Upper Karoo

Upper Karoo, Northern Cape

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Welcome to the enchanting Upper Karoo, a region renowned for its expansive open spaces and invigorating climate. Nestled within this seemingly arid land lies a remarkable secret—the transformative power of…

Upper Karoo

Welcome to the enchanting Upper Karoo, a region renowned for its expansive open spaces and invigorating climate. Nestled within this seemingly arid land lies a remarkable secret—the transformative power of rain that breathes life into the Karoo’s soil, painting the landscape with a vibrant tapestry of colors.

Once you’ve secured your hotel or accommodation in the Upper Karoo, get ready to embark on a journey filled with unforgettable experiences. Let us guide you through the region’s fascinating attractions, thrilling activities, and must-see destinations.

Stretching as far as the eye can see, the Upper Karoo is home to a mesmerizing array of hardy succulents and grazing grasses that sustain the region’s cattle. As you traverse this wondrous land, you’ll notice countless windpumps dotting the horizon—an emblematic symbol of the hidden streams that meander beneath the dry yet fertile soil, bringing sustenance to the land.

Among the valleys and plains, you’ll encounter picturesque small towns that epitomize the unique Karoo architectural style. These charming settlements, nestled between solitary flat-topped koppies, exude a sense of tranquility and timelessness. Colesberg, a sheep-farming hub, welcomes weary travelers with its perfectly situated location, making it an ideal stopover for those journeying from Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal to the Cape. Explore its historic streets and marvel at its grand churches, which stand as testaments to the town’s rich heritage. From Colesberg, venture onward to Hopetown, the birthplace of South Africa’s first recorded diamond—a remarkable piece of history waiting to be discovered.

Did you know that Nieuwoudtville is famous for its captivating flower season? While the allure of blooming flora is well-publicized, this quaint town holds an undeniable charm even when the flowers rest. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the Hantam National Botanical Gardens and immerse yourself in the tranquil beauty of nature. For a truly unique experience, visit the community-run Bulb Nursery, where you’ll find an assortment of exquisite bulbs and plants. Look out for signs pointing the way from town—it’s an essential stop on your Upper Karoo adventure.

When the wildflowers are not in bloom, a visit to Loeriesfontein, a short drive from Nieuwoudtville, promises its own delightful surprises. Take a moment to marvel at the Windmill Museum, a testament to the region’s rich agricultural history and engineering marvels. As you make your way back, consider a visit to Orania, a self-proclaimed Afrikaner “volkstaat” that offers a glimpse into a unique cultural perspective. While here, carve out some time to explore the Rolfontein Reserve, nestled on the shores of the magnificent Vanderkloof Dam. The reserve’s breathtaking scenery and abundant wildlife will leave you in awe.

Popular Activities and Tourist Attractions in and near The Upper Karoo

The Upper Karoo is a treasure trove of experiences, offering an array of activities, tourist attractions, and points of interest that will captivate every visitor. Embark on an unforgettable journey as we take you through the diverse offerings of this remarkable region.

Star Gazing at Sutherland
Venture to the charming town of Sutherland, nestled in the heart of the Upper Karoo, renowned for its pristine night skies. With minimal light pollution, Sutherland offers stargazers the opportunity to witness the celestial wonders in all their glory. Visit the South African Astronomical Observatory and embark on a guided tour, marveling at the captivating beauty of the universe.

Historical Exploration in Graaff-Reinet
Immerse yourself in the rich history of the Karoo with a visit to Graaff-Reinet, often referred to as the “Gem of the Karoo.” Explore the well-preserved Cape Dutch architecture, wander through the quaint streets lined with charming Karoo-style houses, and discover the fascinating history of this town. Don’t miss the iconic Valley of Desolation, where towering dolerite columns offer breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

Fossil Hunting in Nieu-Bethesda
Journey to Nieu-Bethesda, a captivating village nestled in a valley of the Sneeuberg Mountains. This artistic haven is also home to the renowned Owl House, created by the talented Helen Martins. Embark on a fossil-hunting expedition in the nearby Karoo Paleosaurus Fossil Museum, where you can uncover ancient remnants of prehistoric life and gain insight into the region’s remarkable geological past.

Adventure in the Tankwa Karoo
For thrill-seekers and nature enthusiasts, the Tankwa Karoo National Park beckons. This rugged wilderness offers a playground for outdoor adventurers, with activities such as 4×4 trails, mountain biking, and hiking. Traverse the vast plains, soak in the serenity of the Karoo landscape, and spot unique wildlife, including the elusive Cape Mountain Zebra and the majestic Black Harrier.

