Did you know?
Thulamela, uncovered within the Kruger National Park, was another, more recent trading centre.
The mystical and misty Soutpansberg range of mountains in northern Limpopo is deeply layered in legends and the written history of its ancient peoples. Later, the San, also left their marks on the rocks. It's a significant Limpopo cultural route.
Researchers are still finding signs of Early Stone Age habitation in the form of stone tools and wall paintings in sheltered overhangs. Visitors on Limpopo cultural tours hear how these people knew how to smelt iron, glass, copper and gold. In the western Soutpansberg, at least 30 rock art sites have been identified and recorded.
The wandering San people left their mark, as did the Venda who came after them. And then, at the turn of the 19th century, along came the infamous hunter-explorer and frontiersman, Coenraad de Buys and his motley crew. He left behind a community of people who formed what is known as Buysdorp today. In fact, the guides who eventually showed the Voortrekkers the ins and outs of the Soutpansberg were Buysdorpers themselves. You could say they were the pioneers of local Limpopo tourism.
One of the best Limpopo cultural tours is the ancient kingdom of Mapungubwe, which was once the capital of a country as large as Swaziland, surrounded by more than 200 satellite towns.
Archaeologists have been carefully picking over the ruins for decades now, and they tell us the rule of the Kingdom of Mapungubwe extended between 1220 to 1290 AD.
This was a place so feared that centuries later, those who knew of it would not even look towards its seat of power, or mention its name.
The artifacts found at Mapungubwe are thought to originate from India, Egypt, Southeast Asia and the Middle East: defining an early international trading network.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Limpopo Tourism and Parks
Tel: +27 (0)15 290 7300
How to get here
Self-drive is the best option.
Best time to visit
Summers can be very hot in this part of the world. The most pleasant time to visit is in spring, winter or autumn.
Around the area
This region is rich in wildlife, in mystical places like the sacred Lake Fundudzi and the sacred forest of Thathe Vondo, in unexpected parks like the Musina Baobab Reserve. Go shopping for Venda cloth in Makhado (Louis Trichardt), or take a day drive into Kruger National Park.
Tours to do
A guided, or self-guided tour of Mapungubwe is a must
Again, use your own vehicle. It will give you much more mobility.
Length of stay
Stay in the area for about a week to truly uncover the magic of the place, and to explore at a leisurely pace.
What to eat
If you're feeling brave, try one of the local specialties of this region − mopani worms.
Ask about Venda cloth. This brightly striped material is made into traditional skirts and tops, but looks on ottomans and cushions, and is sold at bargain prices in Makhado.