The most compelling reason to visit a township is to experience the lives of the people who live there – their unique stories, their warmth and compassion.
Whether you choose to volunteer at a local soup kitchen, get involved in a community project, or buy souvenirs from township traders, a township tour offers insights into the diverse culture of South Africa.
Here are some of our favourite township experiences to add to the mix, along with key experiences and safety tips to ensure you have a memorable visit.
Not far from Cape Town International Airport and only 26km from Cape Town city centre, Nyanga township is one of the largest and oldest townships in Cape Town.
Nyanga is derived from IsiXhosa which means 'moon' and is renowned as one of the hubs of township entrepreneurship. This is home to a vibrant community some of South- Africa’s most celebrated entrepreneurs and creatives.
Nyanga’s culture is unquestionably worth exploring, from its community outreach projects, local barbershops and tuck shops to women selling fruit on the streets.
Like many townships in South Africa, Nyanga comprises informal settlements where people live in homes made mostly of corrugated iron, cardboard and wood.
Theatre in the Background: A new form of theatre which takes place in the backyards of residents. The plays are small and run for approximately 30 minutes in English. They share local stories that visitors can relate to. After the performance, the actors and directors join the audience for a meal and a beer. For more information, visit https://tastemakersafrica.com/experience/theatre-in-the-backyard
Kayamandi is a developing township situated high atop the hills of Stellenbosch overlooking the winelands.
Kayamandi, which is a Xhosa name for a ‘sweet home’ truly lives up to its name. The locals pride themselves on beautifying their township and turning life around for residents.
Local tour guide, Awodwa Tobo, says; “Kayamandi township has a variety of local non-profit organisations that play a major role in uplifting the community”.
Awodwa recommends youth projects that focus on the development of young people: These projects play a pivotal role in the growth and personal development of young people in the community.
They are a safe haven for young people where they learn about values and developing one's strengths, these projects are worth a visit as it gives those visiting time to interact and get an understanding of the issues faced by the youth in South African townships.
African cuisine at Amazink restaurant which is the pride and joy in Kayamandi. The owners are Kayamandi locals who always welcome visitors with a warm smile. For more information, visit https://amazinklive.co.za/.
Khayelitsha which means a ‘new home’ when translated in IsiXhosa is the second-largest township in South Africa, with Soweto in Johannesburg being the first.
The township is located on the N2 highway leading to Cape Town and it has the largest single concentration of informal settlements with a continuation in shack dwellers estimated at 10 000 a year.
“Khayelitsha is home to a variety of different cultures and it prides itself on its diversity. It is a very business-oriented township, where on every corner there is someone selling something to earn a living. Khayelitsha locals are open to visitors and are always ready and eager to show them around," said local, Athi Mfundisi.
Khayelitsha Craft Market is a favourite amongst tourists and locals. A range of items such as pottery, beadwork, paintings and more can be found on this market.
The Spinach King Found just around the corner from the Khayelitsha Station, the Spinach King is the healthiest stop in the townships. Vibrant entrepreneur Lufefe Nomjana sells all things spinach - from spinach bread and muffins to sandwiches made from locally grown spinach from the comfort of his container. Visit https://spinachking.co.za/ for more information.
Hout Bay’s Imizamo Yethu
Set in the heart of Hout Bay, Imizamo Yethu means ‘our efforts’ in Isixhosa. The township has grown into a thriving township that celebrates the cultural diversity and heritage of different cultures that live in the township.
The Imizamo Yethu community earns a living through food stalls, markets, selling goods on the street. Visiting the community will see you embracing the township lifestyle and meeting locals who have stories to tell.
Imizamo Yethu local and tour guide Nandipha Breakfast says the township is well known for its vibrancy and unique vibe. “This is noticeable to anyone visiting our township for the first time. The moment you arrive, the spirit of caring and friendliness welcomes you. We call this ubuntu in IsiXhosa.”
Imizamo Yethu is a haven for self-starting entrepreneurs who are willing to try just about anything to make a small profit.
Hop on the City Sightseeing Blue Line. When you get off the bus, there is a guide who meets and leads you on your tour. You can interact with locals and meet the team of women who turn teabags into curios in the heart of Imizamo Yethu. For more information, visit https://www.citysightseeing.co.za/en/cape-town/imizamo-yethu-township-tour.
Langa, which means ‘sun’ when translated from IsiXhosa, is one of the oldest townships in Cape Town. Situated minutes away from the Cape Town CBD, Langa is known for its humanity and vibrancy.
Township Tours Imivuyo founder, Chippa Mbuyiseli Mngangwa, says a tour of Langa gives one an understanding of social-economic issues facing South African townships “We do township tours in our communities because we believe it provides a safer environment. Our tours through Langa visit projects that uplift the community.”
Gugu S’thebe Cultural Centre houses an array of exhibition areas, an art studio, as well as a resource centre. The cultural centre is also used as a community connection channel where the people of Langa can gather and share a meal and their stories. For more information, visit https://csstudio.co.za/Guga%20Stebi.html
Maboneng Art Experience turns homes in the community into galleries and outdoor spaces into performing districts. It is an eye-opening gallery that highlights the history and the pass laws of South Africa. Visit https://www.maboneng.com/ for more information.
Join a guided tour of the township. Not only is it a safer way to explore the area, but you’ll be contributing to the livelihood of a local entrepreneur. Do remember to bring cash as no credit card facilities are available.