- Eastern Cape
Where the Land Meets the Sky
Nieu Bethesda is a small karoo town, home to a very small population of locals, but is popular amongst tourists who visit now and then to sample the intrigue and history. The town lies in a narrow valley at the foot of the Sneeuberg mountain range only 60 km’s away from Graaff Reniet.
With only two roads in and out of Nieu Bethesda, the town is essentially quite isolated. With no street lights and only about one mile wide and two miles long, the town may be perceived as a sleepy hollow but do not be deceived, an infectious creative karoo energy lives here! The town was set very firmly on the map largely due to the unique story of Helen Martin’s very special art work and the Owl House. Today, it is a retreat for artists, crafters and other creative spirits who have been attracted by its slow, offbeat character. It is the place and its people that makes Nieu Bethesda an ideal destination for a few days, or even longer!
An unforgettable landscape, a high altitude semi-desert that is home to the largest variety of succulents in the world and an abundance of wildlife makes this town a nature-lovers paradise. Nieu Bethesda’s rustic charm, history and slow pace calls tourists to come and unwind, relax and while away the hours on the stoep, watching village life go by.
Nieu Bethesda has only a couple of guest houses, restaurants, coffee shops and the Ramstal Pub, an old stable that has been revamped and converted into a hub of cosy hospitality, town stories and ice-cold beers.
Places to Visit
Things to do and see
- Bethesda Arts Centre
- Ware on Earth (Nieu) Ceramics Studio & Gallery
- Dutch Reformed Church
- The Old Mill
- The Owl House
- Helen Martins Museum
- James Kitching Fossil Exploration Centre
- Ganora Fossil Museum
- Compassberg Hiking Trail
- Camdeboo National Park
- Camdeboo Pass
- Camdeboo Route
- Jakob’s Donkey Cart Tours
- Sneeuberg Microbrewery, Cheese Farm & Coffee Roastery
- The Lookout
Nieu Bethesda receives approximately 255 mm of rain annually with most rainfall occurring during Autumn and Winter.
Summer months, November to March will have average temperatures of between 13˚C and 29˚C.
Winter months, May to August will have average temperatures of between 0˚C and 14˚C.
Like many other Karoo towns, Nieu Bethesda began as a Church town. Many people have incorrectly assumed that it started as a mission station, but it was through a determined group of people who lived in the area and who wanted a church closer than the one in Graaff Reinet, which was over seven hours ride away in the 1870’s!
The Farmers in the area met for the first time in December 1874 with a view to establishing a congregation. In February 1875, a petition group of 169 men met the church council of Graaff Reinet, headed by the Reverend Charles Murray, and on the same day negotiations were concluded to buy the Uitkyk from the Pienaar sons.
In 1878 it was Reverend Charles Murray who suggested the name nu Bethesda, these words were said to be minuted incorrectly as Nieu Bethesda. In English the name means New Bethesda and the town attained municipal status in 1886.
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