South Africa's cultural mix has its roots in a colonial past, represented in many of its churches, museums and Dutch, Victorian and Edwardian buildings. Settlers and slaves later brought their own rich traditions, while the indigenous African communities lived according to their tribal dictates. Fascinating sites introducing you to this proud legacy exist in every province.

Did you know?

The San people (also known as Bushman) created beautiful rock paintings and engravings which you can see at various places, including at the Kamberg Rock Art Centre in KwaZulu-Natal.

A wealth of cultural attractions, South Africa's various ethnic groups are best expressed in cultural villages, visitor centres established in all the main provinces to reflect the country's multicultural heritage.

Among the most popular of these is Shakaland in KwaZulu-Natal, which depicts the isiZulu's beehive huts, their rousing war dances and traditional medicinal skills, and the Basotho Cultural Village in the Free State, which represents the Basotho people's pastoral way of life. Others include Lesedi, Matsama, Nyani and Gaabo Motho cultural villages.

Living urban culture, meanwhile, can be poignantly experienced in the townships, vast and vibey black communities which give the visitor a memorable insight into how apartheid shaped South Africa, while affording an excellent opportunity to listen to the jazzy rhythms that made icons like Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba world-famous. Township tours can be arranged through hotels or tourist agents, and typically visit the past homes of political or cultural icons like Nelson Mandela, a museum, craft market and shebeen, where you can try some local cuisine and home-brewed beer.

South Africa's earliest inhabitants, the San Bushmen, have left their cultural legacy in the form of some of the finest examples of rock art in the world, most notably found in the cliff overhangs of the Drakensberg mountains, where no fewer than around 20 000 individual rock paintings have been recorded at 500 different cave and overhang sites between Royal Natal National Park and Bushman's Neck. Another spectacular gallery of rock art is the Cederberg Wilderness, in the Western Cape.

The country's colonial past, notably the Dutch in the Cape and the British in KwaZulu-Natal, and its settler history, is borne testament to in numerous national monuments and museums. Among the most important of these is the Apartheid Museum and MuseumAfrica in Johannesburg, District 6 Museum in Cape Town and the Kimberley Mine Museum in Kimberley.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Mapungubwe National Park
Tel: +27 (0)15 534 7923

Robben Island Museum
Tel: +27 (0)21 413 4220/

Maropeng
Tel: +27 (0)14 577 9000

Best time to visit

South Africa enjoys a temperate climate all year round in most provinces. The coldest winters − June to end August − are experienced in the Cape.

Around the area

Tour operators in all major cities arrange cultural and heritage trails which take you to cultural attractions in one locality, or take a tour to many in several provinces.

Get around

Most cultural attractions in South Africa are easily accessible by road.

What will it cost

Cultural village charges vary, but are deliberately kept at affordable levels to encourage more visits.

Length of stay

Take at least a week to get a feel of South Africa's cultural landscape.

What to pack

Walking shoes, sunblock and a hat. This is a proudly outdoors country!

Where to stay

Near all South Africa's cultural attractions are good hotels, B&Bs or guesthouses. At some cultural villages, you can overnight in traditional huts, but with all the mod cons.

What to eat

Restaurants and eateries are never more than a stone's throw from South Africa's cultural attractions.

What's happening

South Africa stages more than 200 festivals a year − check the various provincial websites for details of events during your visit.

Best buys

Try to buy crafts made by the communities you visit − you will be adding greatly to their general welfare.