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Johannesburg's Best Tours & Experiences

People often ask me if I feel safe to walk around and explore Johannesburg. Like any city there are no go area's. or places I would only go through with a local, or as part of a group. But there are lots of places that you just have to be aware (rather than paranoid). Plan your trip, know where you are going, where to park, and leave your Rolex at home.  

Here are my top experiences, the majority are individually or community run, with the larger more established tours at the end. 

Johannesburgs Best Tours

1. Day tour with Thami 

Thami provides the BEST tour in the whole of South Africa! Every guest who comes to stay with us, has to go out with him, at least for half a day. We have sent global CEO's, and my in laws out with him. Thami has grown up in Soweto, he know everyone and everything. There isn't anything he can't show you or explain to you. Thami will personalise your tour, and give you a day you will always remember! He really is outstanding. All the profits he makes go directly back into the people of Soweto. 

2. Micro Adventures Tour Guide 

https://www.facebook.com/KWTMicroadventurer/

Great variety of adventures to go on, from running up the stairs at Ponte Tower, to exploring Joburg's Heritage. Each event always has a great mix of people who create a welcoming environment. But be warned their adventures sell out quickly, so if you see something you would like to do, make sure you book it! 

3. Johannesburg Heritage Foundation

https://www.facebook.com/groups/112707830122/

My good friend Heather Mason from 2Summers told me about these guys, and wow what a great find! They provide a vast amount of knowledge and history delivered in a variety of formats, from bus trips to neighbourhood walking tours. They always run a special offer on tours throughout September to celebrate Heritage Day.  

 

4. Joburg Photowalkers & InstaWalks 

For those who want to explore off the beaten path, join the Photo walkers facebook group, or keep a look out for the next Instawalk. 

https://www.facebook.com/groups/710081799017014/

5. Dlala Nje - Hillbrow 

Most Joburger's consider Hillbrow a no-go area. Thankfully Micro Adventures and Dlala Nje are changing that, by encouraging people to return, by running Hillbrow and Ponte tours and have also just opened a bar and yoga classes inside Ponte Tower.  Dlala Nje operate a youth club based out off Ponte, all proceeds from their tours go directly to the running costs.. 

6. City Stake Tours

https://www.facebook.com/cityskatetours/

The tour lasts three hours and skateboards are provided (tours are for persons aged over 18 only). The first hour is usually spent teaching you how to skate, before heading into town to tell you more about the history, and point out some up and coming urban developments, graffiti and street sculptures.   To book contact Mnyandu on +27 79 839 8833, email cityskatetours@gmail.com. Tours from R300 per person (including skateboard rental). Tours on Sat, Sun, start at 10:00 and 14:00.

General Tours - You need to do at least once

Red Bus Tour

Lebo's Bicycle Tour - Soweto

Past Experiences

Joburg Places  

Top 10 Christmas Events in Joburg

Trying to figure out things to do in Johannesburg over the Christmas period - like many things is near impossible, when you google Christmas is Johannesburg, you either get information on hotels, or events that happened back in 2009!!! To make it easier for us all (particularly the new comers to Jozi) - I have started to put together a brief calendar of events I have been too over the past few years (and got carried away so there are more than 10....). If you know of any more - please do let us know in the comments section at the bottom of this article.

Days Out:

Christmas Festival with Welsh Male Voice Choir - November 26th  Lipizzaners

Garden of Light - Emperors Palace, 8th December - 3rd January 

Gauteng Opera’s Forte @ 1Fox - Saturday 2nd December 7:30pm

Tree of Light event @ JHB Zoo - 26th November

Champagne Picnic on the Lawn - FairLawns Hotel 26th November  


Visiting Father Christmas 

Sandton Shopping Centre - From 2nd December


Carols


Pantomime/ Shows:

Pinnochio - Joburg Theatre 

Shrek  - Peoples Theatre 

A Seussified Christmas Carol - The National Children's Theatre 

Cinderella on Ice - Monte Casino  

A Christmas Carol - Monte Casino 


 

Shopping / Markets

 

Parkview Christmas Market 24th - 26th November 

Kamers - 5th-10th December Pretoria 

Linden Market - 2nd December 

Fourways Christmas Day and Night Market - 9th / 10th Dec & 16th/17th Dec 

The Sheds/ 1Fox St Christmas Night Market - 2nd - 4th December

Bryanston Organic Christmas Night Markets - Every Tuesday from 21st November 

Monte Casino - Christmas Village - 1st-3rd December (+ outdoor screen showing family christmas movies) 

