Tsodilo, UNESCO World Heritage Site (with Map & Photos)

Tsodilo is a group of four stone hills located in the Kalahari Desert, in northwestern Botswana. The Tsodilo Hills are world famous for their rock art. The Tsodilo area contains more than 4,500 rock paintings in an area of ​​approximately 10 km² of the Kalahari Desert. The surviving ancient murals are sometimes referred to as the Louvre in the Kalahari Desert. Tsodilo has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001 due to the exceptional religious and spiritual importance of the site for the local population and as evidence of human settlement dating back several millennia.

Tsodilo Unesco
Tsodilo Unesco

The Tsodilo Hills are located at a distance of about 40 km from Shakave.

General Information

There are four main hills, the largest of which has a height of 1400 m. Bushmen gave names to three hills - “man”, “woman” and “child”. The fourth, lowest hill remained unnamed. According to one of the translations of Bushman legends, this is the first wife abandoned by a man. The "Male" Hill is also the highest point in Botswana. Between the two largest hills is a campground, located near the most famous part of the Bushmen drawings - the Laurens van der Post panel.

For the Bushmen, the Tsodilo rocks are sacred - they consider them the center of the universe and the resting place of the spirits of their ancestors. According to their vision, it was from here, from the “female” hill, that the spirits of the ancestors rule the world, and on the top of the “male” hill the First Spirit prayed immediately after the creation of the world. Bushmen have never hunted and do not hunt near the rocks, as it is believed that any kill here will bring misfortune to the hunter. Even now, when conducting excursions to the Tsodilo Hills, guides first ask permission from the spirits of the rocks. Many tourists note that near the rocks they begin to feel uncomfortable, as if someone big is constantly looking at you with a hard look.

Tsodilo Unesco
Tsodilo Unesco

Cave drawings

For a wide range of people, the hills are still better known for their rock art. There are more than 400 places where between 850 and 1100 AD. thousands of drawings were made. Most of them are located on the northern slope of the "female" rock. In the same rock, in one of the grottoes, you can see a unique sculpture - a head of a python carved from stone, 2 m high and 6 m long. The python has always been the main figure in Bushmen mythology and is considered the ancestor of mankind. One of the rock paintings depicts a stylized whale, which puzzled scientists very much - the Bushman is not a sea people at all, and the nearest sea coast is located 1100 km from Tsodilo.

There are drawings made in red and white paint. Red paint was prepared from iron oxide, rubbing it into fine dust. In the white paint, the examination revealed particles of bird droppings, silicate and zinc. Paintings with white paint are younger. On them you can see people and domesticated goats. Interesting, just shocking, was the discovery of a whale drawing on a male rock, and the Bushmen are not a sea people.

Tsodilo Unesco
Tsodilo Unesco

There are attempts to convey the three-dimensionality of the world, starting with silhouette drawings. Gradually, over the years, the lines become clearer, fine details are drawn in more detail. Now it is impossible to say for what purpose the ancient artists put images of animals, people, incomprehensible signs on the stone. Perhaps these are messages to other hunters, perhaps symbols of some beliefs or memories of past times when there was water and a lot of game in these places.

At the foot of Tsodilo, in a small village, tribes still live, whose ancient ancestors belong to the drawings on the rocks. Modern kungs even now believe that they were inscribed by the gods. These people represent the places of rock art as sacred and do not approach without reverent awe.

How to get there

Travelers get here in jeeps or on a small plane. Near the mountains there is a campground and an airstrip.

Tsodilo Hills Map