Aerial view of Soweto. Picture: Clinton Moodley.

Soweto is fast becoming a popular tourist hangout, a place to dabble in adventure, immerse yourself in its rich culture and literally see the Joburg township from up high. 

Soweto has always been on my bucket list. As we drive into the township, about 40 minutes from Johannesburg, the town comes alive.

There are men fixing their cars at the side of the road.  Across the road, children play a game of soccer, while their parents wave flags in support. The town is quite developed, not like the rugged image I pictured in my head. 

Orlando Towers.

Before we know it, we stop at a vacant land opposite the famous Orlando Towers. We are going to flyover Soweto, a new activity that has increased the township’s popularity. 

In fact it has become so popular, FlySAWise, who runs the helicopter tours, won the national Lilizela Award for Visitor Township Experience this year. 

The views are stunning.

The red and white helicopter stands at a distance. We sign indemnity forms and are put into groups of four. 

The 15 minute drive may be short, but it gives me a newfound appreciation of the township. To think that over four decades ago the town went through such heartache and pain in the form of Soweto Uprising, where hundreds of students lost their lives because they fought for equal education.  

During the trip, I realised that Soweto is big, filled with some of the most beautiful landscapes and iconic spots.

Aerial view of Soweto.
Aerial view of Soweto.

I was blown away by how much the town has developed over the years. From atop, one can see Meadowlands, mountains (yes, who knew Soweto had mountains) Dobsonville, Diepkloof and the FNB Stadium, known as Soccer City.  

Once down, Maputi Kgomo, the owner of Ubuhle Tours, tells me that Soweto has become an attractive location for Johannesburg visitors wanting a true authentic experience. 

The helicopter ride was a real eye opener of how big the township is.

It's true, as we walked through Vilakazi Street, home to Mandela House and Tutu House, we spot foreigners and locals from all walks of life enjoying some beer while rugby plays on television screens in the background.

Vilakazi Street is popular because of its political history. On the streets are colourful markets, filled with African beading and clothes. 

For as long as I remember, there are many streets in South Africa that aspires to be as colourful and alive as Vilakazi Street. I see scores of locals of all race groups and some international visitors visit Mandela House, the home that Mandela shared with his family from 1946 to the early 1990s. 

The home is now converted into a museum that shares his history and story of the house.

Exploring Vilakazi Street.

They say you cannot visit the street without taking a selfie at the iconic spot. As we depart Soweto, there is a lady selling meat at the side of the road. Judging by the attention her stall gets, it must be quite popular. If you haven't visited yet, I suggest you plan a trip here as it is one place where memories are made. 

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