The Central Karoo, a fascinating semi-desert area, lies in the heart of one of the world’s most unique and interesting arid zones.
This ancient, fossil-rich land, which is five times the size of Great Britain, is also home to the richest desert flora in the world.
In the Central Karoo, visitors will find the largest variety of succulents found anywhere on Earth.
Beaufort West, the oldest town in the Central Karoo, is often referred to as the Oasis of the Karoo. Awards presented to heart-transplant pioneer, the late Prof. Chris Barnard, a son of this town, are on display in the local museum. A township route introduces visitors to the Xhosa culture in the area.
At the Karoo National Park on the town’s doorstep, visitors can experience the flora and game of the Karoo. A challenging 4x4 route takes visitors to the escarpment and new areas of ecological discovery. The park is also home to a variety of game, as well as the highly endangered riverine rabbit.
Matjiesfontein, a national monument, offers tourists a peek into yesteryear and the opportunity to overnight in Victorian splendour. The village houses a transport museum and the Marie Rawdon Museum. Next to the transport museum is a large field on which the first international cricket match was played in South Africa.
Experience the vastness of the Great Karoo in Murraysburg, an ecotourist and hunter’s paradise.
Laingsburg, a tiny village almost totally wiped out by floods a century after it was established, is the best place to study the geology of the region.
Prince Albert is the closest town by road to Gamkaskloof. The Hell, a little valley in the heart of the Swartberg mountains, was the home of one of the world’s most isolated communities for almost 150 years. Today, Gamkaskloof is a nature reserve and national monument managed by Cape Nature Conservation. It has overnight facilities and can be accessed by a 57-km long (but two-hour-drive) winding road which starts at the peak of the Swartberg Pass.
The Cape winelands, including the former Breede River Valley, are situated in close proximity to Cape Town. The Cape winelands are a rural enchantment of dramatic mountains, rolling farmlands and peaceful vineyards. They are home to Route 62, the world’s longest wine route.
Stellenbosch, the oldest town in South Africa, is also known as the ‘Eikestad’ (City of Oaks). Various historical walks delight visitors. The town is a gracious blend of old Cape Dutch, Georgian and Victorian architecture. Dorp Street consists of one of the longest rows of old buildings in the country. The Stellenbosch Village Museum consists of four homesteads and gardens ranging from the late-17th to the middle-19th centuries.
The Spier Summer Arts Festival livens up sultry summer nights from November to March at the Spier Wine Estate near Stellenbosch. The Stellenbosch Wine Route comprises over 100 wine estates, most of which offer cellar tours.
The Freedom Monument at Pniel, which was built in 1992, commemorates the freed slaves who were the first settlers at the mission station, established in 1843.
Franschhoek has become known as the ‘Gourmet Capital’ of the Cape. Originally known as Oliphantshoek, it was named after the arrival of Huguenots who were predominantly French. The Huguenot Monument was built in 1944 to commemorate their arrival in 1688.
Visitors can also enjoy various hiking trails and historical walks, as well as the Vignerons de Franschhoek wine route.
Paarl lies between the second-largest granite rock in the world and the Du Toit’s Kloof mountains. It is famous for its architectural treasures found along a 1-km stretch of the main street featuring Cape Dutch and Victorian architecture.
The area’s fynbos vegetation supports a number of south western Cape endemics, such as the Cape sugarbird and the orange-breasted sunbird.
The Afrikaanse Taalmonument is situated on the slopes of the Paarl Mountain, while the Afrikaanse Taalmuseum is in the centre of the town.
The town of Wellington lies in a picturesque valley, with the majestic Hawequa mountains on its eastern border. Apart from three renowned cooperative wineries, one can visit a number of prestigious wine cellars situated on historic Huguenot farms with Cape Dutch homesteads.
More than 90% of South Africa’s vine-cutting nurseries are found in Wellington. The town is also the home of South Africa’s dried-fruit industry.
Experience life as the pioneers lived in years gone by at the Kleinplasie Living Open Air Museum. The KWV Brandy Cellar, the largest of its kind in the world, offers cellar tours and brandy tastings.
