Gauteng, South Africa

Bruma Lake flea market, Johannesburg.
Picture Gallery

The Gauteng province is the smallest and richest province in South Africa. It is also the most urbanised and frenetic province. It's an area built on gold and dreams of great wealth that this metal always seems to inspire. It's all go, go, go! People rush from office to mall to coffee shop; fast cars stream past in a blur on the multi-lane highways and business is brisk.

For many people, Johannesburg and Gauteng are synonymous. Once the bastion of mining wealth and entrenched white elitism, Johannesburg is still the powerhouse of Africa - but now with an altogether different face.

The once proud, squeaky clean, lily-white streets of Central Johannesburg have been transformed into more colourful African thoroughfares, and the tall facades of the brash and bold commercial buildings of the central city now look down on an altogether different form of entrepreneurism.

The inner city is being revived - cultural centres are opening and long-neglected buildings are being renovated. Many new tourism development projects are underway.

Part of the city but separate, Soweto is a household name all over the world after the pivotal role its community played in South Africa's freedom struggle. It's a huge, bustling, dynamic settlement with well over a million residents.

There is much to see here but you will probably get lost if you try to find your way around, so it's best to do an escorted tour - at least the first few times until you get your bearings.

For those who enjoy the urban experience, Johannesburg (or Joburg, Egoli or Jozi - take your pick) is a fascinating mix of Western and African lifestyles. You can visit art galleries, shop till you drop at any one of several state-of-the-art shopping malls, dance till the wee hours of the morning at the latest Afro-chic nightclubs, dine at great restaurants or explore the city's rich cultural heritage.

Some of the better cultural attractions include Museum Africa at the Newtown Complex in Central Johannesburg, the Apartheid Museum at Gold Reef City and, of course, Soweto.

At the other end of the scale, Pretoria (now called Tshwane) has retained an air of genteel elegance, lounging under its cloak of purple Jacaranda trees. It's a much quieter city than Johannesburg and somehow things do seem a little less frenetic.

Although it's no longer the capital of the province, this is the seat of national government and where you will find most of the foreign embassies and consulates.

There are also many ways to escape the hustle and bustle. On a Sunday morning, you could watch a performance by dancing Lipizzaner horses - the only show of its kind outside Austria - or visit the Cradle of Humankind in the Kromdraai Conservancy, where there is also a range of attractions including small game farms and caves.

Other options include visiting the Magaliesberg- a pretty area with some lovely country destinations and mountain walks. You could also do a hot air balloon ride, paddle on the Crocodile River, go horseback riding among some Rhinos and antelope, visit a diamond mine, or try a tandem parachute jump. It's not all just urban hustle and bustle.