Unique Experiences in Carnarvon
Discover the allure of Carnarvon, a small town with big surprises. Delve into the world of radio astronomy at the iconic Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, where scientists explore the mysteries of the universe. Engage in interactive displays, learn about cutting-edge research, and witness the technological marvels that will shape our understanding of the cosmos.

Cultural Heritage in Richmond
Uncover the cultural heritage of the Upper Karoo in Richmond, a town steeped in history. Visit the Richmond Booktown, a unique destination for book lovers, boasting an impressive collection of bookshops, literary events, and a rich storytelling tradition. Explore the town’s museums, which showcase the fascinating history and heritage of the Karoo and its people.

Nature’s Wonders in Mokala National Park
Situated on the outskirts of Kimberley, Mokala National Park offers a sanctuary for wildlife and nature enthusiasts. Embark on game drives or guided walks to encounter a variety of wildlife, including the rare black rhino and the endemic Roan Antelope. Take in the picturesque landscapes, featuring picturesque hills, valleys, and expansive plains.

Rock Art Exploration in the Karoo
Immerse yourself in the ancient artistry of the Karoo by visiting rock art sites scattered throughout the region. These mesmerizing creations provide a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the indigenous San people. Engage in guided tours or self-guided hikes to discover these remarkable expressions of human creativity and spirituality.

The Upper Karoo invites you to embark on a journey of discovery, offering activities and attractions that cater to all interests. From stargazing and historical exploration to adventure and cultural immersion, this captivating region promises a truly unforgettable experience. Plan your visit today and unlock the wonders of the Upper Karoo.

Popular Destinations In The Upper Karoo


Nestled along the N12 highway, approximately 100 kilometers north of Victoria West, lies the unassuming town of Britstown. Named after an adventurous man named Hans Brits, this seemingly ordinary town holds a captivating history and serves as a gateway to a multitude of fascinating experiences in the Upper Karoo.

The story behind Britstown becomes all the more intriguing once you delve into its origins. Hans Brits, a companion of the renowned explorer David Livingstone, foresaw the diamond rush that was about to grip Kimberley, located 250 kilometers northeast of Britstown. Recognizing the influx of prospectors and adventurers that would traverse this region, Brits strategically established his town as a halfway station along the diamond route between Cape Town and Kimberley. Today, Britstown bears testament to its pivotal role in facilitating the journey of those seeking their fortune during the diamond boom.

As you wander through Britstown, its rich history may appear somewhat concealed, but there are a few notable landmarks that offer glimpses into the past. The Dutch Reformed Church, constructed in 1877, stands as a testament to the town’s enduring heritage. Meanwhile, the former Holy Trinity Church has been transformed into the town’s museum, located on Raath Street. Step inside to uncover artifacts and exhibits that shed light on Britstown’s fascinating past.

Beyond its historical significance, Britstown is a haven for stargazers and astronomy enthusiasts. Embark on a mesmerizing stargazing excursion, available through the Transkaroo Country Lodge. Far from city lights, Britstown’s clear skies provide the perfect canvas for celestial marvels, allowing visitors to marvel at the beauty of the universe above.

For those seeking a deeper connection with the natural wonders of the Upper Karoo, Britstown offers opportunities to explore its surrounding landscapes. Discover the captivating Khoisan rock art, found on various local farms, which provides a fascinating glimpse into the ancient culture and artistry of the indigenous people. Lace up your hiking boots and venture into the pristine wilderness that envelops Britstown, immersing yourself in the tranquility of the Karoo landscape.

Britstown’s allure lies not only in its history but also in the multitude of experiences it offers. From tracing the footsteps of pioneers to indulging in the breathtaking beauty of the night sky, this unassuming town beckons intrepid travelers to uncover its hidden treasures. Plan your visit to Britstown today and prepare to be captivated by the convergence of history, stargazing, and natural splendor in the heart of the Upper Karoo.


Nestled in the heart of one of South Africa’s largest wool-producing districts, Calvinia stands as an alluring town within the enchanting Upper Karoo. Situated approximately halfway between Cape Town and Upington, this captivating destination beckons visitors with its rich heritage, scenic landscapes, and vibrant festivals.

Immerse yourself in Calvinia’s history by paying a visit to the Calvinia Museum, housed in a charming Art Deco synagogue on Church Street. The museum offers a fascinating insight into the region’s farming traditions, transport history, and the lifestyle of its early inhabitants. Make your way to the Tourism Office within the museum, where you can arrange guided walking tours of the town’s significant landmarks and hidden gems, allowing you to truly appreciate Calvinia’s unique character.

