Johannesburg, also known as Jo'burg, is the largest city in South Africa by population and a gateway for many travelers on safari. Named the ""City of Gold"" for its rich deposits of the precious metal, it's also the economic engine and vibrant heart of the country. Top historical attractions include the Apartheid Museum, a poignant look at the oppression of apartheid to the birth of democracy; Constitution Hill; and Gold Reef City, which traces the region's history through mining-themed attractions. If Johannesburg is the heart of South Africa, the shanty towns of Soweto, are its soul. An abbreviation for ""southwestern townships,"" Soweto birthed the freedom movement, which created South Africa's new democratic constitution. Guided tours of the townships often include a visit to the Mandela House, now a national monument. Close in distance, but a world away in feel, Pretoria is the administrative capital of the country. It's a city of parks and gardens, and home to the Voortrekker Monument and Heritage Site and the highly-lauded Freedom Park.
The Cradle of Humankind, one of eight World Heritage Sites in South Africa, and the only one in Gauteng, is renowned as the place where humankind originated. It is here that the first hominid, Australopithecus, was found in 1924 at Taung in the North West Province by Professor Raymond Dart of the University of the Witwatersrand. And is one of the major tourist attractions in South Africa.
The Cradle of Humankind area boasts 13 excavation sites that are recognised as national heritage sites, both internationally and by the South African Heritage Resources Agency. For those wanting to experience the birthplace of humankind firsthand, the official visitor centres for the Cradle of Humankind, Maropeng and the Sterkfontein Caves, are within an easy hour’s drive from Johannesburg.