Tulbagh is famous for its heritage, historical homesteads and magnificent country living. Church Street, home to 32 national monuments, constitutes the largest concentration of national monuments in one street in South Africa.
Ceres, named after the Roman goddess of fruitfulness, is the largest deciduous fruit-producing region in South Africa. Tours are offered at various fruit farms. The area also offers several 4x4 trails, horse-riding, mountain-biking and abseiling.
The Hex River Valley is the largest producer of table grapes in southern Africa. Visitors can pick their own grapes at harvest time and can sample the variety of export-quality produce.
The well-known Hex River 4x4 trail and the Ochre San rock art trails are a must for nature lovers. De Doorns is situated in the heart of the Hex River Valley. Situated on the Breede River, Bonnievale features several cheese factories. For the adventurous outdoor enthusiast there are canoe trips, birdwatching and riverboating.
Known as “The Valley of Wine and Roses”, Robertson is one of the most beautiful areas in South Africa. Surrounded by vineyards, orchards, delectable fruit and radiant roses, Robertson produces connoisseur-quality wines and is also known for its thoroughbred horses.
Renowned for its muscadel wines, Montagu is the gateway to the Klein Karoo and set in a fertile valley. Relax in the healing waters of the Avalon springs or visit the Montagu Museum, which houses, among other things, original cartoons and books by TO Honiball. The area also offers several hiking trails, game-viewing drives, guided cultural tours and excellent rock climbs. The picturesque village of Gouda is renowned for the Parrotts Den Pub, a living museum in the Gouda Hotel.
McGregor has a wealth of fascinating whitewashed, thatched cottages and well-preserved Victorian houses, making it one of the best- preserved examples of mid-19th century architecture in the Western Cape.
Prince Alfred Hamlet is the gateway to the Gydo Pass, known for its scenic views. This quaint village lies in an important deciduous-fruit farming area.
Hidden amidst vineyards and wine estates lies the picturesque town of Rawsonville, renowned for its array of award-winning wines. Tourists can enjoy an afternoon drive along the awe-inspiring Slanghoek Valley, with its lush vineyards and breathtaking views, or relax in the warm-water mineral springs at Goudini Spa.
The West Coast is a region of extreme beauty and contrast. The solitary coast’s scenic beauty is challenged only by rich culinary experiences of mussels, oysters, calamari, crayfish and abalone in season, or linefish pulled from the Benguela current’s cold waters. The area is a birdwatcher’s paradise. In addition, every year, migrating whales visit the coastal waters from July.
Within the first two months of the first good winter rains, wild flowers on the West Coast explode in a brilliant array of colour.
The Swartland region is known for its undulating wheat fields, vineyards, wineries and outdoor activities. Further north, visitors encounter the fertile Olifants River Valley and the vast plains of the Knersvlakte with its wealth of indigenous succulent plants.
The town of Darling draws visitors to its country museum and art gallery, annual wild flower and orchid shows, basket factory and wine cellars. The entertainment venue Evita se Perron is situatedat the old Darling Railway Station and offers top entertainment from South African entertainers.
Malmesbury is the biggest town in the Swartland. Major attractions include the Malmesbury Museum and the historical walk-about. The Riebeek Valley is known for its scenic beauty. The area has become a popular haven for well-known artists of various disciplines. Wines and olives can be tasted at various cellars.
Elands Bay is a popular holiday resort and surfer’s paradise. Khoi and San rock art can be viewed at the Elands Bay caves.
Moorreesburg and Koringberg are major wheat-distributing towns. Tourists can visit the Wheat Industry Museum, one of only three in the world. Birdwatching, hiking, 4x4 routes, clay-pigeon shooting, mountain-bike trails, canoeing and waterskiing at Misverstand are popular activities.
Yzerfontein is famous for its unspoilt beaches, fynbos, beautiful views and whale watching. Another major attraction is the historical lime furnaces.
Langebaan is a popular holiday destination. The West Coast National Park, an internationally renowned wetland which houses about 60 000 waterbirds and waders, attracts thousands of visitors each year. The park is also the site where the oldest anatomically modern fossilised human footprints were discovered.
