Declared World Heritage Sites in South Africa

[vc_row css_animation=”” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column][vc_column_text]World Heritage Sites are natural or man-made sites, areas, or structures recognized as being of outstanding universal value and therefore as deserving special protection. The sites are nominated by different countries in accordance with the World Heritage Convention ofUNESCO. Each year, the World Heritage Committee hosts a sitting in any of the member countries (State Parties) where elected members as professionals in the sector decide on the nominated sites that qualify to be listed and protected as World Heritage Sites. The criteria are very tight and it can take up to 10 years or more for a site to reach this stage. It is a great achievement for a country to succeed in enlisting a site on the World Heritage Register. These sites enjoys protection from the country where the site is located and the world as well as heritage practitioners across the globe.

South Africa is home to ten (10) (as at 2019) of the world’s official heritage sites, as determined by UNESCO‘s World Heritage Committee. The country has a total of 5 cultural, 4 natural and one mixed (cultural and natural) heritage sites.


1 Robben Island (1999)

2 Fossil Hominid Sites of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai, and Environs (1999)

3 Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape (2003)

4 Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape (2007)

5 Khomani Cultural Landscape (2017)


6 UKhahlamba / Drakensberg Park (2000)


7 Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park (1999)

8 Vredefort Dome (2005)

9 Cape Floral Region Protected Areas (2004)

10 Barberton Makhonjwa Mountain Land (2018)


More about the sites

Robben Island – (Western Cape)

As of 2 April 2019, Robben Island has officially been declared a Marine Protected Area by the Department of Environmental Affairs.

For nearly 400 years, Robben Island, 12 kilometres from Cape Town, was a place of banishment, exile, isolation and imprisonment. It was here at Robben Island that rulers sent those regarded as political troublemakers, social outcasts and the unwanted of society.

Cradle of Humankind – (Gauteng) 

The Cradle of Humankind lies mainly in the Gauteng province with a small extension into the neighboring North West Province, and covers 47 000 hectares of land mostly privately owned. The Site comprises a strip of a dozen dolomitic limestone caves containing the fossillisedremains of ancient forms of animals, plants and most importantly, hominids. The dolomite in which the caves formed, started out as coral reefs growing in a warm shallow sea about 2.3 billion years ago.

Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape – (Limpopo) 

Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape is situated in the extreme north of this country, where South Africa meets Botswana and Zimbabwe. However, it was once (between 900 and 1300 CE) the centre of gold and ivory trade with eastern African ports. Although once being the largest kingdom in the African sub-continent, Mapungubwe was abandoned in the 1300’s. Still, this remains a very important area thanks to the heritage left behind by generations passed.

Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape – (Northern Cape)

Inscribed as a South African World Heritage Sites in June 2007, the Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape is a remarkable mountainous desert in the north-west of the country that is uniquely owned and managed by the Nama community, descendants of the Khoi-Khoi people. It is a land of extreme temperatures characterised by a harsh, dry landscape.

ǂKhomani Cultural Landscape

The area in the southern Kalahari, bordered in the east by Botswana and the west by Namibia, is where you will find a small group of the ǂKhomani San a people who, until recently, were thought to have vanished.

Ukhahlamba Drakensburg Park- (KwaZulu-Natal) 

The Park has outstanding natural beauty, Africa’s highest mountain range south of Kilimanjaro, and the largest and most concentrated series of rock art paintings in Africa – making it a World Heritage site of both natural and cultural significance. 

Vredefort Dome – (Free State) 

The Vredefort Dome is the oldest and largest meteorite impact site (Asrobleme) in the world. Formed an estimated 2000 million years ago when a gigantic meteorite (larger than Table Mountain) hit the earth close to where Vredefort is today.

The Cape Floral Region – (Western Cape) 

The magnificent Cape Floristic Region is, as its name implies, situated in the Western Cape and parts of the Eastern Cape provinces of South Africa. It is significant for being one of the world’s most diverse and abundant floral areas, home to about one-fifth of the vegetation in all of Africa. Perched right at the tip of the continent, this region is not only fascinating for those with a penchant for flora, but also spectacular.

The Barberton Makhonjwa Mountain Land-Mpumalanga

The Barberton Makhonjwa Mountain Land is the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in the province. Mpumalanga, which shares borders with Gauteng and Limpopo, has always been one of South Africa’s prettiest provinces in terms of dramatic landscapes. And the mountains are just one more dazzling gem in this treasure chest.


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