UNESCO World Heritage Sites to visit in Africa

Posted on 14 May 2024 By Nomvelo Masango

The breathtaking African continent boasts a rich heritage, diverse cultures and impressive natural beauty. It is also home to a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

These are cultural and/or natural sites which, as per the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), are considered to be of outstanding universal value. These sites are recognised for being unique, diverse and of special importance.

When exploring Africa, it is not rare to encounter some of these special and celebrated places. Here are a few UNESCO World Heritage Sites on the African continent which are worth visiting:

Lake Malawi National Park, Malawi

Located at the southern end of Lake Malawi, the Lake Malawi National Park is of global importance, mainly due to its fish diversity. The national park exists for the purpose of protecting fish and aquatic habitats. It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 as a result of its natural beauty and outstanding biodiversity values. The area is home to exceptional natural beauty, rugged landscapes and clear waters. Lake Malawi is also one of the deepest lakes in the world. It is here where one can find many hundreds of cichlid fish, many of which are endemic to the area.

Victoria Falls, Zambia/Zimbabwe

Credit: Sammy Wong / Unsplash

Found along the mighty Zambezi River, Victoria Falls displays astounding natural beauty. Also known as ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ (the smoke that thunders), the towering sheet of water is over 1,5 km wide and plunders down a 108m vertical drop.

Picture: GettyImages

Victoria Falls was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 1989. Zambia and Zimbabwe are found on either side of the falls, and you are in for a breathtaking experience regardless of the side you choose to visit.

Robben Island, South Africa

Picture: Getaway Gallery

Robben Island holds a symbolic value that is found in its sombre history. It is famously known as the place where Apartheid struggle icon, Nelson Mandela, was jailed for 27 years.
At various times between the 17th and the 20th century, Robben Island was used as a prison and a military base. It also served as a hospital for socially unacceptable groups, including an isolated leper colony in 1845.

Robben Island was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. Visiting the attraction is an experience nothing short of interesting and educational.

Stone Town, Tanzania

Picture: Getaway Gallery

Located just off the coast of mainland Tanzania, Stone Town serves as a fine example of the Swahili coastal trading towns of East Africa.

It is an outstanding manifestation of cultural fusion and the beauty of harmonisation. Moreover, the architecture and urban structure of the place illustrate the intense seaborne trading activity which took place between Asia and Africa for many centuries. Stone Town was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 2000 and is undoubtedly worth the visit.

Cradle of Humankind, South Africa

Picture: Melanie van Zyl

Located about 50km northwest of Johannesburg, the Cradle of Humankind contains essential elements which define the origin and evolution of humanity.

In 1999, the Cradle of Humankind was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the wealth of fossils found in the area. When visiting the site, expect a rich, fascinating and fun experience. You will learn more about the human species, our origins and evolution throughout the years.

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