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Built on the back of the gold discovery during the 1880s, Johannesburg is South Africa’s international connecting point. Around 28 million people pass through its airport every year, from where travellers take connecting flights to other parts of the country and continent. Johannesburg is also South Africa’s economic heart, in which countless business people from across the globe visit each year.
In addition to its status as an economic hub, it also possesses a wealth of archaeological discoveries, with around 40% of the world’s human ancestor fossils discovered in the region. Known to locals as Egoli (Zulu for “City of Gold”) and affectionately as Jozi, Johannesburg’s multiple attractions are worthy of an extended stay rather than simply a stopover city.
Attractions & Activities
A closer look at what your holiday could be.
Africa’s second largest city has some of the best shopping and dining on the continent. Johannesburg’s city center has been recently revitalised with great shops, markets and restaurants to be found all over the city once more. The city is also home to the Gautrain, Africa’s first mass rapid transit railway.
In addition to Johannesburg’s dining and shopping opportunities, the city offers a wealth of cultural, natural and historical attractions. Excellent museums are located throughout the city, including the Apartheid Museum, Museum Africa, various science museums, Mandela House, and even the SAB world of beer museum where the entrance fee will get you 2 beers.
Visitors interested in Johannesburg’s physical surroundings can check out the Geology Museum and the Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research, where dinosaurs Fred and Fang (the museum’s two fossil reconstructions) are an entertaining and educational draw.
Whatever your requirements, Johannesburg is equipped to provide a fulfilling and entertaining stay.
Day Tours in Johannesburg
Day Tours are a good option for visitors who wish to explore Johannesburg and its surrounds in more depth. Tours are recommended as Johannesburg is a large and often overwhelming city; getting lost is easy if you are unfamiliar with the roads. The city is also notorious for its traffic congestion, so taking a tour with an experienced guide who knows the city will make your trip more enjoyable and stress free. Private guides are available and we suggest you refer to us directly for prices, as they are subject to change. A few suggestions are outlined below.
The Johannesburg Lion Park is a sanctuary and breeding programme for white lion, cheetah and wild dog, amongst other endangered species. There are several touring options available, including cheetah walks, self-drive tours, guided day game drives and guided night game drives, with the opportunity of seeing a lion feeding. The park also contains giraffe and antelope in addition to the separated carnivore enclosures.
The Cradle of Humankind is a treasure chest of fascinating displays, tours and caves for anyone interested in human origin. Named for the continent scientists believe to be where hominids (human ancestors) originated, the Cradle’s oldest human fossils are more than 3 million years old. The Maropeng exhibition and the Sterkfontein Caves (where the fossils were discovered) make for an enthralling visit together. The Caves are easily accessible, only an hour’s drive from Johannesburg and Pretoria.
Soweto Township Tours give visitors the opportunity to explore the famous Soweto township, view the historical sites and mingle with the locals. A syllabic abbreviation for South Western Townships, Soweto has a conflicted and compelling history as a site of resistance during Apartheid, and is an essential part of any Johannesburg visit.
Set in the crater of an ancient, extinct volcano, Pilanesberg National Park is topographically unique, with woodland, grassland, ravines and bushveld all springing from its volcanic complex. The park contains a vast variety of mammal and birdlife, including the big 5. Pilanesberg is a 2 hour drive from Johannesburg, so day safaris can comfortably be taken from the city.
The implementation and ultimate destruction of South Africa’s dark age of segregation and oppression is retraced at the Apartheid Museum, from 1948 when the National Party government began the process of institutionalised race-based exclusion and discrimination to the release of imprisoned Nelson Mandela in 1990 and his subsequent election in 1994 as South Africa’s first democratically-elected president.
The museum is conveniently positioned only 15 minutes from OR Tambo International Airport or 20 minutes from Sandton (the business center of South Africa).
When to Visit Johannesburg
Johannesburg is situated on the highveld, an eastern plateau approximately 2000 m/6500 ft above sea level. The altitude means that Johannesburg’s climate tends to be pleasant all year round. Summer days are warm and windless
and winter days are crisp and clear. There are about six weeks of chill in mid-winter (from July to August) and summer (October to March) offers warm sunshine followed by balmy nights.