The Langebaan Lagoon forms part of the park and is zoned for specific activities. The Postberg section of the park, across the lagoon, is famous for its wild flowers that bloom mainly during August and September.
Cape Columbine at Paternoster is the last manned lighthouse on the South African coast. The Columbine Nature Reserve is home to many seabird species.
Saldanha is a watersport enthusiast’s paradise. Other attractions include Doc’s Cave, a landmark on the scenic breakwater drive, and the Hoedjieskoppie Nature Reserve. There are various hiking trails in the SAS Saldanha Nature Reserve.
St Helena Bay is best known for the Vasco Da Gama Monument and Museum. Fishing (snoek in season), hiking, and whale and birdwatching opportunities also draw many visitors.
Vredenburg, the business centre of the area, has a popular golf course with a bird hide where various species can be viewed.
Lambert’s Bay is a traditional fishing village, with Bird Island as a tourist attraction. It is a breeding ground for African penguins, the Cape cormorant and other sea birds. Visitors can also watch southern right whales here from July to November.
Piketberg offers arts and crafts, fauna and flora, wine culture and recreation. The Goedverwacht and Wittewater Moravian mission stations are situated close to the town.
Porterville is famous for its Disa Route (best in January and February). The Groot Winterhoek Mountain Peak in the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area is the second-highest in the Western Cape. The Dasklip Pass is popular with hang gliders.
At Velddrif/Laaiplek, visitors can indulge in bokkem (a West Coast salted-fish delicacy) at factories along the Berg River. Tourists can also visit the salt-processing factory and the West Coast Art Gallery in town.
The citrus area in the Olifants River Valley is the third-largest in South Africa. The wine route from Citrusdal to Lutzville boasts a selection of internationally acclaimed wines. The world-renowned rooibos tea is also produced here.
Citrusdal is famous for its citrus products and wines. The Citrusdal Museum depicts the pioneering days of the early colonists. The Goede Hoop Citrus Co-op is the largest single packing facility in South Africa. The annual Citrusdal Outdoor Calabash features, among other things, 4x4 outings, lectures and visits to rock-art sites, and an arts and crafts market.
The oldest orange tree in the country, calculated to be more than 250 years old, can be found in the Citrusdal Valley.
The Sandveldhuisie is a recently built example of a typical Sandveld dwelling. There are several recognised mountain-biking, walking, hiking and canoeing trails and a sky-diving club. Annually, scores of sky-diving enthusiasts visit Citrusdal for a skydiving ‘boogie’ that lasts several days.
The Cederberg Wilderness Area features the elephant’s foot plant, the rare snow protea, and some of the best examples of San rock art in the Western Cape.
Visitors to Clanwilliam can visit the rooibos and velskoen factories and the grave of the well-known South African poet Louis Leipoldt. Various historical buildings can also be viewed. The Clanwilliam and Bulshoek dams are popular among watersport enthusiasts.
Wuppertal, at the foot of the Cederberg mountains, features the oldest Rhenish Mission Station. Proceeds from 4x4 trails in the area go to community coffers for establishing new hiking trails and building more overnight huts and guest-houses.
Vredendal is the centre of the Lower Olifants River Valley. Major attractions include marble-processing and manufacturing, industrial mines (dolomite and limestone), the KWV Grape Juice Concentrate Plant and Distillery, and the South African Dried Fruit Co-op. The town is also home to the Vredendal Wine Cellar, the largest co-operative wine cellar under one roof in the southern hemisphere.
The picturesque town of Doringbaai with its attractive lighthouse is well-known for its seafood.
Strandfontein, situated about 8 km north of Doring Bay, is essentially a holiday and retirement resort. It offers a breathtaking view of the ocean.
Klawer was named after the wild clover growing in the area. During the flower season, the area is a kaleidoscope of colour. There are hiking trails as well as river-rafting along the Doring River.
Lutzville and Koekenaap are synonymous with wine and flowers in season.
Visitors can also view the Sishen-Saldanha Railway Bridge. Where the railway line spans the Olifants River, it is divided into 23 sections, each 45 m long. The 14 100-ton deck was pushed into position over teflon sheets with hydraulic jacks from the bridgehead. It is the longest bridge in the world built using this method.
