South Africa
beauty, you'll never forget

1. Adelaide

The small town of Adelaide lies on the R63 between Bedford and Fort Beaufort, nestled at the foot of the Winterberg Mountain which is the highest peak in the Amatola Range. The quaint Eastern Cape town is steeped in history and its streets are lined with beautiful historic homes, churches and monuments. The large towns square, more of a small island, has trees, gardens and public offices and is definitely worth exploring. Sightseeing in the town is a great way to begin a visit in Adelaide. The town's Heritage Museum houses exhibits which not only tell the story of the settlers but includes mid-19th Century English and Dutch furniture, glass, silverware and ceramics. Adelaide offers many activities in the area which includes game farms, rock art, game reserves, hiking and mountain biking…

2. Alice

A mission for the Xhosa tribespeople living in the valley of the Tyume River was established in November 1824 by the Glasgow Missionary Society. It was twice abandoned and re-established and eventually the town of Alice grew as a commercial and farming centre close to the mission. The town was named after Princess Alice, daughter of Queen Victoria. Fort Hare The town's claim to fame is that it houses Fort Hare, the first black university in Africa. It is where most African leaders studied, including former president Nelson Mandela, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and Zambia's Kenneth Kaunda. Fort Hare, near Alice, was built in 1847 at the end of the Xhosa War of the Axe. The University College of Fort Hare was established in 1916. Theological seminary There is also a theological seminary…

3. Bedford

The thickly wooded Kagaberg overlooks a rich cattle, sheep and horse-breeding district. The centre for the area is the town of Bedford, founded in 1854 and named after the Duke of Bedford, a friend of Sir Andries Stockenstrom, who owned the farm on which it was laid out. The area was occupied by a large party of Scots led by Thomas Pringle, the poet, writer and philanthropist. The site of his rough little cabin is marked with a plaque. Each year Bedford is the scene of a large gymkhana which is one of the major events for South African horse-riding enthusiasts.

4. Bisho

Bhisho lies just 3km north-east of King William's Town and has some of the most spectacular views of the Amatola.It was previously the administrative capital of the former Ciskei, one of the black homelands of the apartheid era, but is today the capital of the Eastern Cape plus the former Ciskei, which was re-incorported into South Africa.Bhisho is the Xhosa word for Buffalo and took its name from the river that runs through the city. For this reason the department of Arts and Culture published a correction of spelling of Bisho to Bhisho in their government notice No. 830 of Gazette No. 26552 on the 16th of July 2004.The Provincial legislature and many other government departments are headquartered in the town.

5. Camdeboo National Park

View of Graaf Reinet from the viewpoint in Camdeboo National Park

Camdeboo National Park is situated on the outskirts of Graaff-Reinet in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. The park stretches over 19 405 hectares and practically surrounds the town of Graaff-Reinet. The Nqweba Dam is found within the park and when full covers approximately 1 000 hectares. The largest section of the park lies at the foothills of the Sneeuberg Mountains. The Camdeboo Park has unbelievably scenic beauty and provides its visitors with an insight into the unique landscape of the Karoo. The Karoo is arid, semi-desert country and therefore the plant composition is influenced by the rainfall. Three classes of vegetation that can be found here are shrubland, dwarf shrubland and…

6. Carnarvon

Carnarvon is a small, but beautifully scenic little town in the country’s largest Province, the Northern Cape. The town is well-known for its warm hospitality and exquisitely beautiful wild flowers. Carnarvon is one of the many little towns that are scattered through the Great Karoo and lies surrounded by the flat topped koppies of the Karee Mountains. These koppies (hills) have become quite a popular attraction for the town. Another popular attraction for the town are the corbelled buildings. These are the first true north-west Karoo architectural style buildings and the only other evidence of this style can be found in the Mediterranean parts of Europe. These domed roofed buildings are made completely of flat stones in a beehive shape. The “Trekboers” built this way because…

7. Cookhouse

Cookhouse is one of the Eastern Capes relatively unknown villages. It is approximately 165 km’s away from Port Elizabeth and forms part of the Blue Crane Route along with other Karoo towns of Somerset East and Pearston. Despite not being a popular holiday destination, the quiet town has a quaint charm and character of its own. The town covers only about 50 square kilometres and its residents are mainly Xhosa speaking South Africans. Travellers who do visit Cookhouse en route will no doubt enjoy the lovely landscapes surrounding it and its warm friendly locals. If you find yourself spending a few days in the area, you will find hiking, walking and mountain biking trails you can use to explore the beautiful natural surroundings. If you are more of a history buff, Cookhouse has a…

8. Fort Beaufort

Fort Beaufort Museum

Fort Beaufort lies on the banks of the Kat River, in the heart of the citrus farming Kat River Valley, surrounded by the Amatola and Katberg Mountains. This little historical towns close neighbours include Hogsback and Grahamstown and it serves as a mini-'dormitory' for academic staff and students of Fort Hare University, based in the nearby town of Alice. Fort Beaufort boasts a number of historical buildings and sites worth visiting that date back to the frontier war. The Martello Tower, today a national monument, is a fine example of a “must see” attraction. The Fort Fordyce and Mpofu Nature Reserves are a mere 25 kms away and the 45 000 ha Great Fish River Reserve is only 40 km…

