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World Heritage Sites of Southern Africa


South Africa's eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites are captivating and beautiful areas of natural or cultural origin that are worthy of protection for future generations. UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization have an international World Heritage Programme to conserve outstanding regions of value to humankind.

World Heritage Sites are chosen for their cultural significance or natural beauty and could be a coral reef, mountain range, wetland, desert, architectural development, city or even a cultivated landscape. Some of the most famous World Heritage Sites are the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls, the Pyramids of Giza, the Statue of Liberty, the Tower of London, India’s Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the Serengeti Plains of Tanzania and South Africa’s Robben Island.

Each World Heritage Site belongs to the country in which it is located, but it is conserved for the benefit of the global community and future generations. South Africa has eight World Heritage Sites, three of which have been selected for their cultural significance, four for their natural importance and one for a combination of both.

South Africa's World Heritage Sites

Cradle of Humankind

The Cradle of Humankind includes the fossil hominid sites of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai, and environs. It is a place of major significance for it was here that we first became human. Apparently it was here that we first stood upright on our own two, rather oddly shaped, feet, explored the uses to which we could put our usefully opposed thumbs, and experimented with more and more sophisticated grunts as we tried to make sense of our environment.

Robben Island

This famous little windswept island has captured hearts and minds around the globe in recent history. Most well known as the place where Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison, Robben Island is a symbol of the triumph of love over hate, forgiveness over revenge and of justice over oppression. It was here that Nelson Mandela formulated his notions of forgiveness...

Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape

The fascinating remains of the ancient city state of Mapungubwe in the Limpopo Province show sophisticated metal working, the earliest known confirmation of social stratification, and also evidence of trade with Arabia and Asia.

uKhahlamba / Drakensberg Park

Preserved in the dramatic Drakensberg mountains are beautiful archaeological treasures on cave walls and rock shelters - hundreds of exquisite rock art paintings that tell the story of the San, an ancient hunter-gatherer society that lived there until more recent time.

Cape Floral Region

The Cape Floral Region is one of the hottest spots for global plant diversity. More than 8 500 plant species thrive in this narrow coastal strip, the smallest and richest of the world’s six floral regions.

iSimangaliso / Greater St Lucia Wetland National Park

The sub-tropical paradise of the iSimangaliso / Greater St Lucia Wetland National Park is a mind-blowing range of natural systems, varying from dune, swamp and coastal forests to rocky and sandy shores, coral reefs and submarine canyons, mangroves, savanna grassland, thickets, woodlands, and is the largest protected wetland in southern Africa, it is also a culturally fascinating area and - more importantly - has immense fun potential.

Vredefort Dome

The Vredefort Dome is the site of the largest and most ancient visible meteorite impact, the scars of which are still discernable in the spectacular, rather rugged terrain.

Richtersveld Cultural & Botanical Landscape

The sun baked, dramatic, mountainous landscape of the Richtersveld in the Northern Cape became South Africa's newest World Heritage Site in 2007.

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Ukhahlamba / Drakensberg Park
Isimangaliso / Greater St Lucia Wetland
Disas On Table Mountain, Cape Floral Region
Richtersveld Cultural & Botanical Landscape
Fossil Hominid Sites Of Sterkfontein
Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape