South Africa's Rainbow Nation title refers to the incredible diversity of its people, from the original San inhabitants of the land to the people who migrated and settled here over the years. There is hardly a nation on Earth that is not in some way represented in this diverse country.

Did you know?

The genes of the Southern African Bushmen predate the rest of humanity's.

The term Rainbow Nation of South Africa found popular appeal from the moment Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu first used it to capture the multicultural nature of the country.

The original inhabitants were the hunter-gatherer San Bushmen. There are only a few of these people remaining in the Northern Cape, but their rich heritage lives on through their ancient rock art. They remain a proud part of the South Africa's Rainbow Nation.

When the pastoral Khoi appeared 2 000 years ago they brought farming with them. Unlike the San, who did not live in a hierarchical society, the Khoi had a complex social structure. The name Khoisan is an integration of the two names of the first inhabitants of southern Africa.

The next to arrive were black migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, especially from the Great Lakes and Congo regions. They settled mainly in the northern and eastern parts of present-day South Africa and where they came into contact with the Khoisan, they pushed them west into the drier regions of the Northern Cape. These new arrivals morphed into the various South African tribes that thrive today, including Sotho, Tswana, Xhosa and Zulu.

The Rainbow Nation took on more colour when the Dutch arrived in 1652 and the British in the latter part of the 18th century. The Dutch brought slaves from the East Indies, who eventually became the so-called 'coloured' people of South Africa, added to by cross-racial liaisons.

A small but influential French group escaping religious persecution in France arrived in the late 17th century and were assimilated into the Dutch population. They were followed, after the discovery of mineral wealth, by representatives of nearly every society on Earth. And mining and sugar cane farming brought Indians and Chinese, who settled mainly in KwaZulu-Natal and Johannesburg.

For nearly 350 years South Africa history was defined by clashes and racial oppression. But that changed with the first democratic elections of 27 April 1994 when all truly became people of the Rainbow Nation.

Travel tips & Planning info

Best time to visit

South Africa is a year-round destination. Bush lovers prefer our winters, beach lovers come here in summer.

Get around

See the relevant provincian websites to choose the cultural groups you are interested in - then hire a recommended guide to take you there.

Length of stay

A "Rainbow Nation" tour of South Africa will take you as long as you can spare - and leave lots more for the next trip.

Where to stay

South Africa's hospitality industry is top-notch, offering something special for everybody.

Best buys

The malls, craft markets, roadside stops and specialty shops all over South Africa will take care of any retail therapy urges.