With September comes spring and Heritage Month in South Africa, but instead of spending the public holiday as just another day off, why not put down the braai tongs and head out to explore what really makes South Africa the amazing place it is? Our country is the ultimate melting pot of cultural diversity, from noisy and festive shebeens to endless coastline, winding vineyards and ancient heritage sites to museums – there’s truly something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you explore your own city or want to take advantage of the long weekend and travel to a whole new part of South Africa, there’s so much to explore and discover. No idea where to start? Here are our top 5 picks for best spots to visit this Heritage Month.
1. Cultural Cape Town
The Mother City is the perfect example of a rich, diverse heritage. From Table Mountain to the West Coast, there’s a little bit of everything to see. For something different, the Cape Malay community in the heart of the city’s Bo Kaap area offers a colourful attraction with some of the best culinary experiences around – Bo Kaap Kombuis is the perfect spot for generations-old, traditional recipes. In the Constantia winelands, meanwhile, you can experience Cape Dutch history with the country’s oldest and still operational wine farm, Groot Constantia. Further south, Hout Bay’s fish and chips are famous for a reason – give them a try!
2. Historic Kwa-Zulu Natal
KZN is another region famed for its incredible history, including significant battle sites like that of King Shaka. Just north of Durban, you can enjoy a living monument to traditional Zulu culture at Shakaland where you can stay in rondavels and enjoy an authentic Zulu meal at the on-site Shisa Nyama. Other cultural experiences include visiting the Battlefields Route, spear throwing, a beer-drinking ceremony, and a visit to a sangoma.
3. Traditional Free State
Nestled to the east of the Golden Gate Highlands is the Basotho Cultural Village, a must-see for a trip through time to the 18th century. The camp has been built to accurately resemble the Basotho villages of this era, from their culture to their architecture, and hospitality. Try the traditional cuisine and take a walk along the herbal trail that provides herbs used by traditional healers to this day.
4. Heart of Gauteng
The birthplace of human life, the Cradle of Humankind is the best place to truly celebrate our millennia-old heritage. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and the place of our origins, it comprises some of the world’s most important fossil discoveries with sites including Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, and Kromdraai. Visitors to Maropeng are transported billions of years in the past with interactive displays and exhibitions that describe where life as we know it began.
5. Lovely Limpopo
Home to one of our country’s ancient cultures, the Kingdom of Mapungubwe is a National Park and protected heritage site with archaeological finds indicating advanced culture dating back to 900 AD. The people of Mapungubwe who lived here thrived on trading gold, ivory, pottery and beads. The modern and eco-friendly Interpretation Centre is itself a prize-winning architectural structure with many prestigious awards.