9. Graaff-Reinet

View of Graaf Reinet

Gem of the Karoo Graaff-Reinet is situated in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. It is the oldest town in the Eastern Cape and the fourth oldest in South Africa after Cape Town, Stellenbosch and Swellendam. The town lies surrounded by the Camdeboo National Park in a bend of the Sundays River and in the shadow of the Sneeuberg Mountains. Although the town is found in the heart of the Karoo, with flat sandy plains and incredibly hot summers, the Camdeboo Park breaks this sandy monotony with towering mountains and rich greenness. The area boasts many outdoor activities such as paragliding, horse riding, trout fishing, hiking trails, microlight flying and game viewing. Graaff-Reinet is home to…

10. Hutchinson

Hutchinson is a tiny village, previously a railway junction, 12 km south east of Victoria West on the Cape Town to Kimberly route. The town is not much more than an off the highway detour and visitors to this part of the Karoo will most likely find themselves visiting other surrounding towns such as Victoria West, Loxton or Richmond perhaps. These typical northern cape villages are often not referred to as a destination, but rather as a way of life. The area is decidedly pretty and surrounded by stunning scenery. Travellers to the area will find attractions and activities as well as accommodation in the surrounding towns. Visiting here is mostly about the outdoors, hiking and bird watching, and exploring Edwardian and Victorian Karoo style architecture. Things to do and see Hiking…

11. Qonce (King William's Town)

King Williams Town, renamed Qonce in February 2021, is a small historical town less than an hours’ drive from East London in the Amatola Region. Along with Grahamstown, this little town is considered one of the most interesting to visit in the region due to its distinct history and part British, part German colonial heritage. Qonce is famous for its European architecture from beautiful stone buildings, many of which date back to the Frontier wars, to historical churches and museums – the Natural History Museum houses the body of Huberta the hippo who walked some 1500 kilometres across KwaZulu Natal to the Eastern Cape in the early 1900’s. Being a small town, its’ heritage value stands out, and it is easy to walk around which is a great way to explore its many hidden gems such…

12. Komga

The name Komga means 'place of clay'. The town lies in a setting of rolling green grassland. It was near Komga, during the ninth Frontier War of 1877, That Major Hans Garett Moore of the 88th Connaught Rangers won the first Victoria Cross to be awarded on South African soil. A memorial next to the road, at Draaibosch, marks the site where, on the 29 December 1877, he led a patrol against the Gaikas. One of his scouts was surronded and attacked by the enemy. Major Moore road to his rescue, but the scout was killed. The Major escaped with a wounded arm.

13. Loxton

Loxton lies along a popular route toward the west coast, the R63, 80 km from Victoria West and just over nine hours from Johannesburg, and six hours from Cape Town. Loxton is one of those rare Karoo villages that has plenty of trees thanks to far-seeing townsfolk who planted trees along all its streets over one hundred years ago. It is one of the most beautiful towns in the Upper Karoo, its pretty and really peaceful! Spring is full of blossom scents and Summer brings the gardens to life. The town is full of character, after years of standing empty most buildings are or have been restored and the town, once thought of as a retirement village, is enjoying a revival. Locals are friendly and visitors will frequently be greeted by Donkey carts klip-kloping through town sedately! Unique…

14. Pearston

Pearston lies in the Karoo Heartland, a small town with only one main road and true Karoo hospitality! The town originally lay on the wagon route between Cape Town and Somerset East, with the challenging Bruintjieshoogte Pass (Browns Height Pass) lying between the two towns. The peaceful hamlet, immortalised in the book “The Plains of the Camdeboo” by Eve Palmer, personifies the Karoo where the scenery is characterised by mountains and koppies in the distance across an endless expanse of Karoo plains. Pearston offers wide open spaces, star gazing and wonderful nature reserves with hiking, walking and mountain biking trails. The town forms part of the Blue Crane Route which follows the R63 from Pearson through Somerset East to Cookhouse which provides excellent bird watching…

15. Somerset East

Somerset East Church on Nojoli Street

Heart of the Blue Crane Route Somerset East is a small, quaint town set at the foot of the Bosberg Mountains and forms part of the Blue Crane Route. The Blue Crane Route follows the R63 through Pearston, Somerset East and Cookhouse. Lying on the fringes of the South African Karoo, Somerset East is a picturesque and convenient stop-over on the route between Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg. Those who do stop here will not be disappointed. The town lies very close to the Bosberg Nature Reserve, which offers a number of hiking trails – this is birdwatching country and the natural beauty here is relatively undiscovered! Somerset East also offers some great fishing, mountain bike trails…

16. Victoria West

Victoria West is a sun-baked little oasis in the thirstland, a meandering street of commercial buildings, many built in the last century when fortune-seekers streamed through on their way to the diamond fields. The town has changed little since its beginning in 1843. When diamonds were discovered in Hopetown in 1886 a highway cutting at right angles across the main street was made to the north. Hotels, stores and a newspaper were founded. The railway missed the town by 12 km. Victoria West had to be satisfied with a siding, incogruously named Victoria West Road, and a bumpy gravel track to the town. At a nature reserve outside the town one can view springbok, eland, black wildebeest, blesbok, gemsbok and other game. On a nearby farm is a considerable private collection of old cars,…