Duration: 5 Nights / 6 Days
Route: Johannesburg >> Soweto >>Johannesburg
Tour Type: Independent with guided activities
Group size: 2-4 adults
Travelling with local guides, you'll uncover the sights and atmosphere of downtown Johannesburg, from superb art galleries and the harrowing Apartheid Museum to the gritty streets of Hillbrow, retreating at night to one of the city's best small hotels. Then you'll travel out to Soweto, to discover the spirit of this township of a million souls that played such a pivotal role in the struggle against Apartheid. Cruising around the township on a bicycle will give you an intimate insight into how people in the new South Africa practice their freedom, while grappling with the economic and social challenges that still exist after Apartheid.
On arrival at Johannesburg's OR Tambo Airport you will be greeted and transferred to your base for exploring the city, The Peech boutique hotel. Originally owned by a member of the World War Two "Dambusters" squadron, The Peech has been converted into a stylish and sustainable urban retreat, which has earned Fair Trade certification for its work with a local project helping children with intellectual disabilities.
Get to grips with the City of Gold on a full day tour of Johannesburg's museums and neighbourhoods. The morning begins with a panoramic view over the city, a drive through the central business district and the edgy but regenerating neighbourhood of Hillbrow, a visit to traditional African shops, and Museum Africa in Newtown, the cultural district of Johannesburg.
After lunch, spend the afternoon at the superb Apartheid Museum. The path through the museum leads you on a journey through South Africa's history of racial division, beginning with segregation, the cornerstone of apartheid. It takes you back through the history of the myriad cultures converging during the pre-apartheid era. Through the years of race classification, the 150 acts of apartheid, detentions and the oppression of the nationalist regime. Examine the rise of black consciousness led by Steve Biko, the armed struggle, and finally witness the release of Nelson Mandela after 27 years of imprisonment, the event that finally led to the final negotiations for peace. Despite the harrowing history, the Apartheid Museum is an experience of upliftment and liberation, and leaves each visitor with a feeling of hope for the future.
Return to your accommodation by early evening.
Days 3 and 4
This morning your guide will collect you and transport you across the invisible but powerful boundary dividing Johannesburg from Soweto – a journey that many residents of Johannesburg will never take.
Over the next two days you'll visit key landmarks of the struggle for freedom, including Nelson Mandela's former home on Vilakazi Street, the nearby Hector Pietersen Museum, a monument and vivid historical record of the events leading up to the 1976 Soweto Uprising, and the Regina Mundi Cathedral, also known as the “Parliament of Soweto”, which still bears bullet holes from the months when it offered sanctuary to those struggling for liberation.
However, the focus of this tour is on meeting the people of Soweto, and discovering some of the townships most innovative community initiatives for sustainable development. We'll visit the Handiworx project, a day care centre, and witness the effects of the Soweto Greening Project.
This evening, enjoy dinner and live entertainment at one of Soweto’s vibrant restaurants or shebeens. Your base for the next two nights will be a humble but comfortable homestay within Soweto.
After breakfast, you will embark on a four-hour cycling tour of the Sowetan suburbs of Orlando, Kliptown and Meadowlands, courtesy of our Fair Trade Partners Soweto Bicycle Tours.
On this tour, the horror stories about Soweto become human stories, of struggle, friendship and hope. You'll meet the residents of a hostel built for migrant workers (and now home to four times the number of people it was built for), hang out with the denizens of a tin shack shebeen, catch up with T-shirt designers and musicians in the creative hotbed of Meadowlands, and go behind the scenes with the directors of indie TV channel Soweto TV.
Travelling by bike offers plenty of opportunity for spontaneous encounters, whether with local kids or gnarled old freedom fighters. It also tears down the walls that normally separate tourists from locals in Soweto. Your guides will help you get by inTsotsitaal, the streetwise tongue of the townships, a Creole of African languages mixed up with elements of English and Spanish which began as a gangster patois, but has evolved to become the mother tongue of Sowetan youth; Soweto TV broadcasts exclusively in Tsotsitaal.
The trip rounds out with an authentic "Soweto burger" - a huge doorstop of white bread stuffed with meat, egg and chips – after which you can choose to spend more time chatting to people in Soweto, or return to Johannesburg to do some last minute shopping in Sandton.
Accommodation at The Peech.
Transfer to the airport for your journey home. Alternatively, combine your Soweto experience with fabulous Big Five game viewing on our Greater Kruger Wildlife Safari.