The Neighbourgoods Market - Saturday Morning & 1st Thursday of the month 

44 Stanley Christmas Market - 1 December


HAVE WE MISSED ANY EVENTS? PLEASE LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW 


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HOW TO HAVE THE BEST ROAD TRIP TO CAPE TOWN EVER

At the end of our first year in Joburg we headed to the Transkei for Christmas.  It was the longest road trip we had ever done. We drove the route over 2 long days which looking back will be one of the most memorable trips we have taken for good and bad reasons. Good: Beautiful scenery and the sense of adventure in the new routes undertaken. Bad: locking the keys and the dogs in the car, a burst oil pipe and driving through the largest thunder storm over Van Buren pass (at night) in years.   What a journey, loved (in hindsight) every minute. 

IMG_0979.jpg

After we finally arrived we met our lovely neighbours. They were a South Africa family that have been coming to the same spot for generations, and they all had driven down in one go, it was clear that South Africans know all about road trips!! Our Zimbabwean friends make our road trips look tame,  and border crossing are for a whole new post!.  We are learning, and now Road Trips are something we have come to love and don’t think twice about jumping in the car for a weekend away to Durban (5/6yrs) or out to Madikwe (4/5yrs).  

Are you heading away over the December holidays? Come pick up hints and tips to stay safe and enjoy the experience on our monthly Webinar - 5th December. 


This year we are driving 16 hours down to Cape Town with twin boys (2yrs) and our girl (4yrs) and ridgeback dog, which is going to take some preparation.

Here is my research to date, which covers - route selection, places to stay and other tips for making it the best road trip ever!!

Johannesburg to Cape Town some 1400 km on the N1 - put it into your sat nav and it will say continue on this road for 1,401 kilometres.......


The Route: 

Option 1: N1 

(15/16 hours) 

  • Leave Joburg on M2
  • Take M1 N to Christian Barnard St/M60
  • Take N1 exit to Cape Town  
  • Pass through Bloemfontein 
  • Colesberg
  • Richmond
  • Beaufort West
  • In to Cape Town via the Wine Lands  

Route 2: 1519km 

Not much more than standard 1400km on N1, route taken from Traveller 24   

  • Joburg - Kimberley  
  • Kimberly N12 to N1 at Three Sisters
  • Continue N1 through Beautfort west
  • N12 - Outdshoorn
  • Outdshoorn to George
  • George - N2 - Cape Town  

Route 3: The Ultimate Road Trip of South Africa 

Around  2,500Km Route supplied by South Africa To

  • Leave Joburg N3 - Vaal River 

  • Head onto R26 towards Bethlehem 
  • Clarens - R712 - R711 towards Ficksburg 
  • Fouriesburg change from R711 onto R26 (again)
  • At Ficksburg you will enter Lesotho
  • Lesotho visit Maseru
  • Head back into SA back on R26
  • Rouxville - N6
  • Then head onto R58 crossing the Orange River  
  • R56 towards Middelburg 
  • N9 South to Graaff Reinet 
  • N12 to Oudtshoorn 
  • George - Mossel Bay 
  • N2 Heidelberg (start Garden Route) 
  • Hermanus 
  • Cape Town 

Going to Eastern Cape - Portfolio collection 

Not heading to Cape Town but Plet or Port Elizabeth - Click here for Back Road Route, highlighting some wonderful stop overs and places to eat along the way. 

Where to Stop 

 N1 route: Day 1
1. Windmill casino in Bloemfontein (the Spur) has a good play area for the kids and off the road so the dogs can run around a bit.
2.  Colesburg.
3. Service Stations / Petrol Stations - usually have a Steers which is good for quick stop

Stay Over:  

  • Beaufort West (small town in Cape Karoo) - 930Km from Joburg and 460Km to Cape Town, so majority of your drive will be done on day 1 

Lemoenfontein Game Lodge
Ko kat sara Bush Camp 

If this is too far to drive in one day - you can stop off in Colesberg at Kuilfontein Stable Cottages 
or half way at the Bloemhof
 
Take the additional day to head to Graaf Reinet and Camdeboo National Park, fellow blogger 2summers has a great write up of this beautiful stop over.  READ IT HERE 

Or slight D Tour to Gariep Dam - DeStijl Hotel

 
Day 2 stops: standard N1 route: 

 1. Matjiesfontein - very cute little town. Nice to grab lunch at the coffee shop, dogs can sit out back with you. Nice to walk around the town as well. 


