Soweto South Africa is a popular township in the city of Johannesburg, Gauteng province. During my recent trip in the township, i learnt that the name Soweto is an abbreviation of South Western Townships, thanks to our knowledgeable guides Linda and Chico from Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers.
For those who read from media that Johannesburg is too unsafe, just get out of the airport and prove yourself wrong. Don’t get it twisted, I don’t mean you walk flipping your iPhone 7 and bling in the air, just walk calmly like a local, greet the Sowetans with a smile and enjoy the sights and sounds of colorful Soweto.
Choose from walking tour, tuk tuk or bicycle tour to best explore Soweto, South Africa. The bicycle tour offers a good workout while being not too strenuous, especially if you’re not physically fit.
Here are top 10 reasons why you must visit Soweto:
1. Drink traditional brew Umqombothi. This is a local beer made from corn, malt, sorghum, yeast and water usually with an alcohol content of less than 3%. It’s thick, creamy and rich in vitamin B 😀
2. Dress like a local – The culture of the African people is mostly characterized by how they dress. In South Africa, the marital status of the Xhosa people is conveyed by the color and shape of their dress, beads, bibs, bracelets and necklaces beads suspended from their body.
You notice the difference between older married women and younger unmarried ladies from the hat to the piece on the forehead and shape of the beads on the neck piece. Single women wear diamond -shaped neck piece while those of married women are square -shaped.
3. Ride a tuk tuk– Only in Soweto South Africa you’ll get to hear of executive tuk tuks. Guess it’s because of the bright colors? Tuk tuks are a way of navigating through Soweto township and at the same time avoiding the unforgiving African sun.
If you doubt your fitness levels or just don’t fancy walking, jump into one of these from Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers and ride like a celeb.
4. And you’ll love the graffiti… A few years ago, Soweto South Africa was a derelict crime ridden wasteland. Thanks to incredible efforts of the local community and individuals who once had an idea and turned it into a reality, the township is now live with colorful streets, shops, restaurants and happy welcoming people.
Most of the graffiti expresses the history of South Africa with national heroes like Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu featuring in most of them. The youth take part in painting the graffiti which helps to stop vandalism, acting as a source of income at the same time.
5. Food and more food – In South Africa, food has an influence of the African, Indians, The Dutch settlers, and Malaysian giving you a diverse culinary experience. Stop at Mandela’s family restaurant off Vilakazi street, Wandies place (famous for hosting Sir Richard Branson, Quincy Jones etc), Restaurant Vilakazi, Sowetalian among others, for a true taste of South Africa.
Try local cuisines like pap (ugali), shisa nyama (nyama choma), chakalaka (a local hot salad made of tomatoes, onions, baked beans, green chillies and hot chillies, and Kota which is quarter loaf of bread stuffed with meat and cheese.
6. Test your adrenaline levels – These two cooling towers which were originally built for Orlando power station now form the best platform for bungee jumping and free falling adrenaline activities.
The height of Orlando towers is equivalent to 33-storey building and painted with bright South African pride (well, besides this Vodacom advert ).
You’ll be lifted in an open-air elevator to a height of around 97 metres, walk through a floating staircase for the remaining 3 metres. If this is scary enough for you, you can enjoy the views and return the way you came. If you’re a daredevil like me, step onto the jump platform where with professional instructions, you can choose to free fall, bungee jump or simply zip line across the two towers.
7. Make new friends – You never walk alone in Africa. Africans are the most welcoming people in the world (all puns intended* ). While in Soweto South Africa, greet the locals with a high-five or simply smile at them. If you’re lucky to throw a greeting in the local language, you will win more friends, like i did 😉
8. Walk through history of South Africa – Visit the famous Hector Pieterson Memorial museum and learn about the 1976 students uprising which forms an important part of South Africa’s history. This will give you a deeper understanding of the oppression that came with apartheid and the bravery of those who stood up against it fighting for the freedom that South Africa now enjoys.
Visit the buzzing Vilakazi street, have lunch at the Mandela family restaurant, see Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu houses . It is recommended that you visit Soweto with a guide or a local.
9. Because Sowetans can run faster than you can cycle…
10. Did you think Beverly Hills was only in California? You were totally wrong !
There are a million reasons why you should visit Soweto South Africa which cannot fit in one blog post so get out of the airport and explore this vibrant township.
Love & colour,
Carolina | My Global Attitude