The Nelson Mandela Route – Follow in the Footsteps of a Living Legend

Seen by millions as a man of integrity, wisdom and compassion, Nelson Mandela has become a legend in his own time, both in his home country of South Africa, and beyond its borders. Now, by means of the Nelson Mandela Route, tourists can visit places that have been of significance in this well-respected statesman’s eventful life.

The Nelson Mandela Route begins in King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape. King William’s Town was established in 1826 as a London-based missionary station, later featuring in conflicts in the area between British, Boer and Xhosa. In addition to a host of interesting information, the Amathole Museum in the town has a gallery devoted to the Xhosa tribe, of which Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is a member.

Leaving King William’s Town, the Nelson Mandela Route travels through Bisho, following a scenic route along the N2 national road to Mthatha, where the Nelson Mandela Museum incorporates a collection of heritage sites in Qunu, Mveso and Mthatha. The historic Bhunga Building in Mthatha houses the Nelson Mandela Museum, showcasing many of the thousands of gifts, cards and letters received by Mandela from presidents of other countries, from various organizations and from ordinary people. The next stop is the Community Museum Youth & Heritage Center in Qunu, the village in the Pondoland hills where Mandela spent his childhood. Visitors can view the remains of the primary school he once attended, the area where he played with friends and the graveyard where his parents, son and daughter are buried.

A tunnel under the N2 takes visitors to the third section of the Nelson Mandela Museum, a thatched open-air museum at Mveso. Here visitors can view a photographic record of significant moments in Mandela’s life before visiting the nearby remains of the homestead where he was born and raised. Mandela’s current home is alongside the N2, not too far from the area that was his home as a child.

Leaving the Eastern Cape and heading for the Gauteng Province of South Africa, the Nelson Mandela Route incorporates his humble home at 8115 Ngakane Street, Orlando West, Soweto. The house has been converted into the Mandela Family Museum and houses an assortment of paintings, photographs, a collection of honorary doctorates Mandela has received from universities around the world, as well as other fascinating memorabilia. A visit to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg provides in-depth insight into the rise and fall of the infamous South African apartheid system by means of graphic film footage, text panels, photographs and artifacts.

The Nelson Mandela Route concludes with a trip to Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town, which is now a museum reflecting aspects of South African heritage. In the past Robben Island served as a prison for Dutch and British soldiers and settler civilians, indigenous African leaders, Muslim leaders and anti-apartheid activists, including Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. Through an initiative set in motion by South Africa’s President F.W. de Klerk, on 11 February 1990 Nelson Mandela left Robben Island under the glare of the international media spotlight, going on to be elected as President of South Africa in the country’s first fully representative democratic elections held in April 1994.

A journey along the Nelson Mandela Route is sure to heighten appreciation for a man that helped to mold South African history, while never forgetting his roots.