Ask the experts: Nelson Mandela pilgrimage

I'm going to South Africa later this year, and would like to incorporate some sort of Nelson Mandela pilgrimage, including his hometown and burial site

By National Geographic Traveller (UK)
Published 12 Feb 2014, 10:47 GMT, Updated 30 Jun 2021, 17:06 BST

I'm going to South Africa later this year, and would like to incorporate some sort of Mandela pilgrimage, including his hometown and burial site. Can you suggest a tour or itinerary that would take a long weekend out of Cape Town?

Nicholas Wood, founder of Political Tours: Robben Island and the Parliament (where Apartheid was created and ultimately ended) are the obvious choices if you're in Cape Town. District 6, where 60,000 people were expelled and their homes demolished, illustrates the cruel and arbitrary nature of apartheid. Our tours ask how South Africa has changed since Mandela was released. With that in mind, jump on a plane to Johannesburg and visit the Apartheid Museum which reveals what it was like to live with the pass-laws that dictated people's lives. Our itineraries also pass by Nkandla, President Zuma's luxury compound, that for many symbolises the corruption that has gripped the political elite since Madiba left office. Ten days from £3,440 per person.

Thulani Nzima, CEO of South African Tourism: South African Tourism has published a map for travellers to follow in Nelson Mandela's footsteps. There are several detailed, self-guided itineraries following routes around the Eastern Cape, Western Cape and across the interior. These take in numerous sites, including Nelson Mandela's childhood home in Qunu, the University of Fort Hare (South Africa's first university college for black Africans) where Nelson Mandela studied law, and Robben Island where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years in prison.

Award-winning Africa travel writer, Emma Gregg: It's likely there will soon be plenty of scheduled tours but for now, it's best to travel independently or book a bespoke itinerary with a South Africa specialist. The Eastern Cape villages of Mvezo, Qunu and Mqhekezweni, where Mandela was born and grew up, are over 700 miles from Cape Town and off the tourist trail. You could hire a car and drive there via the Garden Route, or fly direct to the regional capital, Mthatha. Arrange a local guide through the Nelson Mandela Heritage Centre in Qunu, which has accommodation — they can show you places mentioned in Long Walk to Freedom. Mandela's burial site in Qunu remains private, but you can walk right up to the gates of his mansion on the N2 highway.


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