shark or two!
South Africa Essential Information:
Capital: Pretoria (executive capital); Cape Town (legislative capital); Bloemfontein (judicial capital)
Major cities: Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban
Places of interest: Kruger National Park, Cape Town’s Table Mountain and winelands, Robben Island,
Time Zone: GMT +2
Language: 11 official languages including English, Afrikaans, Sesotho, Setswana, Xhosa and Zulu.
Currency: South Africa uses the rand (ZAR). For up-to-date exchange rates see: www.xe.com/ucc.
International dialling code: +27
British Embassy: visit the website for more information