Gateway to the Rainbow Nation
First stop: Johannesburg. A journey to South Africa, the land of many peoples, often begins with a flight to it’s largest city. Joburg, as it is affectionately known, is a popular starting point for trips to the ocean and coastal towns as well as visits to South Africa’s national parks. But it’s also worth staying a little longer in this former gold rush town – if only to explore its great bars, hotels and restaurants.
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Luxury with a historic aura
This is where Nelson Mandela wrote his autobiography, The Long Walk to Freedom. In Johannesburg's incredibly luxurious choice of hotels, the Saxon is one of the most exclusive addresses. The 24 suites in this exceptionally comfortable and stylish all-suite hotel, operated by the Mantis Group, epitomize African elegance combined with modern design. The city's main shopping and business areas are quite close by.
The Saxon: 36 Saxon Road, Tel. +27-11/292 60 00, www.thesaxon.com
Over 12,000 square meters of gardens, elegant rooms and suites, two award-winning restaurants and a spectacular bar: Guests at this, the city's biggest and most august hotel, are treated to luxury in all its many variations. The terrace is the ideal place for a sundowner, and the view is breathtaking. With a little luck you might even spot an elephant as you savor your cocktail - not a wild one of course but a denizen of the nearby Johannesburg Zoo.
The Westcliff: 67 Jan Smuts Avenue, Tel. +27-11/481 60 00, www.westcliff.co.za
Tintswalo at Waterfall:
Feast your eyes on a lush polo field instead of acres of concrete: although the silhouette of busy, bubbling Johannesburg can just be seen on the horizon and the drive from Tambo International Airport only takes around 30 minutes, guests at this exclusive little boutique hotel are surrounded by open countryside. The discreet charm of unobtrusive luxury and personal service set the scene for well-being with a uniquely African touch. At night, guests slumber with the sound of frogs croaking in the background, and in the morning they awaken to the sound of exotic birdsong.
Tintswalo at Waterfall: Waterfall Country & Equestrian Estate, between Woodmead and Kyalami, Tel. +27-11/234 24 56 www.tintswalo.com
A city for gourmets & nocturnal revellers
The Le Canard has an illustrious guest list. Nelson Mandela has enjoyed Freda Appelbaum's French-influenced cooking, as have Bill Gates and Boris Becker. For over 20 years the lavishly restored Georgian country mansion has been a firm fixture on Johannesburg's gourmet scene. The restaurant's signature dish is duck breast with a pepper-and-honey crust served with orange-and-ginger sauce and Grand Marnier. Another very special culinary experience is the restaurant's Karoo lamb.
Le Canard: 163 Rivonia Road, Tel. +27-11/884 45 97, www.lecanard.co.za
The newest, and some would say brightest, star in Johannesburg's gourmet sky. The acclaimed restaurant guide "eatout" already rated roots one of the top ten gourmet restaurants in South Africa in - and the only one in greater Johannesburg. What makes the restaurant so special is the individual composition of the dishes to match the diner's choice of wine. roots is a 40-minute drive from the city center, but not only is a meal at roots a culinary highlight worth going to the ends of the earth for, you can also combine it with a visit to the World Cultural Heritage site Cradle of Humankind with its display of fossils and hominid tools.
roots: in the Forum Homini Hotel, Bartlett Road, Letamo Game Estate, Krugersdorp, Tel. +27-11/668 70 00, www.forumhomini.com
The Manhattan Club:
Every week, from Thursday to Saturday, this club is crammed with the city's stars and starlets, cool folk and wannabes, notables from film, TV, sports and politics. Located in Rivonia, the two-story club with its subtle lighting and cool design boasts eight (!) bars. The exclusive Ladies Only cocktail bar is an attraction even in hip Johannesburg. The city's top DJs spin the tables at the Manhattan Club and the music ranges from current hits to popular classics.
The Manhattan Club: 19 Wessels Road, Tel. +27-11/803 70 85, www.manhattanclub.co.za
Getting to grips with the past with an eye to the future
Candelabras, mirrors, vintage and new china, cutlery, antiques: You're bound to find something beautiful and unusual at La Basse-cour. The surrounding area is unlike the big malls, but just as typical for Johannesburg: old converted industrial buildings housing small shops, restaurants, boutiques, jewelry and bric-a-brac stores. 44 Stanley Avenue is a popular meeting place on Saturdays, and every Friday there's a great gourmet food market here.
La Basse-cour: 44 Stanley Avenue, Tel. +27-11/482 27 07, www.bassecour.co.za
Apartheid Museum & Constitution Hill:
This is a must-see for every visitor to South Africa: the museum provides information about the old and the new South Africa and looks to the future with hope. The complex on Constitution Hill houses the Constitutional Court and the former Old Fort Prison, where civil rights activists like Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela were incarcerated. Together, the Apartheid Museum and Constitution Hill provide a crash course in South African history, giving you a better understanding of the country today.
Apartheid Museum: Northern Parkway/Gold Reef Road, Tel. +27-11/309 47 00, www.apartheidmuseum.org. Constitution Hill: Kotze/Hospital Street,
Tel. +27-11/381 31 00, www.constitutionhill.org.za
Kruger-Nationalpark & Hluhluwe-Umfolozi-Park:
A safari in the early hours of the morning or just before the sun sets is the best way to truly experience the soul of Africa. Kruger Park is the biggest animal paradise in South Africa; the Hluhluwe the oldest and possibly the most beautiful national park. The famous big five - elephants, lions, rhinos, leopards and buffalo - can be seen in both parks. Spend a night in one of the comfortable lodges for that complete Out of Africa feeling. The Jock Safari Lodge in Kruger National Park unites the charm of colonial Africa with modern amenities. Thanda Private Game Reserve in Hluhluwe Park is possibly Africa's best and most luxurious lodge and has won numerous awards.
Kruger National Park: Jock Safari Lodge, Tel. +27-41/407 10 00, www.jocksafarilodge.com. Hluhluwe National Park: Thanda Private Game Reserve, Tel. +27-35/5731899, www.thanda.com
Pictures: Corbis, Bilderberg, Bildagentur Huber, PR (7)