Whether you want to meet South Africans in their homes, a taste of the Xhosa culture, photograph the most willing subjects in the world (South African kids) or buy crafts as mementos of your trip, Khayelitsha township in Cape Town is the perfect place.

Did you know?

Lookout Hill is a great place to start your tour of Khayelitsha.

There's only one township in South Africa that can claim to have been the subject of a Bizet operatic adaptation: Khayelitsha, near Cape Town.

And when you're motoring down Baden Powell Drive (the R310) in Cape Town and you come into view of a great sea of shacks on the right, just slow down for a minute and feel the throb of one of South Africa's most vibrant townships.

It would, however, be a safer and far more rewarding to sign on for a formal township tour of Khayelitsha ('new home' in isiXhosa), for a taste of day-to-day community life.

Built in the early 1980s on the Cape Flats about 20 minutes' drive from the Cape Town CBD, Khayelitsha is a bustling mix of township 'box houses' and makeshift shacklands that regularly fall prey to wildfires and flooding, as the notorious Cape storms lash the coastline.

The township, which houses more than 500 000 people, came sharply into world focus in the mid-2000s when U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha, based on Bizet's opera Carmen, was filmed here.

U-Carmen won the prestigious Golden Bear for Best Film award at the 2005 Berlin International Film Festival and shone later at the Cannes Film Festival. This innovative, passionate isiXhosa interpretation of the famous opera had Khayelitsha's sprawl for a backdrop. Even the star of the show, Pauline Malefane, was a 'home girl' from Khayelitsha.

It has since been the backdrop in Hollywood films like Safe House and Dredd.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Cape Town Tourism
Tel: +27 (0)21 487 6800
Email: info@capetown.travel

How to get here

Your guide will pick you up wherever you are staying.

Tours to do

Use one of the many accredited guides.

Get around

You will be driven around by your guide. Under no circumstances should you do a self-drive through Khayelitsha.

What will it cost

Between R300 and R500 per person, depending on your chosen length of visit.

Length of stay

Half-day; full-day or overnight at a B&B.

What to pack

Good walking shoes, water, some cash in small denominations.

Where to stay

If you choose to stay in a Khayelitsha B&B, your guide will inform you about the various choices. Always go with a recommended guide; always stay at a recommended place.

What to eat

Traditional African food at the lunchtime spots and overnight stays.