Soweto is the most densely inhabited black urban residential area in the country, with its population at close to a million. Its proximity to Johannesburg, the economic heart of the country, makes it is the most metropolitan township in the country - setting trends in politics, fashion, music, dance and language. Soweto is a melting pot of South African cultures. Recent years have seen Soweto become a major tourist attraction in the country. With heritage sites, restaurants, shebeens and budget accommodation options galore. Soweto is well worth visiting, it is a place of friendship, vibrancy and contrasts. Infused with the history of the fight against apartheid and abuzz with energy, Soweto is a must-see for tourists who are looking for more than sun, sea and the big five.
On the tour, they will take you through contrasting settlements whilst giving visitors the historical background. Rows of tin shanties adjoin lavish mansions; heaps of rubbish and potholed roads offset green fields and rustic streams.
The tour starts with a drive past the largest Hospital in the Southern Hemisphere, the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital. The taxi ranks, side- walk stalls and muti shops of the traditional Healers add vibrancy and colour to the start of the day. They then visit a squatter camp (informal settlement) where you can buy the arts and crafts of the local people and take a tour of the squatter camp with a local guide. Tourists get to mingle with the different classes of people in their modest homes.
The tour continues past Vista University and onto FREEDOM SQUARE, Kliptown. This famous place is where the “People’s Bill of Rights” know as the Freedom Charter, was finalized and agreed upon. The tour includes a visit to the Oppenheimer Tower, a popular tourist attraction set in unusual gardens. They then proceed to a guided tour of Credo Mutwa’s cultural village of African mythical sculptures and then on to the HECTOR PETERSON memorial, for an informative visit and insight into the riots of June 1976.
One of the highlights of the tour is standing on the only road that carries the honour of two of the recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize. Visitors get to drop in at Nelson Mandela’s’s home – one of the most visited sights in the country, a tiny, four roomed “matchbox” house. The house is now a museum, run by Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, and contains memorabilia from the short time they lived there together. Three houses away from Mandela’s home, one comes across the home of Bishop Tutu, recognized internationally as a stalwart anti-apartheid cleric.
For a real cultural experience the tour stops at a typical shebeen for lunch. Shebeens are local drinking establishments. They have survived the attempts of the authorities to close them down to become thriving informal social centres patronized by local patrons.
On the return journey, the experienced tour guide will drive through some of the wealthiest suburbs with its beautiful homes.
All in all the Soweto Tour is not to be missed, with its rich history, traditions and wonderful people, visitors will experience another side of life in South Africa.