South African Resorts With Side of World Cup - TheStreet

South African Resorts With Side of World Cup

From chic city escapes to once-in-a-lifetime safaris, South Africa offers a World Cup experience you won't find in any other host nation.
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JOHANNESBURG (TheStreet) -- It's bigger than the World Series, Super Bowl and even the Olympics for the majority of the world, and anyone with an acquired British accent.

The 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa

, the first World Cup ever held in an African nation, will take place at stadiums throughout the country from June 11 through July 11. It's an exceptional opportunity to sample from South Africa's vast array of getaways, including chic city retreats, world-class wineries and once-in-a-lifetime wildlife experiences you won't find in any other World Cup host nation.

Fans visiting from the U.S. will likely land in Johannesburg or Cape Town when first arriving in South Africa. Johannesburg plays host to the tournament's opening match between South Africa and Mexico, as well as the final July 11, making it a logical place to start your World Cup journey. Soccer City, formerly known as FNB Stadium, was constructed to look like a piece of African pottery from the outside, with its native earthen colors and mosaic cutouts illuminated by night. Located southwest of the city in Soweto, it was also the site of Nelson Mandela's first speech following his release from prison.

Today, many upscale travelers prefer to stay in the exclusive luxury hotels and lodges that surround central Johannesburg to the north in suburbs like Sandton. That's where you'll find the

Saxon Boutique Hotel and Spa

, a sprawling compound with muddy gray and preppy white trim. Visitors check in to a glass-domed entry hall with a double staircase that sweeps around an enormous chandelier adorned with illuminated ostrich eggs.

Native African art -- antique drums, ceremonial headdresses -- is strewn on the walls and doorways. A tiled pool deck recedes into a garden overlooking the rolling hills beyond, offering Zen-like tranquility. Suites are outfitted with wooden canopy beds, plush living rooms and wooden shutters that open to grassy lawn views.

Johannesburg is also a great layover for anyone looking to indulge in the safari circuit of Sabi Sands and Kruger National Park in the northeast of the country. Connected via small services like Federal Air, a two-night splurge at

Royal Malewane

is just a prop-plane ride away.

Located on a private reserve in Kruger National Park, it's been the choice safari for the pickiest of posh travelers, from Elton John to Christian Lacroix. Game gazers are treated to a Big 5 playground of stilted observation decks and canopied outdoor dining rooms, perfectly positioned to spot herds of nearby elephants, packs of hyena and elusive black-and-white rhino unique to this section of the park. Rooms are a mix of bush architecture (thatched roofs and wood floors), colonial decor (clawfoot tubs and antique rugs) and modern flourishes (glass panels and private infinity pools).

In Cape Town, where 2006 World Cup winner Italy will play its first game against Cameroon on June 16, a hedonist's delight of top-notch hotels awaits. The newest outpost of

One and Only Cape Town

is located on the waterfront, complete with its own Nobu eatery and Maze restaurant by Gordon Ramsay.

Those looking for more of a boutique experience have a few luxury options to choose from, including

Cape Cadogan

, located in the heart of Cape Town near Kloof Street's trendy bars and stylish stores. With just 12 rooms, the hotel's intimate size allows for personal-design details like ornate African chandeliers and limestone bathrooms with private walk-out terraces and French garden loungers.

La Residence Hotel and Spa.

Anyone visiting Cape Town ought to make a two-night getaway to the Cape Winelands and Franschhoek Valley. One of the region's top wine-growing areas -- essentially the Napa Valley of Africa -- it's home to an abundance of vineyards, including

Boekenhoutskloof

, purveyors of Chocolate Block vintage, that are open for tasting and lunchtime visits.

You'll also find

La Residence Hotel and Spa

on a private 30-acre working farm. The dramatic chateau-inspired retreat -- with pitched-roof lobby, lavish crystal chandeliers, checkerboard marble floors and period antiques -- is as regal a lodge as you'll find in the area. In the parlor dining room, savor a seasonal menu of homegrown vegetables, herbs and handcrafted cheeses on bread baked in their own ovens.

Nearby,

Le Quartier Francais

is more buttoned-up than bohemian chic, and heralded as one of the best gourmand retreats in South Africa. Guests can enjoy blissful days of horseback wine tasting and cooking classes led by chef Margot Janse in an auberge-meets-luxury-spa setting.

Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com -- a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in In Style, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine, ITV and BBC.