Vhembe district, Limpopo
Did you know?
Vhembe district borders Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique
Vhembe is a land of legend indeed. You can visit sacred lakes, ancient ruins and historic mountains. You can check out cave paintings, royal palaces and visit South Africa's first city of gold − Mapungubwe World Heritage Site.
Vhembe includes the Soutpansberg Mountains, South Africa's northernmost range, and vast tracts of wilderness along the Limpopo River Valley. Vhembe includes the towns of Louis Trichardt, Mussina and Thohoyandou, and the land of legend is also famed for its thousands of baobab trees, source of much folklore and icon of Limpopo province.
Vhembe is also gateway to the northern parts of the Kruger National Park, part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park, along with Mozambique's Parc Nacional do Limpopo (Limpopo National Park) and is the world's biggest animal kingdom.
Lying in the foothills of the Soutpansberg mountains, Louis Trichardt is an agricultural centre, and a good base from which to explore the land of legend. Take a guided tour along the Ribolla Route, visiting the studios and workshops of local crafters, sculptors, potters and weavers, scattered around the historic village of Elim.
You can also take a tour of some of the important historical places of the Venda people, including Thathe Vondo Holy Forest, the sacred Lake Fundudzi and the Dzata Ruins which were once the capital of the Venda people, ruled by the great Thohoyandou, whose name means ‘head of the elephant'.
A guided tour to Thulamela in the northern Kruger National Park gives you a fascinating insight into the lives of an ancient culture. A hillside of stone walls and ruins tells the story of people who settled here in the 15th century. And don't miss Vhembe's cultural highlight − a visit to Mapungubwe World Heritage Site, set on the banks of the Limpopo River.
Mapungubwe was South Africa's first city of gold, a flourishing empire that dates back to the 12th century. The people of Mapungubwe traded with Arab traders from present-day Mozambique, and other African kingdoms to the north and west.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Limpopo Tourism and Parks Board
Tel: +27(0)15 290 7300
South African National Parks
Tel: +27(0)12 428 9111
Shiluvari Lakeside Lodge
Tel: + 27(0)15 556 3406
Tel: + 27(0)15 593 0076
Madi o Thava
Tel: + 27(0)15 516 0220
The Skirmish Route
Tel: + 27(0)15 516 5455
Drumbeat restaurant at Mashovhela Lodge
Tel: + 27(0)15 517 7176
How to get here
From Johannesburg take the N1 north to Polokwane and continue to Louis Trichardt.
Best time to visit
Vhembe is an all-year-round destination due to its warm climate. Summer (October to February) days can get very hot.
Around the area
Visit the holy forest of Thathe Vondo and its legendary sacred lake, Lake Fundudzi. Check out the Schoemandal Museum, on the R521 Vivo road for an interesting exhibition of Voortrekker days and early history of the area. See the big baobab near Sagole Spa, which is estimated to be over 3 000 years old.
Tours to do
There are guided game drives and walks through Mapungubwe World Heritage Site and guided tours of Thulamela heritage site in the northern Kruger National Park. You can also take a guided tour to the many Venda artists, available through Shiluvari Lakeside Lodge. Find out about the last days of the South African (Anglo-Boer) War that were fought here on the Skirmish Route with a local historian.
Length of stay
At least two days, more if possible.
What to pack
Hats, sunscreen, walking shoes, cameras, binoculars and bird and tree field guides.
Where to stay
Shiluvari Lakeside Lodge is a pleasant spot with thatched chalets overlooking the Albasini Dam and Soutpansberg mountains. Lesheba Wilderness is set high up in the Soutpansberg mountains and their Venda Village is an unusual and artistic spot. Madi o Thava in the foothills of the Soutpansberg mountains offers stylish accommodation and cultural tours.
What to eat
The Wood Owl Restaurant at Shiluvari Lakeside Lodge serves excellent Afro-fusion cuisine. Drumbeat restaurant at Mashovhela Lodge north of Louis Trichardt, has Venda style décor and serves excellent meat dishes and curries.