Kimberly Route 2:

Stay at Country Club Kimberly

There are also lots of little Farm Stalls on route, selling uniquely South African items such as Rose Geranium Cordial, Lamb and mint Pies, Fig Jam and Biltong. Check out Food Jams post by Jade de Waal 

General Tips: 

    •    Leave early to avoid queues at the tolls
    •    Have a map and backups to your GPS
    •    Take enough small change / cash for the tolls (don’t accept foreign credit cards, and only some accept south african credit cards)  
    •    The big petrol stations have grassy areas for the dogs so make great pit stops. 
    •    Stick to Speed Limit (usually - 120km/h major routes / 100km/h secondary roads, and 60km/h in towns)  
    •    Pull over into hard shoulder (yellow line) to let cars pass and then thank other drivers by flashing your hazard lights. 
    •    Make sure you have your drivers licence on you and certified photocopies of your passports (or actual passports)
    •    Don’t leave your bag or valuables in the car when stopping at service station and double check manually your car is locked as car jammers (systems that block your automatic central locking)  operate over the holiday season. 
    •    Avoid traveling in the dark (the conditions of the roads aren’t always great, and often deserted).   


Emergency Numbers to have in your phone:

The best advice I have is to download this app! It literally enables you to get the support you need where ever you are in country. 

https://namola.com/

    •    ER24 paramedics: 084 124
    •    Police/Fire Department: 10111
    •    Ambulance: 10117
    •    Arrive Alive Call Centre: 0861 400 800
    •    Netcare Emergency: 082 911

Also your insurance details, who to call in emergency and break down. 

Other Places to stay - AirBnB and Greenwood Guide / Portfolio Collection

Please note - most of this article is advice I have collected over the years, I personally haven’t driven the route (my husband and father stayed at Kuilfontein Stable Cottages and loved it - but the other suggestions are all word of mouth)

Best Places to View Jacarandas

Its that time of year when Joburg and Pretoria turn purple. There is a saying amongst students that if you haven't started revising for your exams by the time the streets turn purple it's too late. 

The Jacaranda's dont last all that long, the best time is usually the second or third weekend in October, just after the first rains have come at the start of summer. 

Moving to South Africa,

Half day trips: 

Rosebank  

Park in Rosebank Mall, and then head out towards Tyrwhitt Avenue, and across Oxford Road into Melrose. Take a stroll around the avenue's before heading back along Jellicoe. Finish up with a drink or meal at the Keys Mile. If you are looking for viewswe recommend Marble or Mesh Club (which is open to the public after 4pm), or the Milk Bar for great vibe.  

Picnic in Emmarentia Park 

Park in Emmarentia car park, just off Orange Road, and then stroll up Troon Road, up and over Barry Herzog, and into the beautiful Clovelly Road. You can stroll all around Greenside, before heading back into Emmerentia to pick up your picnic and head into the park. (If you have kids there is a great play area right by the entrance on Olifants Road.  

Take a Heritage Stroll

Bes places to view Jacaranda

Drive around the streets in parkview, before parking at the bottom of Westcliff Steps on Crescent Drive or the intersection of Wicklow Avenue and Westcliff Drive. The 210 steps are well worth the climb to take in a view across the whole of Johannesburg.

Westcliff is home to all the old "Randlords", its one of the oldest parts of the city. With its large properties with incredible views. It is also home to two outstanding (and over subscribed) schools; The Ridge (boys) and St Catherine’s (girls). The Johannesburg Heritage Foundation run wonderful guided walks. 

Where to see Jacaranda's

Lunch @ Four Seasons Hotel - Westcliff 

This is a must do at least once during your stay here. You can not beat the views from the terrace at this luxury hotel. But make sure you book, it is incredibly popular at this time of year. You may even want to go for a walk around the zoo in the morning, since its right opposite.  

 

Pretoria 

Image - fellow blogger 2summers 

Image - fellow blogger 2summers 

Pretoria is usually 3 degrees warmer than Joburg, as a result the Jacarandas bloom a few weeks earlier than they do in Joburg. 

A great viewing spot is the Union Buildings, which you can get to via the Gautrain, take the Hatfield stop and then the H3 bus. 

If driving, head to the Brooklyn Area, and drive along Pienaar Street and Murray Street, amongst others. For the White Jacaranda's drive along Herbert Baker Street, and then up into the Klapperkop Nature Reserve to get an ariel view. 

For more info on 2Summers hunt for the White Jacaranda's Click here to read her post and see more beautiful photos.