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South Africa’s Top 6 Heritage Sites

Date : 14 September 2020

“Monuments and heritage sites are the rich essences of diversity and reflection of our country – Unknown”

Heritage is an essential part of any country and is often the defining factor behind a country’s history. South Africa has a rich, diverse and unique heritage because of all the different cultures which can be found in our beautiful country.

That been said – South Africa is unique in that not many countries can happily boast about such a vast and beautiful heritage.

In celebration of Heritage Month, let’s take a look at South Africa’s Top 6 Heritage Sites and the history behind them.

1. Robben Island, Western Cape

Dubbed “the place of seals” by the Dutch Settlers, the solitary island of Robben Island is located 9km offshore from Cape Town and is best known for being the prison wherein former president, Nelson Mandela, spent 18 of his 27 years in prison.

It was during this time that Nelson Mandela dreamt of a nation free from suffering and oppression and formulated his notion for forgiveness.

As a result, Robben Island has a deep connection to the history of South Africa.

Visitors are able to tour Robben Island Museum to get a first-hand understanding of Nelson Mandela’s prison experience. Part of the tour is visiting Nelson Mandela’s cell which was left in its original state.

Robben Island was declared a World Heritage Site in 1999.

2. Cradle of Humankind, Gauteng

Thought to be the place in which the human race originated from, the Cradle of Humankind holds great scientific importance to South Africa and the rest of the world.

The world-famous Sterkfontein Caves is home to the oldest paleontological dig in the world. These caves are also the site in which the pre-human skull referred to as “Mrs Ples” and an almost complete hominid skeleton called “Little Foot” was uncovered.

The Maropeng Visitor Centre can be contacted to arrange a trip to the Cradle of Humankind where you can learn about the origins of humankind.

The Cradle of Humankind was declared a World Heritage Site in 1999.

3. Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape, Northern Cape

Famously known as the pastoral grazing ground for the Nama, an indigenous community who live the transhumance lifestyle, the Richtersveld is one of the few places where there is a harmonious interaction between man and nature.

The Nama migrate seasonally from the mountains to the river making sustainable use of the fragile succulent ecosystem in order to migrate their livestock.

These seasonal migrations help to sustain the biodiversity of the area and demonstrate a way of life which persisted over millennia in parts of South Africa.

4. iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Kwa-Zulu Natal

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park stretches 220km along the East Coast of Africa from St Lucia all the way to the Mozambique border and covers approximately 240,000ha of land with further 84,000ha expanding to in and under the ocean.

iSimangaliso is highly famous because of its abundance of diverse natural eco-systems including swamp and coastal forests, dunes, rocky and sandy shores, woodlands, thickets, coral reefs, savannah grassland and submarine canyons among others.

As a result, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park is the largest protected wetland in Southern Africa.

Upon visiting this area, you can enjoy a variety of fun activities including snorkelling, hiking, game drives, bird-watching and diving.

5. Pilgrim’s Rest, Mpumalanga

Pilgrim’s Rest started out as a small town situated in the Panorama Route in the Kruger Lowveld but has since become a major heritage site in South Africa because of the Transvaal Gold Rush.

The museum takes visitors back to the days of the Gold Rush and the quest for gold. In 1873, Pilgrim’s Rest was declared a goldfield soon after Alec “Wheelbarrow” Patterson found gold deposits in Pilgrim’s Creek.

After investigation, the Valley proved to be a rich source of gold for South Africa. By the end of the year in 1873, there were over 1,500 miners digging in the area.

Mining still continues in the hills surrounding Pilgrim’s Rest to this day.

6. Vredefort Dome, Free State

Scientists believe that over 2 million years ago an asteroid with a diameter between 5km and 10km, struck the Earth at the very spot of the Vredefort Dome leaving behind the oldest and largest verified crater on Earth.

This discovery is what lead to it been declared a World Heritage Site.

Stretching over 300km across, the Vredefort Dome is the world’s greatest recorded single energy release event.

Scientists believe that the events that occurred at the Vredefort Dome have had an immense impact on the world including major evolutionary changes.


Have you ever visited any of the above heritage sites in South Africa? What was your favourite thing about them? Have you visited other South African Heritage sites?

Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments on Eveready South Africa’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages.