Johannesburg Travel Guide
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Why? Built on the wealth of the gold beneath its streets, the remarkable city of Johannesburg mushroomed from nothing to a modern metropolis in just over a century. Travel to Johannesburg to discover the pot of gold in the 'rainbow nation' of South Africa. There are wonderful restaurants, fascinating township tours, fantastic shopping opportunities, and the chance of exciting excursions to such diverse attractions as glitzy casinos, game parks and prehistoric fossil fields.
When? Summer in Johannesburg is between November and March, and perhaps the best time to travel to Johannesburg is over the Festive season (December/January) when South African schools are on their summer break and the city tends to empty out as residents head to the coast for their holidays. This leaves Johannesburg's attractions uncrowded and accessible under a hot African sky, marred perhaps with late afternoon thunderstorms that cool things down. Winter days are beautiful and sunny, but nights can be very cold.
Who for? Johannesburg is the gateway to South Africa's top game parks, and many who enter the country here would be well-advised to spend a few days holiday in Johannesburg to experience this vibrant city before or after they hit the bush. 'Joburg', as it is known, is also a great destination for a family holiday, offering plenty of fun attractions like a zoo, theme park and gold mine tours.
More Info: Before you sit down to plan a holiday in Johannesburg make sure you read our full Johannesburg travel guide, which contains frequently updated basic information, like safety considerations, entry requirements and even what electric plugs are used, to details of attractions, events and excursions.
Place of Gold - sunset in Johannesburg © City of Johannesburg
The capital of South Africa's smallest province, Gauteng, Johannesburg is the economic powerhouse of Africa with its ever-growing suburban sprawl creeping outwards from the central city skyscrapers and ring-road motorways.
The more than 10-million inhabitants live fast and have a restless spirit, which they have imparted into the fabric of the city, also known by its African name as Egoli, 'the place of gold'. The development of the city, which is just over a century old, has followed the fortunes of the Witwatersrand (White Water Reef), the rich gold-bearing rock reef that stretches across this area of central South Africa. The initial gold rush started in the 1880s, and barely ten years later Johannesburg had become South Africa's largest town and the site of frenzied development that has been ongoing ever since.
Johannesburg today is a city of contrasts, with glass-paned modern luxury high-rises towering beside a few remaining dilapidated Victorian buildings, and affluent northern suburbs with stunning private homes behind high fences giving way to the squalid streets and tiny shoebox houses of the massive Soweto township in the south. The chasm between rich and poor in the city has given rise to a high crime rate, evidenced by the fortress-like security that pervades the wealthier suburbs.
Most visitors to South Africa, particularly those intent on exploring the game reserves of Mpumalanga, arrive at Johannesburg's busy OR Tambo International Airport, which is the main point of entry for the country. There is little in Johannesburg itself to grab the attention of tourists, but a few days can be filled taking in some entertaining man-made attractions before heading off to the game parks of the northeast or the coastal regions. The most interesting diversion in Johannesburg is undoubtedly a 'Heritage Route' or 'Shebeen Crawl' tour of Soweto, but take care only to venture into the maze of the township with an organised tour or professional guide.
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