Heritage inspired travel in South Africa

Heritage Day, 24 September 2020, is a chance for South Africans to celebrate the beautiful diversity of cultures we have in our nation. The day has also, in recent years, become known as Braai Day, after BraaiMaster, Jan Braai, and the Braai for Heritage organisation designated the day “National Braai Day” –  a call to “all South Africans to unite around fires, share our heritage and wave our flag on 24 September every year.” In 2007, the day was officially changed to “Braai for Heritage Day” although it’s still commonly referred to as Braai Day.

Whether you choose to call it Braai Day, Braai for Heritage or Heritage Day, what’s most important is that we take the time to celebrate our diversity of cultures and our common national pride.

Now that domestic travel is permitted, perhaps you’re dreaming of a heritage-inspired journey. Whether you choose a weekend getaway or a new spot in your city, here are heritage inspired travel experiences not to be missed in South Africa.

Taste Cape Malay culture in Bo Kaap

Nowhere else on earth can you find the deliciously sweet and savoury flavours that define Cape Malay cuisine. This is truly South African cuisine. The heart and soul of Cape Malay heritage drift out of kitchens and through the cobbled streets and colourful buildings of the iconic Bo Kaap. 

Learn how to cook Cape Malay dishes and gain a deeper appreciation of the significant role the cuisine plays in the heritage of Cape Town and the country. Join a local cooking class to make dhaltjies, samoosas, tomato bredie and bobotie, curries, koeksisters and more.

A visit to the Bo-Kaap Museum and the nearby District Six Museum is also highly recommended.

Visit the Nelson Mandela Capture Site
If you’re exploring the misty lanes of the Midlands Meander, make sure you take the time to stop at the Nelson Mandela Capture Site in Howick.

This exhibition is situated at the exact location where Madiba was captured in August 1952. It’s just an hour from Durban and is a marvel to behold, particularly on a sunny day as the light passes through the 50 steel columns making up his portrait.

Wherever you are in Durbs, don’t miss the opportunity of trying a spicy bunny chow – another proudly South African culinary invention found nowhere else on earth.
There are many other places to dive deeper into the history of the struggle, such as Route 67 in Port Elizabeth – a walk comprising 67 public artworks.

Photo: SA Tourism.

Check out spooky Matjiesfontein

The perfectly preserved Victorian, one street dorp of Matjiesfontein is a must-do for history lovers. Step back in time when you hop on board the red double-decker bus for a quick (it’s only 10 minutes!) and quirky tour of the town, guided by legendary local Jon Theunissen. 

Perhaps you’ll want to overnight at the Lord Milner Hotel and see if the legends of ghosts wafting along the historic hotel’s corridors are true?

Explore the Rooibos capital

Journey to the rooibos capital of the world, Clanwilliam in the Western Cape. Pop into Clanwilliam, the tenth oldest town in the country, to learn all about South Africa’s long history of rooibos production. The House of Rooibos also has a tea room selling a variety of rooibos infused beverages, meals, skincare and medicinal products. 

Clanwilliam is the perfect addition onto a Cederberg getaway to see the spring wildflowers. 

Feast along the Cape West Coast

Come spring, there are many reasons to take a road trip to the Cape West Coast. Wildflowers carpet the earth in a riot of colours and the sparkling azure Langebaan Lagoon beckon beachgoers. 

Don’t leave without tasting the heritage of this proud seafaring corner of South Africa. The heritage of Paternoster, one of the oldest fishing villages on the west coast, is intrinsically caught up in the sea.

Dine on crayfish, snoek, oysters, seafood curries, mussels and the “catch of the day.” Simply head down to the beach at the right time, buy fresh seafood from one of the fishermen and slap it on the braai.

Rich rural culture in the Wild Coast

To truly get off the grid, and gain a deep appreciation of the rich isiXhosa culture of the Eastern Cape, journey to the seaswept shores of the Wild Coast. 

The tiny villages of Coffee Bay still look much as they did decades ago. Expect traditional thatched rondavels overlooking the sea, cows lazing on the beach and not many people to spoil the solitude. 

Definitely make the journey to Hole in the Wall, one of the most impressive landmarks on our coastline and enjoy a traditional isiXhosa meal in a local’s home.

Open your heart to Soweto

If you’re making a trip to Gauteng, or are a Gauteng local yourself, take the time to explore the area through the eyes of a tourist. 

Soweto is the number one spot. Join a bike tour with a local guide and visit all the notable sights like the famous Vilakazi Street, Soweto Towers and more. 

Don’t leave without enjoying some delicious shisa nyama. You haven’t experienced what smoky coals and roasting meat really is until you’ve enjoyed shisa nyama.

A Zulu expression meaning to burn meat, shisa nyama is a communal braai experience in the township. Traditionally, the concept works on a “buy and braai” model. A butchery has a designated braai area, allowing customers to buy and choose their meat themselves and then braai, and enjoy!

Step back in time in Pilgrim’s Rest

Step back into history as you drive into quaint Pilgrim’s Rest, a town that is perfectly preserved from its 1800s gold rush heyday. The entire town is a national monument.
Just a two-and-a-half-hour drive from the Blyde River Canyon, the town is a must-do when exploring Mpumalanga’s stunning Panorama Route.

Other heritage-inspired travel recommendations are:

  • Graaff Reinet – the fourth oldest town in the country, filled with a rich heritage.
  • Nieu Bethesda – quirky artwork and culture in the Karoo.
  • Kimberley – the historic diamond mining town.
  • Bloemfontein – the City of Roses.
  • Tours in your town or city – support a small local tourism operator by joining a local tour and seeing your area through the eyes of a tourist.
  • Rhodes – a tiny historic town in the Drakensberg Mountains.
  • Grahamstown – a vibrant university town with a rich heritage of arts and culture.
  • Grenendal – the town was founded in 1737 and gives a glimpse of what life was like in the 1800s in the rural Western Cape.