Vanrhynsdorp houses the largest succulent nursery in South Africa. The Latsky Radio Museum houses a collection of old valve radios, some dating back to 1924. Birdwatching, mountain-biking, day walks, and hiking and 4x4 trails abound. The Troe-Troe and Rietpoort mission stations are a must-see for historians.
In the most southerly region of Africa, just an hour’s drive east of Cape Town, lies a fertile area surrounded by mountains and sea, called the Overberg.
The Hangklip-Kleinmond area comprises Kleinmond, Betty’s Bay, Pringle Bay and Rooiels. It is a popular holiday region, ideal for whale watching, and includes the Kleinmond Coastal Nature Reserve and the Harold Porter Botanical Garden.
The Penguin Reserve at Stoney Point, Betty’s Bay, is one of two breeding colonies of the jackass penguin on the African continent.
South Africa’s first international biosphere reserve, the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, was proclaimed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation in 1999. It runs along the coast from Gordon’s Bay to the Bot River Vlei, stretching 2 km out to sea, and inland to the Groenlandberg, the mountains near Grabouw.
Hermanus is a popular holiday resort, famous for the best land-based whale watching in the world.
Stanford is one of the few villages in South Africa where the market square has been retained. The central core of the village has been proclaimed a national conservation area.
Gansbaai is known for its excellent rock and boat angling, diving, shark-cage diving and whale watching. The Danger Point Lighthouse, named as such because of the ships that have been wrecked and lives that have been lost on this dangerous coast, is open to the public.
De Kelders is the only freshwater cave on the African coast. Spectacular views of southern right whales can be enjoyed from the cliffs at De Kelders and along the coast to Pearly Beach. Also popular are white-shark tours, diving safaris and fishing trips.
Elim was founded by German missionaries in 1824, with its only inhabitants being members of the Moravian Church. Visitors are welcome to attend services. The Old Watermill (1833) has been restored and declared a national monument.
Popular sites in Napier include the Militaria Museum and Rose Boats and Toy Museum. The Shipwreck Museum in Bredasdorp, founded in 1975, specialises in shipwrecks found along the South African coastline.
De Mond Nature Reserve is home to some rare bird species, including the damara tern and giant tern.
The Geelkop Nature Reserve derives its name from the mass of yellow flowering plants that cover the hill during spring. The lighthouse at L’Agulhas, which forms part of the Agulhas National Park, is the country’s second-oldest working lighthouse. It celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1999.
The Agulhas National Park, home to a rich and diverse plant population, boasts more than 110 Red Data Book species. Among these are the endangered Cape platanna and microfrog, and rare coastal birds such as the African oystercatcher. The damara tern finds the area ideal for breeding
At Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of the continent, the waters are cleaved into the Indian and Atlantic oceans. The wrecks of some 130 seafaring craft – yachts, Spanish galleons, Dutch East Indiamen, the legendary Birkenhead, even modern-day fishing trawlers – have found a watery grave around the notorious Cape of Storms. Struisbaai has the longest white coastline in the southern hemisphere.
Struisbaai has the longest white coastline in the southern hemisphere.
Arniston was named Waenhuiskrans (coach-house cliff) by the local fishers in honour of the huge sea cave capable of housing several ox-wagons. For outsiders it was named after the Arniston, a ship wrecked here in 1815. The Waenhuiskrans Cave can be explored at low tide.
The De Hoop Nature Reserve on the way to Swellendam includes an internationally renowned wetland and bird sanctuary. It is a winter retreat for the southern right whale and the Western Cape’s only Cape griffen vulture colony.
The red Bredasdorp lily and many species of protea and erica are found in the Heuningberg Nature Reserve.
Swellendam is well-known for its youngberries and eclectic architecture. The Drostdy Museum consists of a group of buildings containing a huge selection of period furniture. The Bontebok National Park, about 7 km from Swellendam, provides sanctuary to the threatened bontebok and other species.
Known for its world-class wine, Barrydale offers the visitor fruit and fresh air in abundance.
Situated on the N2, about 160 km from Cape Town, Riviersonderend offers beautiful mountain and river scenery, a nine-hole golf course and sightings of the blue crane.
