South Africa is the perfect destination for short or long term backpacking. Hostels in South Africa are a destination in themselves. A month or more is the dream but you can see all of these unusual and unique backpacker hostels in South Africa in as little as 2 weeks (Read my Two Week South Africa Backpacking Itinerary if you don’t believe me!) I visited a lot more than 6 hostels in South Africa, but have chosen these based on how they fit my criteria for a unique experience.
Commitment to sustainability.
Given that 2017 is the Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, it is more important than ever that hostels commit to a sustainable future. Each of these hostels in South Africa displayed links to the local community, a commitment to a neutral or positive impact on the environment and a desire to share this information with their guests.
Positive impact on the local community.
Be it tours of the local area, the preservation of hiking trails, education outreach programmes or simply encouraging tourists to stay in an area that’s usually passed by on tour buses- each of these hostels in South Africa, in their own way, have a positive impact on the community around them.
We all seek those unique, special moments when travelling. However, often what we get is a bed in a crowded dorm of questionable cleanliness with nothing better to do than hit up the hostel bar (sometimes just what is needed, not gonna lie!) These hostels offer something unique, from a pool overlooking Table Mountain to a resident goat. Without a doubt, they guarantee a stay to remember!
All of these hostels are accessible on the Baz Bus.
Most of these hostels are available on Booking.com. To get €15 back on your booking click here. We will also get €15 so its a win all round!
Without further ado, here are my recommendations for that totally unique experience in my favourite hostels in South Africa:
1. Dijembe Backpackers, Tsitsikamma
Dijembe is what my friend fondly referred to as “an intentional dive.” This was in response to overhearing a group checking in that refused their welcome shot (always a bad idea!) Of course they then went straight to the one bathroom where the pipes weren’t working and proclaimed the entire place “a total dive.” Call it what you want, but a place that has a resident goat will always be amazing in my book!
Take the welcome shot, sit around the campfire, make your own pancakes at breakfast and embrace the Dijembe way. This was one of the most sociable hostels I stayed in. By the end of our stay we felt like a little family after hiking, singing and jumping off bridges together. Before you leave, sign the wall, take a picture with Baz and savour the memories. I am convinced there is nowhere else in the world like Dijembe!
2. Wild Spirit, The Crags
Drum circles, yoga and a meditation treehouse are just some of the unique experiences at Wild Spirit. Wild Spirit is a real “destination hostel.” Without a car, there’s not much to do outside the grounds. Thankfully, there’s more than enough within the hostel to keep you busy and shuttles are plentiful for those with itchy feet. When you arrive, take a moment to savour the view and get a sense of the wilderness that you are about to spend the night in.
We arrived on a whim, following some friends with met in Knysna and found that the “bunk-free dorms” were as popular as you’d think. We ended up in a safari style tent with real beds. Thankfully there were enough blankets to stave off the South African winter outside. Dinner is served in communal style by the “Wild Spirit Angels.” After dinner, retire to the campfire to participate in a drum circle, sing or tell stories with the other guests. Wild Spirit is the perfect place to switch off, enjoy the view and just be in the moment.
3. Away with the Fairies, Hogsback
Away with the Fairies has legendary status among South African backpackers. It has a name as a retreat for artists, musicians and general creatives. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself with a random instrument at the campfire at 1am.
Hogsback is said to have been J.R.R. Tolkien’s inspiration for Lord of the Rings and Away with the Fairies fully embraces this theme. Rooms are named after famous characters (we stayed in Boromir.) The rooms have a view of the rolling, misty hills so it’s easy to embrace your inner hobbit (or outer hobbit- shoutout to my fellow shorties!)
It doesn’t get more unique than an outdoor bath overlooking the Hogsback mountains. Even walking to breakfast provides jaw-dropping moments. It’s not unusual to see rare monkeys jumping in the trees overhead! The fairytale atmosphere Hogsback is infectious. It will leave you looking for magic everywhere.
4. Curiocity, Johannesburg
Curiocity is a bustling city hostel at its best. Situated in the up and coming creative quarter of Maboneng, Curiocity will encourage you to step away from the tour bus and explore the real Johannesburg.
The friendly staff at Curiocity will keep you informed of all the daily and nightly events in the area. Nearly every night a group from the hostel heads down the road to the Maboneng Comedy Club. Guests are also encouraged to visit the Sunday Markey on Main. What makes Curiocity stand out from other hostels is its place in the local community. In the bar, locals and backpackers mix in a way that just doesn’t happen in many other South African hostels. Stay in Curiocity to see the Johannesburg the media doesn’t want you to see.
Read my guide to Maboneng here.
5. The Backpack, Cape Town
The Backpack’s commitment to sustainability is evident from the moment you step in the door. Signs around the hostel tell of their commitment to local communities and the environment. The staff are always friendly while their travel desk makes booking tours a breeze.
The real gem in The Backpack’s crown is the views of Table Mountain. Step out into the pool area and feel dwarfed by this formidable mountain towering above. You are only a short distance to the happening Kloof Street (a safe and interesting neighbourhood) and the colourful Bo-Kaap. The Backpack is therefore one of the few hostels in Cape Town that places you in walking distance of the bars, restaurants and sights of Cape Town.
6. Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers, Johannesburg
Lebo’s is a Backpackers with a difference. Situated in the Soweto Township, it is probably the first hostel in a township in South Africa. Most tourists pass through Soweto on buses, seeing the township through their camera lenses. However, Lebo’s provides the opportunity to stay a while longer to experience the vibrant and historical community life of Orlando West. Their restaurant, situated on a former dumping ground, is the perfect place to relax and unwind after a day experiencing Sowetan life.
They run workshops in everything from yoga to organic gardening, making them a real community enterprise. Their bike tour and tuk tuk tour is available to guests and non-guests alike. Therefore, if you do one tour in Johannesburg, make it Lebo’s!
Have you stayed in any unique hostels in South Africa and beyond? If so, send me an email or let me know in the comments!
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