Heritage Tourism: Discover South Africa’s Ancestral Sites

When it comes to rediscovering our beloved Mzansi, there is no shortage of local cultural landscapes, scenic seascapes and tumultuous history to dig into. With heritage tourism and sustainable travel on the rise, rediscovering our roots will never mean as much as it does now.

Check out our list of some of the ancestral must-sees in South Africa:

1. Table Mountain, Cape Town

heritage tourism

At more than 260 million years old, Table Mountain has been a beacon to Cape Town‘s weary travellers since time immemorial. Before South Africa was colonised, the Khoisan people lived and hunted on the slopes of Table Moutain and called this geographic titan “hoerikwagga” which translates to “mountain in the sea”. They revered Table Mountain as sacred, believing that their god, Tsui-Goab dwelled there. You only need to look at the beauty of Table Mountain to see why such beliefs ever existed. This iconic attraction is always worth the money spent. Make your way to the ticket office, board the memorable cable car and explore the mountain top. If you’re more inclined to hike, the Table Mountain National Park provides a gorgeous backdrop for getting that workout done and dusted! 

Where to stay: Find accommodation in Cape Town!

2. The Cradle of Humankind, Johannesburg

heritage tourism

Board a time capsule to the origins of the human race in Johannesburg. Of all the local cultural landscapes, this one is by far the most fascinating. The fossil-bearing caves at the Cradle of Humankind have records of human evolution spanning over the last four million years. This South African Heritage Site houses 40% of the world’s known human-ancestor fossils, as well as the previously undiscovered Homo naledi species. The two main attractions at the Cradle of Humankind are Maropeng and the Sterkfontein Caves. 


The award-winning Maropeng Visitor Centre exhibits human development and ancestry spanning over the past few million years. Visitors can see fossils first-hand, view stone tools up to a million years old and so much more. The Maropeng tour is self-guided and interactive which allows you to explore at a pace chosen by you! Go ahead and meander through history. 

The Sterkfontein Caves

Owned by the University of the Witwatersrand, the Sterkfontein Caves is packed full of excavations and has been proclaimed a world heritage site. The world-famous fossil, Mrs Ples is found here, as well as Little Foot, an almost complete Australopithecus skeleton dating back more than three million years. 

Visitors can purchase a combined ticket to both Maropeng and the Sterkfontein Caves from R190. Children under 4 go in for free. 

Where to stay: Find accommodation in Joburg!

3. !Khwa Ttu: San Culture and Education Centre

heritage tourism

!Khwa ttu is located on a wheat farm in Yzerfontein in the Western Cape. Of the west coast local cultural landscapes, this one offers tourists the most hands-on experience. 

Once the territory of the !Xam Bushmen, Yzerfontein is steeped in the history of days gone by. !Khwa ttu covers 800 hectares of open land that offers visitors panoramic views of the west coast. Visitors can also explore restored San cottages, a museum, as well as San rock art. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the antelope who call this cultural landscape home. 

Where to stay: Find accommodation in Yzerfontein! 

4. Khoisan Rock Art, Cederberg

heritage tourism

Curate a trip around making your way to the absolutely beautiful Cederberg. Check out the indigenous rock art and experience Khoisan stories the way they were meant to be enjoyed. Just two hours outside of Cape Town, the Cederberg mountain caves house more than 2,500 different Khoisan rock art sites, as well as a variety of hiking trails. Brave the day-long Sevilla Rock Art Trail and explore the Stadsaal, Truitjieskraal, Southern Arch and Varkkloof rock art sites. The Cederberg Conservancy is quite expansive and offers visitors documented Khoisan art spanning as far back as 8,000 years.

Also read: Escape to the Cederberg

Where to stay: Find accommodation in the Cederberg!

5. The ǂKhomani Cultural Landscape

heritage tourism

This world heritage site, found in the northern part of South Africa bordering Botswana and Namibia, coincides with the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park (KGNP). The expansive landscape contains evidence of human occupation from as far back as the Stone Age to the present. This stretch of land is associated with the ǂKhomani San people and bears testament to the indigenous people who inhabited this area for thousands of years. Explore where hunter-gatherers once dwelled and check out the daily tools they used. Witness how the ǂKhomani San people live off the earth before making your way to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP). Explore the Imbewu bush camp, check out “veldskool” and experience the greater !Ae!Hai Kalahari Heritage Park in the southern end of the KGNP. 

This is the perfect trip to combine heritage tourism with some game viewing in the surrounding national parks.

Where to stay: Find accommodation in the Kgalagadi district


South Africa has absolutely no shortage of cultural and ancestral history to delve into. Make rediscovering home part of your post-lockdown mission and renew your appreciation for the sheer beauty that is the Rainbow Nation. 

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What are your thoughts on heritage tourism? Let us know in the comments!

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