UNESCO World Heritage Sites in South Africa

South Africa is home to no fewer than ten UNESCO World Heritage Sites, testifying to its wonderful variety across the boards of cultural, historical and natural treasures. The aim of the World Heritage Site accreditation is to recognise the many facets of value and achievement across various categories, all of which promote the destination and play an important part of uplifting the local communities that benefit from the visitors that they welcome. There are six criteria in the cultural bracket, and four in the natural.

With South Africa’s complex cultures, deep history and undeniably spectacular natural landscapes, it is no wonder that this country boasts so many of these special sites and attractions.

What are World Heritage Sites?

A country’s heritage is the essence of its identity. It speaks of what it has endured, its achievements, and how these will affect its residents in future. It is about more than history, though. Heritage incorporates the natural treasures and the cultural gems, complementing the historical factor to create a place that is deeply significant, with a character of its own.

Some of the world’s most important heritage sites include the likes of the Pyramids of Egypt, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the wonderful abundance of the Serengeti in Africa. It is clear that this is not a localised achievement. Rather, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is considered at a universal level. They belong to every occupant of the planet earth.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (commonly known as UNESCO) has, as its priority, the identification, protection and preservation of the world’s heritage, in all of its forms. This is particularly true of places and sites that are connected with the sense of humanity.

UNESCO’s mission is embodied in an international treaty called the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted by UNESCO in 1972.

South Africa's World Heritage Sites


  • Fossil Hominid Sites of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai, and Environs (1999)
  • Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape (2003)
  • Robben Island (1999)
  • Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape (2007)
  • Khomani Cultural Landscape (2017)


  • UKhahlamba / Drakensberg Park (2000)


  • Cape Floral Region Protected Areas (2004)
  • Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park (1999)
  • Vredefort Dome (2005)
  • Barberton Makhonjwa Mountain Land (2018)

South Africa's World Heritage Sites

Richtersveld Cultural & Botanical Landscape

Overnight? Namaqualand Accommodation
Inscribed as one of the eight 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...

iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Overnight? St Lucia Accommodation
The Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park - now known as the iSimangaliso Wetland Park - was declared South Africa's first Natural World Heritage Site on 1 December 1999. It is considered South Africa's third largest park and extends from Mapelane in...

Cape Floral Region

Overnight? Constantia Accommodation
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...

Cradle of Humankind

Overnight? Magaliesburg Accommodation
The Cradle of Humankind Site comprises a strip of a dozen dolomitic limestone caves containing the fossillised remains of ancient forms of animals, plants and most importantly, hominids. The dolomite in which the caves formed, started out as...

Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape

Overnight? Soutpansberg Accommodation
The Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape is a massive savannah that is nestled peacefully at the confluence of the Limpopo River and the Shashe River. Today, this area is home to two palace sites and the settlements around them, virtually...

Robben Island

Overnight? Cape Town Accommodation
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...

Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park

Overnight? Drakensberg Accommodation
The Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park has exceptional natural beauty in its soaring basaltic buttresses, incisive dramatic cutbacks, and golden sandstone ramparts. Rolling high altitude grasslands, the pristine steep sided river valleys and rocky...

Vredefort Dome

Overnight? Parys Accommodation
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...

Khomani Cultural Landscape

Overnight? Kgalagadi Accommodation
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 Khomani San a people who, until recently, were thought to have vanished. Their once vast and open...

Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains

Overnight? Barberton Accommodation
The Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains are also known as the Barberton Mountains or the Barberton Greenstone Belt. Their claim to UNESCO fame is their containing the oldest and best preserved volcanic and sedimentary rock on the planet...

Did you know?

UNESCO's World Heritage mission is to

  1. encourage countries to sign the World Heritage Convention and to ensure the protection of their natural and cultural heritage;
  2. encourage States Parties to the Convention to nominate sites within their national territory for inclusion on the World Heritage List;
  3. encourage States Parties to establish management plans and set up reporting systems on the state of conservation of their World Heritage sites;
  4. help States Parties safeguard World Heritage properties by providing technical assistance and professional training;
  5. provide emergency assistance for World Heritage sites in immediate danger;
  6. support States Parties' public awareness-building activities for World Heritage conservation;
  7. encourage participation of the local population in the preservation of their cultural and natural heritage;
  8. encourage international co-operation in the conservation of our world's cultural and natural heritage.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites
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