Exploring South Africa's beautiful Garden Route
27th May 2022
There’s little more exhilarating than heading out into untouched wilderness, ploughing through the jungle floor, or climbing high to overlook a carpet of dense forest. Mankind has long seeked to replicate the beauty of the wild, and has done so in part by creating gardens. These compacted, curated landscapes are human-owned slices of nature; an art form that sends a nod of appreciation to all that grows.
Whether untamed and rugged or meticulously mown, large-scale gardens are an almost worldwide cultural phenomenon. As symbols of identity, they can represent national pride, status and artistic style, or even form a capsulised version of an entire ecosystem. In celebration of these ‘worlds in miniature’, read on to take a walk through the most incredible gardens of TravelLocal.
The perfect example of a natural microcosm, La Paz throws a figurative umbrella over the stunning waterfalls, lush vegetation and tropical wildlife of Costa Rica and entices visitors to experience them all in one easily hikeable vicinity. Meandering, rainforest trails of 3.5 kilometres link five gorgeous waterfalls, trout lakes and viewing platforms; while a butterfly conservatory, hummingbird garden, jungle cat exhibit and aviary of tame, rainbow-coloured toucans will keep you busy the rest of the time. It’s a fantastic option for families, but remember to bring light raincoats - the rainforest climate can be unpredictable!
This 36 hectare haven in Cape Town is a natural marvel and a botanist’s dream, all with a backdrop of stunning Table Mountain (which is accessible from the garden’s scenic hiking routes). South Africa is home to 22,000 plant species and 9,000 of them are here, inundating the grounds with trees, shrubs and pockets of yellow, red and purple flowers. The Tree Canopy Walkway takes visitors along a snaking, timber and steel bridge that rises up into the trees, affording wonderful views of the whole area. Kirstenbosch won ‘International Garden of the Year’ in 2015, and its evening concerts that run throughout summer are a Cape Town institution.
Nestled among the hubbub of Marrakech, Jardin Majorelle is an idyll of desert flowers, cactuses and lilypad ponds growing around a deep blue-painted villa. It was named after landscape painter Jacques Majorelle, who owned the art-deco studio and its surrounding gardens in the early 20th century. In order to preserve his vision for the garden, Yves Saint Laurent bought the grounds in 1980, cultivating its 300 plant species and Moroccan desert vibe until it emanated from every flower pot, fountain and palm tree. There’s a superb museum of Berbère artefacts on-site which adds a historical context to your visit. Arrive here first thing to relish the sound of morning birds in relative peace and quiet.
Tucked inside the Tsavkisis-Tskali Gorge on the southern foothills of the Sololaki Range, Tbilisi's historic botanical gardens are a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the capital. Spanning no less than 161 hectares, you could easily spend a whole day spotting some of the 4,500 plant groups here. If one day simply isn't enough, get some inspiration from our Georgia local expert for a completely flora-filled trip.
Garden design is an art form in Japan that stretches back over 1000 years. You need only admire the hundreds across the country, awash with pink sakura, worn wooden bridges and lily ponds to appreciate their stellar aesthetic. More spiritually significant is the concept of the Japanese rock garden, the most famous of which resides at Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto. This Zen Buddhist temple dates back to 1450; before that it was an aristocrat’s villa - but the origins of the garden are uncertain. The artist never revealed the meaning of the 15 rocks placed inside an oblong of meticulously raked sand, framed by trees swaying beyond the earthen wall. Still, the centuries-old scene draws throngs of visitors. To sit and contemplate for yourself without the crowds, try to arrive early in the morning on a weekday. Take a walk around the rest of the exquisite grounds when you’re done.
Our local experts all have their favourite (often secret!) gardens. Get in touch to get the lowdown and plan your itinerary on our destination pages.