Mapungubwe Hill. Picture: Wikimedia

Mapungubwe is one of the most significant historical landmarks in Southern Africa. Located at the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a historical marvel that not only carries cultural significance, but also presents a beautifully scenic travel destination.

Here are some of the reasons why you need to check it out:

The Confluence 

I visited the Mapungubwe National Park over this weekend as part of SANParks’ Cultural and Spiritual Weekend and one of the things I was most excited about was catching a glimpse of the confluence that separates South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Botswana. It was breathtaking how, during sunset over a raised viewing deck, our tour guide indicated where the three countries were divided by the Shashe and Limpopo rivers. You are literally looking at three countries divided by nothing but a shallow body of water.

The mystery

There's still a bit of uncertainty about what the name Mapungubwe actually means and you’ll find several different, albeit seemingly plausible, explanations on its origins. Derived from either Venda or Shona, the largely accepted explanation is that it refers to Hill of the Jackal. True to form, when I was there, we caught a glimpse of a few jackals wandering about the bushes. Another mystery is the burials atop the Mapungubwe Hill. The exhumed remains, and the positions they were buried in, suggest a traditional Bantu burial. It’s also believed to have been the first class-based social system in southern Africa, with a clear distinction between its leaders and regular citizens. 

Marvelous stone structures

There are several stunning stone structures in and around Mapungubwe. Many of them were used by its early inhabitants to build stone walls so as to demarcate certain areas. Others have weathered beautifully over time and look like expertly chiseled stone structures. These structures can be found all around the national park and, from experience, I can confirm that they make for some really great Instagram snaps.

Getaway from the city

City life can be overwhelming and overly cluttered. A getaway from this clutter is always great for piece of mind, and there are few more appropriately relaxing and tranquil destinations anywhere in Southern Africa than Mapungubwe. The breeze is cool, the views are stunning and there's plenty to see. You can talks walks around the park, swim in the pool area and catch a bite at one the restaurants. There's also a lovely museum where you can read and learn about Mapungubwe and see some of the antique artefacts that made it a kingdom unique to many others. It's a quiet, serene surrounding where you can allow your mind to be at ease.


The Mapungubwe National Park is home to several of the world’s most threatened large mammals, including the black rhinoceros, wild dog, cheetah, brown hyena and elephant. It is also home to some other beautiful mammal species such as the Eland, Kudu, Blue Wildebeest, Zebra, Bushbuck, Red Hartebeest, Gemsbok, Giraffe and Bush pig. I saw a few of these in my time there and it was great to get so close to them.