Gauteng is totally different from every other province in South Africa. For a start, it's a fraction of the size geographically, at only 16 548 sq kms (6,389 square miles), covering 1.4% of the area of South Africa. Into that tiny percentage of the country however is squeezed a massive 20.1% of the population - 9.5 million people. And unlike most of the other provinces, where there is a huge preponderance of one ethnic group, numbers here are more evenly balanced, with around 21.5% of the population Zulu, 14.4% Afrikaans, 13.1% Sesotho and 12.5% English.
The vast majority of the province is one giant urban sprawl with only small pockets of green space separating out Pretoria from the northern suburbs, such as Sandton, of Johannesburg. 'Jozi' blurs seamlessly into Soweto, technically a separate city and beyond this lie the cities of the gold fields. Out to the west, Krugersdorp stands in one of the few pockets of greenery, home to the Cradle of Humankind and the Magaliesburg.
But all this gives a false image of the state. It is busy and built-up. Built on gold, it is still the engine that drives South Africa - and much of the rest of Africa - economically. But many of the suburbs are extremely green and leafy. Pretoria and many of the northern suburbs of Jo'burg have many thousands of magnificent jacarandah trees which are festooned in purple blossom in season.
Crime is undoubtedly more of an issue here, but there are also plenty of excellent tour operators, great hotels and superb restaurants. If you are careful, you should be fine. a few days in Gauteng will give you a totally different vision of what South Africa is really about - a dizzyingly vibrant society with complex historic roots and extraordinary energy.
Tshwane/Pretoria is one of South Africa's three official capital cities, responsible for the administration of the country. Usually totally overlooked in favour of its brasher neighbour, this is a mistake - it's a quiet, rather stately city as befits its diplomatic status. Top of the list for tourists are Herbert Baker's imposing Union Buildings - South Africa's Parliament Buildings, the Voortrekker Monument and an out of town trip to the Cullinan Diamond Mine. However, there are several excellent museums both in the city and the surrounding area.
Between Pretoria and Johannesburg, a hugely popular attraction is the Lion Park, a chance to see the big cats close-up and even, if you are lucky, interact with a cub. Also in this area is Lilliesleaf Farm, relatively recently opened to the public. This was the ANC's secret HQ during the struggle for liberation and the place where many of the defendants of the infamous Rivonia Treason Trial were arrested. Nelson Mandela used it as his base for some time, posing as a caretaker under a pseudonym.
Johannesburg and Soweto
Within Johannesburg, most people stay in the northern suburbs such as Sandton and Rosebank. This is where you find the upmarket shops and restaurants, in well-patrolled gated malls that allow people to stroll without fear. Tourists dip and out of small pockets of downtown Jo'burg, to visit areas such as artsy Newtown, Constitution Hill and some of the excellent museums, such as Museum Africa, the Origins Centre and the Apartheid Museum.
Probably the most popular day out in the area is a township tour of Soweto - although these days you can extend the experience and spend the night. There are a growing number of excellent b&bs in Soweto offering tourists a fuller taste of township life. Life in Soweto can still be rough for some, but is a far cry from the dark days of the 1970s. These days, it's a full-blown city with universities and schools and middle-class suburbs. It is evolving rapidly from year to year and even if you have done the official 'sights', no two tours will ever be the same - there will always be surprises.
Cradle of Humankind
To the west of the cities, Krugersdorp lies in the centre of the Magaliesburg, a pretty range of hills that have become a popular holiday playground for city folk. More importantly this area is also the home of the Cradle of Humankind, where the Maropeng Visitors' Centre and Sterkfontein Caves contain some of the world's most important prehistoric remains. It was in these caves that some of man's earliest ancestors, Australopithecus africanus, took his first faltering steps along the evolutionary pathway. The story is compelling.