Caledon is famous for its natural mineral waters, hot springs and wild-flower shows. Southern Associated Maltsters is the only malt producer for the South African lager beer industry and the largest in the southern hemisphere.
Genadendal is the oldest Moravian village in Africa, with church buildings and a school dating back to 1738. The Genadendal Mission and Museum Complex documents the first mission station in South Africa.
The Theewaterskloof Dam outside Villiersdorp is the seventh-largest dam in the country. The Villiersdorp Wild Flower Garden and Nature Reserve boasts an indigenous herb garden and a reference library.
The Grabouw/Elgin district produces about 60% of South Africa’s total apple exports. The valley is also renowned for cultivating fresh chrysanthemums, roses and proteas. The Elgin Apple Museum is one of only two in the world. Sir Lowry’s Pass offers spectacular views of False Bay from Gordon’s Bay to Cape Point.
Characterised by its vast expanses of space and silence, blazing summer sunshine and interesting and friendly people, the Northern Cape is a province rich with culture
The Big Hole in Kimberley is the largest hand-dug excavation in the world. In 1871, diamonds were discovered at the site and mined manually by prospectors. The Kimberley Tram Service dates from the beginning of the 20th century and still transports passengers from the City Hall to the Mine Museum.
Underground mine tours are a big attraction, as are the famous ghost tours, during which many historical buildings are seen from a different perspective. Hand and mechanical diamond-digging by private diggers can be viewed by appointment.
The McGregor Museum houses invaluable collections of the archaeological finds in the area, as well as San art works. The house where Sol Plaatje (African National Congress founding member and human-rights activist) lived in Kimberley, boasts a library of Plaatje’s and other black South African writers’ works, and several displays, including a portrayal of black involvement in the Anglo-Boer/South African War.
The Paterson Museum near the Kimberley Airport houses a replica of a Paterson biplane, which was used for pilot training by the flying school operated by the Paterson Aviation Syndicate at Alexandersfontein. A township tour of Galeshewe provides a fresh perspective on South Africa’s socio-historical realities. Pan African Congress founder Robert Sobukwe’s house is situated there.
The Magersfontein Battlefield outside Kimberley with its original trenches and other defences intact, is the site of the Boers’ crushing defeat of the British during the Siege of Kimberley.
A cultural centre at Wildebeestkuil outside Kimberley features !Xun and Khwe artwork for sale and a tour of rock engravings by these indigenous people.
A short distance from Kimberley is the mining town Barkley West, which, due to its proximity to the Vaal River, is a favourite spot for many water-sport enthusiasts and anglers.
Tucked along the Vaal River near Barkley West lies the Vaalbos National Park. The park is not only home to large raptors, but is also a breeding centre for endangered African herbivores such as rhino, roan, sable and disease-free buffalo.
At Black Rock in the Kalahari, visitors are afforded the opportunity to view a worked-out manganese mine.
Danielskuil lies at the foot of the Kuruman hills. The Tswana people occupied the area before it became home to the Griquas. Boesmansgat, on the farm Mount Carmel outside Danielskuil, is a unique natural sinkhole – the second-deepest and largest of its kind in the world.
Known as the ‘Oasis of the Kalahari’, Kuruman is blessed with a permanent and abundant source of water. Its water flows from Gasegonyana (Tswana for ‘the little water calabash’) – commonly called the ‘Eye of Kuruman’.
Moffat’s Mission in Kuruman is a tranquil place featuring the house of missionary Robert Moffat, the church he built, and several other buildings. Moffat translated the Bible into Setswana – the first African language in which the Bible was made accessible.
The printing press on which he printed the first 2 000 copies can still be viewed. The church he built seats 800 people and is still in use. David Livingstone married Moffat’s daughter and started many famous travels from this mission station.
The Wonderwerk Cave at Kuruman features extensive San paintings that may be viewed by appointment.
The Kalahari Raptor Centre cares for injured birds. Many of these majestic creatures can be seen at close quarters. Another marvel is the Witsand Nature Reserve, situated about 80 km south-west of Postmasburg, which features a 100-m high dune of brilliant white sand. It stretches for about 9 km and is about 2 km wide.