Despite being one of the most popular destinations for globetrotters, South Africa still manages to hide in its folds and crevices a few gems that can only be discovered if you let go of the itinerary and tread off the beaten path. Here’s a little bit of an idea of what you might discover if you put your Dora cap on and just explore beyond the mainstream tourist destinations. By Shubhanjana Das

1. Golden Gate Highlands National Park, Free State

A prismatic view of colours is visible both from the foothills and from the top of this national park — raw in its natural beauty. When you stand at the foothills of the Maloti Mountains, the sandstone cliffs of the mountains show off a gorgeous golden hue where as and when you hike to its highest point in the park, Ribbokkop, you will be greeted by the purple and yellow hues of the neighbouring mountains.

2. Darling, Western Cape

Just an hour’s drive from North of Cape Town lies a haven that is worth planning a separate vacation for. This quaint but visibly progressive village is known to the locals for its Evita se Perron theatre. And, that’s not it. It brews its own beer, houses art galleries, book shops, restaurants and museums aplenty. For those who wish to wander outdoors, they have inspiring community projects and hikes that take you through the growth of wild flowers that the area is known for.

3. Elgin Valley, Western Cape

One of the most underrated wine-making regions in South Africa also happens to host some of the most lauded and award-winning wine estates. And, while we can be sold at the very mention of wine tasting, the mountain biking and quaint getaway cabins add just the right topping to this already delicious cake. Its rustic charm and the evident community feeling is hard to not get swayed by.

4. Leshiba Wilderness, Soutpansberg

If you are in South Africa, and are looking for an escape from the city’s buzz for a couple of days — lush trails for hiking, biking and wonderful accommodation options is what you seek, and Leshiba Wilderness in Soutpanberg is the place to be at. Boasting of more wildlife and biodiversity than even Kruger, Leshiba Wilderness is for all those who connect more to nature than cities. It is home to the Venda culture and is a spiritual spot as well.

5. Adam’s Calendar

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On the edge of the plateau, just outside Kaapsehoop is Adam’s Calendar. Constructed from giant standing magnetic stones aligned to the constellation Orion, it is said to be the oldest man-made structure in the world (predating both Stonehenge and the Pyramids of Giza). Geographically Adam’s calendar is also perfectly aligned to both Great Zimbabwe and the Pyramids of Giza through the longitude 31 degrees East. Whatever you believe about their origin, it’s a magnificent place at sunset! • • • #SouthAfrica #Mpumalanga #Kaapsehoop #AdamsCalendar #StoneCircles #Sunset #ThoseColours #Nature_Perfection #Sunset_Perfection #Stones #AfricanStoneHenge #DiscoverMpumalanga #GoExplore #InstaSouthAfrica #BeautifulDestinations #ThisIsSouthAfrica

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Known to the natives as ‘African Stonehenge’, this standing stone circle edifice is older than the Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge, claiming to be the oldest man-made structure in the world. Despite being thousands of years old and the only known example of a functional megalithic stone calendar in the world, it was discovered only back in 2003. The stones cast a shadow depending on the position of the sun and the time it shows is perfectly accurate even today. The most recent discovery of sound frequencies with acoustic properties has blown scientist’s minds.

Related: Explore Namaqua National Park: South Africa’s Very Own La La Land