The crowning glory of South Africa’s prestigious gold trade is less than 12 hours away, thanks to the number of direct flights available from London to Johannesburg. As you begin your descent into O. R. Tambo Airport, catch your first glimpse of the mineral-rich Witwatersrand hills that provide a natural cradle for this glittering city. An enticing mix of heritage and hi-tech, Johannesburg’s vibrant cultural institutions, verdant parklands and world-class restaurants make it a perfect choice for a stimulating city break, as well as a popular base for exploring the famous nature reserves of the fertile Highveld plateau.
Summer falls between October and April in sunny South Africa, although winters too are mild and sunny, thanks to the city’s high elevation. In terms of weather, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Increased demand for flights during the popular UK holiday months of July and August brings price hikes, so if you’re planning to travel at this time you’ll need to book at least 1 month in advance to find the best deals. Christmas is also a favourite time for family get-togethers, so if you are able to delay your reunion until mid-January, after the seasonal rush has abated, you’ll benefit from more competitive prices.
Virgin Atlantic, South African Airways and British Airways all complete the 8,300-mile journey south from London Heathrow to Johannesburg in an average flight time of 11 hours. The convenience of non-stop flights is offset by higher fares, so if you’re watching your budget it’s worth checking out the wide range of competitively priced one-stop routes, many of which also compete favourably on journey times. Ethiopia Airways’ London to Johannesburg flights via Addis Ababa and Kenya Airways’ service via Nairobi both clock in at a little over 15 hours, while Air France and KLM offer even speedier transfers via Paris and Amsterdam respectively.
O. R. Tambo International Airport is a major hub for domestic and international flights. Situated around 15 miles east of Johannesburg city centre, this large and busy airport incorporates 6 terminals. For a hassle-free journey straight to your hotel, pre-book a cab or limo to meet your flight – you’ll find a helpful list of recommended companies on the airport website. Among the numerous public bus routes that service the airport, the rapid transit bus Rea Vaya, which uses dedicated bus lanes, is the best option. There is also a rail link from the terminal to the city suburbs of Sandton and Pretoria.
Johannesburg’s dramatic built heritage is enhanced by abundant green spaces and public artworks. Wander through the Botanical Garden to view its famous rose terraces, which showcase over 10,000 plants amid ponds and fountains. Follow the community sculpture trail along Vilakazi Street, or see the ‘Fire Walker’, an 11-metre-tall steel figure which has become as iconic to Johannesburg as the Statue of Liberty to New York.
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