Umtata is Madiba country. Nelson Mandela, the former statesman was born in the nearby town of Mvezo, spent his childhood in Qunu and today the main buildings of the Nelson Mandela Museum are in Umtata. Umtata is in the heart of the Nelson Mandela Route for visitors who want to explore his history.
On the banks of the Mtata River - named after the Sneezewood (Umtati) trees, famous for their wood and medicinal properties - Umtata was founded in 1879 and was originally the capital of the Transkei, homeland of the Xhosa during the Apartheid era. Transkei now forms part of the Eastern Cape and Umtata is still the centre of the region. This part of the country remains seeped in the old traditions.
Umtata still retains many of its earliest buildings, of the neoclassical style so popular in colonial times, including the Town Hall - a sandstone building completed in 1908. Other activities in the area include the Madiba hiking trail and a visit to the Bunga - a domed building that served as the seat of the Transkei Parliament and is now part of the Nelson Mandela Museum, containing a number of gifts given to him by other countries and nationalities whilst he was president.
The Umtata dam has some lovely picnic spots and is well used for water sports. There are also a number of nature reserves in the area.