A symbol both of centuries of cruel oppression and the triumph of hope, Robben Island has become synonymous with the former leader of the free and democratic South Africa, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, who spent 18 years in its maximum security prison. For nearly 400 years the island served as a place of banishment - not just for supposed criminals but also for many other unwanted members of society, including lepers and the mentally ill. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1999. The blinding-white limestone quarry, where political prisoners toiled away doing hard labour in the blazing heat, and Mandela's claustrophobic cell in the prison are but a few of the harrowing reminders of the injustices carried out during the apartheid era, and of the final defeat of the regime. Fascinating and inspirational, Robben Island is a must-visit.