History & culture in Polokwane
Did you know?
The holy forest, Thathe Vondo is the home to Venda's ancestral spirits and is protected by Nathathe, a supernatural lion.
In Polokwane, history and culture offer insight into this modern city. Kick-start your cultural outing at Polokwane Art Museum in the Library Gardens Complex. The museum has an extensive indoor and outdoor collection, reflecting some of the country's best artists. Nearby, the Hugh Exton Photographic Museum has some 20 000 black-and-white photographs from the 1890s showing life as it was back then – from bodices to ox wagons and acacia trees.
When it comes to history and culture in Polokwane, perhaps the most famous spot is The Irish House, a late-Victorian shop building that depicts the different cultures of the province. To find out how the Voortrekkers lived, check out the Arend Dieperink Museum in Mokopane. The museum is housed in a historic building and is a fascinating insight into the past, from the time of ancient humans to recent times. Discover the life of our hairier hominid forebears at Makapan's Valley on the outskirts of Mokopane. This archaeological site contains evidence of humans living here as far back as 3,5 million years ago.
Further north, along the banks of the Limpopo River, lies South Africa's very own lost city of gold: Mapungubwe World Heritage Site. A thousand years ago, Mapungubwe was the centre of the largest Iron Age kingdom in the subcontinent, where a highly sophisticated people traded gold and ivory with China, India and Egypt. Today you can walk amongst the almost untouched remains of palace sites, as well as a settlement site and two earlier capital sites, each offering an extraordinary picture of social development over a 400-year timespan.
The area of Venda, north-east of Polokwane, is home to a number of artists and craftspeople. It offers fascinating mythology, ancient ruins and fulfilling places to stay.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Polokwane Visitor Information Centre
Cnr Thabo Mbeki & Church Sts
Tel: +27 (0) 15 290 2010
How to get here
There are regular flights to and from Polokwane Airport and road access via car or bus along the N1 and N11 highways.
Best time to visit
Winter is a good time to visit the city of Polokwane and its surrounding attractions, as days are generally quite temperate.
Around the area
There is lots to see in and around Polokwane, but do try and head out to the farther reaches and visit the attractions in Venda, Makapans Valley and Mapungubwe.
Having your own vehicle to explore the area is a good idea. There are numerous international car hire companies based in South Africa.
What will it cost
There is an approx R30 per adult per day conservation fee in the Mapungubwe National Park for South Africans, R120 for foreign visitors.
Length of stay
Spend a night or two in the city and spend your days exploring the historical sites, then head off to Venda or the Mapungubwe World Heritage Site.
What to pack
There are no restaurants or filling stations near Mapungubwe National Park, so pleasure ensure you take supplies with you.
Where to stay
Stay in a city hotel or guest house when in Polokwane. It’s also a good idea to book into the accommodation available at the Mapungubwe National Park.
Roadside arts and crafts.