Welcome to Pretoria! You've marvelled in awe at the jacarandas blossoming (late September – mid November), painting almost every street and lane awash in a sea of shifting purple – the locals call Pretoria the Jacaranda City as the beautiful trees dominate much of the landscape. You trekked to the Voortrekker Monument, one of South Africa's National Heritage Sites – every year at midday on the 16th of December, a ray of sunlight will fall on the center of the cenotaph there illuminating an Afrikaans phrase engraved in the marble meaning 'We for Thee, South Africa'.
For some insight into the history of South Africa's government, you headed over to the Union Buildings – the stones used in the buildings were quarried on site, as those who commissioned it liked the idea of sourcing materials locally for their vital government buildings. And to get your dose of cute (or fierce) animals, you spent a day at Pretoria Zoo (known as the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa officially), the largest in South Africa with its separate aquarium, reptile park and walk-in aviary. To top off an amazing day, you caught a cable car to the top of the local lookout point, and looked down on the stunning view of the zoo and the capital itself. If that doesn't quite satisfy you, those who like to travel off the beaten track will find that Pretoria has so much more to discover.
Instead of the zoo...
Enjoy a day of incredible views and award-winning architecture at Freedom Park at Salvokop Hill. The park pays homage to the peaceful transition undertaken by the people of South Africa after the fall of Apartheid. It features many places of interest such as the Wall of Names, built in honour of those who died during various conflicts in South Africa. The Pan African Archives serve as a reminder of the struggle for freedom for all South Africans.
Step out into nature...
And visit the Sterkfontein cave complex! Not only are the limestone caves a UNESCO world heritage site, it was there that some of the world's most notable archaeological findings regarding man's early ancestors were revealed. 'Mrs Ples', the 'Taung child' and 'Little Foot' – an almost complete 4 million year old skeleton of an ape-man like species – were instrumental in helping scientists piece together facts about evolution. The caves, also known as the 'Cradle of Humankind', are only an hour's drive from the city centre. Take some time to explore the exhibition centre, especially if you want to learn more about this fascinating archaeological dig site and the unbelievable discoveries made here since 1936.
You got a good deal on your hotel...
So why not feast and imbibe at the very best of Pretoria! Try La Pentola Restaurant, one of the area's most successful and critically acclaimed restaurants – that's got to be worth something right? Boasting one of the top twenty wine lists in the country, the food offered is a fusion of French, Italian and Mediterranean flavours with a South African twist. For something more on the casual side, try Café Riche – word on the street is that it is rather excellent for people watching.
If you have some spare time, hire a car and go for a short road-trip to Dinokeng Game Reserve. Here, you will have the once in a lifetime chance to watch the 'Big 5' of African wildlife in their native environment. A multitude of smaller animals and birdlife also call the reserve home, of course: giraffe, wildebeest, kudu and a startling array of bird species. A vast 3000 hectares in size, the reserve also has adventure activities on offer – think clay microlight flights, pigeon shooting, and even hot air balloon trips over the windswept savannahs. Not for you, get pampered by some of the wonderful staff at the onsite spa facility!
Alternatively, hop aboard the Blue Train from Pretoria, perhaps to your next destination! A unique way to see the country and a lap of luxury, enjoy perks such as champagne, brunch and high tea in the lounge car. Dinner is an 'elegant affair' and appropriate evening wear is requested. Get into the spirit of it all!
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