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The jewel in the crown of Limpopo’s cultural tours is the ancient kingdom of Mapungubwe, once the capital of a country as large as Swaziland, surrounded by 200 towns. This was a place so feared that centuries later, those who knew of it would not even mention its name.
TThe mystical and misty Soutpansberg range of mountains in northern Limpopo is deeply layered in legends and the written history of its ancient peoples. Later, the San also left their marks on the rocks. It's a significant Limpopo cultural route.
Researchers are still finding signs of early Stone Age habitation in the form of stone tools and wall paintings in sheltered overhangs. Visitors on Limpopo cultural tours hear how these people knew how to smelt iron, glass, copper and gold. In the western Soutpansberg, at least 30 rock art sites have been identified and recorded.
The wandering San people left their mark, as did the Venda who came after them. And then, at the turn of the 19th century, along came the infamous hunter-explorer and frontiersman, Coenraad de Buys, and his motley crew. He left behind a community of people who formed what is known as Buysdorp today. In fact, the guides who eventually showed the Voortrekkers the ins and outs of the Soutpansberg were Buysdorpers themselves. You could say they were the pioneers of local Limpopo tourism.
One of the best Limpopo cultural tours is the ancient kingdom of Mapungubwe, which was once the capital of a country as large as Swaziland, surrounded by more than 200 satellite towns.
Archaeologists have been carefully picking over the ruins for decades now, and they tell us the rule of the Kingdom of Mapungubwe extended between 1220AD to 1290AD.
This was a place so feared that centuries later, those who knew of it would not even look towards its seat of power or mention its name.
The artefacts found at Mapungubwe are thought to originate from India, Egypt, Southeast Asia and the Middle East: defining an early international trading network.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)15 290 2010
How to get here
Self-drive is the best option.
Best time to visit
Summers can be very hot in this part of the world. The most pleasant time to visit is in spring, winter or autumn.
Things to do
This region is rich in wildlife; in mystical places like the sacred Lake Fundudzi and the sacred forest of Thathe Vondo; and in unexpected parks like the Musina Baobab Reserve. Go shopping for Venda cloth in Makhado (Louis Trichardt) or take a day drive into Kruger National Park.
Tours to do
A guided or self-guided tour of Mapungubwe is a must.
Again, use your own vehicle. It will give you much more mobility.
Length of stay
Stay in the area for about a week to truly uncover the magic of the place and explore at a leisurely pace.
What to pack
Comfortable clothes and shoes, sunscreen, hat and camera.
What to eat
If you're feeling brave, try one of the local specialties of this region − mopani worms.
Ask about Venda cloth. This brightly striped material is made into traditional skirts and tops but looks good on ottomans and cushions too. It’s sold at bargain prices in Makhado.