Johannesburg ( Zulu and Xhosa: eGoli), informally known as Jozi, Joburg, or “The City of Gold”, is the largest city in South Africa, classified as a megacity, and is one of the 50 largest urban areas in the world. It is the provincial capital and largest city of Gauteng, which is the wealthiest province in South Africa. Johannesburg is the seat of the Constitutional Court, the highest court in South Africa. Most of the major South African companies and banks have their head offices in Johannesburg. In a 2008 survey conducted by MasterCard, Johannesburg ranked 47 out of 50 top cities in the world as a worldwide centre of commerce (the only city in Africa).
A separate city from the late 1970s until 1994, Soweto is now part of Johannesburg. Originally an acronym for “South-Western Townships”, Soweto originated as a collection of settlements on the outskirts of Johannesburg, populated mostly by native African workers from the gold mining industry. Soweto (an abbreviation for Southwestern Townships) lies 20 kilometers southwest of Johannesburg and offers a journey into the soul of the fight for freedom.
The Apartheid Museum graphically portrays the apartheid story through photos, artifacts, newspaper clippings, chilling personal accounts, and film footage. The sights and sounds of the apartheid era assail visitors as they move through the thought-provoking permanent exhibits on an emotional journey through South Africa’s history. Paths follow the country through decades of oppression to the birth of democracy. Reserve at least two hours and preferably longer to get the most out of a visit here.
Overlooking the city of Johannesburg, Constitution Hill is a former prison, which provides fascinating insight into South Africa’s history. At the site, you can explore provocative exhibits at the Number Four museum, the Women’s Gaol museum, and the Old Fort museum. Together, the precinct was once known as The Fort, and it forged a reputation for its brutal treatment of political prisoners, common criminals, and passive resistors; famous former prisoners include Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi
Gold Reef City, eight kilometers from the city center, takes you back to the gold rush days through a series of thrilling theme park rides and historical exhibits. This family-friendly attraction hosts reproductions of buildings and businesses from the era, and you can also tour a disused shaft of the Crown Mines, one of the richest gold-mines in the world. Children love the trampoline park, ten-pin bowling alley, and exhilarating theme-park rides, including the twisting and turning Anaconda roller coaster. The park also offers dedicated rides for young children, as well as a petting zoo. Putt-putt golf, sideshow games, and gold panning round out the adventures
At the Lion & Safari Park, you can get up-close with some of Africa’s famous wildlife less than an hour’s drive from downtown Johannesburg. Animal interactions are the highlight here. You can cuddle a lion cub, take the Cheetah Walk, and hand feed giraffes. Self-guided tours are permitted, but you can also join a guided game drive in the park’s vehicles to see lions, cheetahs, zebras, ostriches, wild dogs, hyenas, and various species of antelope. Nighttime feeding tours and river rafting tours are other popular things to do. Make sure you adhere to all safety regulations and keep your windows up when driving through the park.
About an hour’s drive from Johannesburg, the Cradle of Humankind is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the world’s most productive and important paleo-anthropological areas. One of the top attractions here are the Sterkfontein stalactitic caves, which consist of six linked underground chambers with a lake at a depth of about 40 meters. Archaeological excavations here unearthed the skull of a humanoid creature known as Australopithecus africanus, estimated to be two million years old, called “Mrs Ples,” and in 1998, scientists discovered a skeleton that dates the presence of early humans in the valley at 3.5 million years ago.
Pilanesberg National Park is one of the most popular game reserves in South Africa. You have a chance to see Africa’s Big Five here (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, and rhino), and the park is known for its extraordinarily rich ecosystems and diversity of wildlife, thanks to its location in a transition zone between the lush Lowveld vegetation and the parched Kalahari desert. Apart from the Big Five, the park is also home to African wild dogs, sable antelope, zebras, and more than 300 species of birds. Strategically placed photographic hides make it easier to capture close-up photos.
Johannesburg & Soweto
A: Johannesburg Center/Constituional Hill
B: Johannesburg City/Gold Reef City
C: Joburg City/Apartheid Museum
D: Walk tour of Johannesburg & Maboneng Precint
A: Johannesburg Center/Apartheid Museum/ Soweto
B: Johannesburg Center/Gold Reef City/Soweto
C: Johannesburg Center/African Museum/Constitutional Hill
D: Full day Soweto