Nature enthusiasts will find solace in the Akkerendam Nature Reserve, where two scenic trails unveil the captivating beauty of the region’s indigenous flora. Prepare to be enchanted by the exquisite flowers that bloom exclusively in this area, creating a kaleidoscope of colors against the backdrop of the Karoo’s vast landscapes. Take leisurely strolls along the trails, immersing yourself in the tranquility and natural splendor that surrounds Calvinia.

For those seeking a taste of the town’s vibrant spirit, the Hamtam Meat Festival promises a delightful experience. Held annually during the last week of August, this lively event celebrates Calvinia’s rich agricultural heritage and the art of preparing and enjoying meat. Indulge in a culinary adventure, sampling delectable dishes prepared with local expertise while reveling in the festive atmosphere that permeates the streets of Calvinia.

Beyond these highlights, Calvinia offers a charming ambiance with its Karoo-style architecture, quaint streets, and warm hospitality. The town serves as a gateway to the rugged beauty of the Hantam Karoo, where breathtaking vistas and serene solitude await those who venture further.

Calvinia invites you to discover a blend of history, natural wonders, and cultural festivities in the heart of the Upper Karoo. Whether you’re exploring its captivating museum, immersing yourself in the beauty of the Akkerendam Nature Reserve, or savoring the flavors of the Hamtam Meat Festival, this alluring town promises an unforgettable experience. Plan your visit to Calvinia today and unlock the enchantments that await in the captivating landscapes of the Upper Karoo.


Discover a haven of tranquility in the heart of the Karoo as you settle in for an overnight stay in Colesberg, where time slows down, and the essence of the South African experience can be truly savored. This peaceful Karoo town, nestled within a thriving horse and sheep stud district, holds a collection of captivating reminders of its past, inviting visitors to explore its historical riches.

Start your exploration of Colesberg by visiting the old horse-driven mill pub, a charming establishment that embodies the town’s heritage and serves as a gathering place for locals and travelers alike. Stroll along Bell Street to admire the quaint Cape Karoo cottages, showcasing the architectural charm of the region. Don’t miss the opportunity to immerse yourself in the captivating history of Colesberg by visiting the Kemper Museum, which houses a section dedicated to the Anglo-Boer War, providing insights into the town’s role during this significant period.

The Karoo region is renowned for its vast open spaces and invigorating climate, and Colesberg embraces this natural allure. The town shares a fascinating connection with South Africa’s legendary diamond industry. It was in Colesberg that John O’Reiley, after acquiring the first diamond discovered in the country, took it for testing. The diamond was used to scratch the initials “DP” on the window of Draper and Plewman, a store that still stands today. Once confirmed as a genuine diamond by geologist Dr. Guybourne Atherstone, the stage was set for the diamond rush that would shape the course of South African history.

As you wander through the Colesberg’s picturesque surroundings, you’ll encounter the characteristic Karoo veld, adorned with gentle koppies (hills). Among them, Coleskop stands out, its majestic presence visible from a distance of over 40 kilometers. Early travelers referred to it as “Towerberg” or “Magic Mountain,” and exploring these koppies unveils archaeological wonders, including stone-age artifacts and fragments of the past. Nature enthusiasts and outdoor enthusiasts will relish the opportunity to study the diverse fauna and flora that thrive in the veld surrounding the town, immersing themselves in the wonders of the Great Karoo.

Colesberg is home to several national monuments, with the Colesberg-Kemper Museum being a standout. Housed within a stunning example of 19th-century Karoo architecture, the museum was initially the Colesberg Bank before becoming the Standard Bank. Today, it stands as a repository of captivating relics that weave together the rich tapestry of the town’s history. The museum’s journey began in 1924 when G.L. Kemper donated his collection of artifacts to the municipality, eventually growing into a treasure trove of local cultural history. Delve into the museum’s exhibits, which include an awe-inspiring collection of fossils dating back to the era of the area’s first reptiles, as well as a permanent photographic display curated by UNISA, showcasing the remarkable story of the Karoo Nomads, the donkey-drawn “karretjie” people.

Colesberg beckons you to uncover the harmonious blend of history, natural wonders, and cultural treasures that await in the serenity of the Upper Karoo. Whether you’re exploring the town’s fascinating landmarks, embracing the beauty of the Karoo veld, or immersing yourself in the captivating displays of the Colesberg-Kemper Museum, a journey to this enchanting destination promises an experience that resonates long after you depart. Plan your visit to Colesberg today and unlock the secrets that lie within the captivating landscapes and storied past of the Upper Karoo.

De Aar

Discover the captivating town of De Aar, a bustling railway junction that holds significant importance as the second most crucial railway intersection in South Africa. Located at the meeting point of railway lines from the Eastern and Western Cape, the northern provinces, Zimbabwe, and Namibia, De Aar boasts an impressive 110 kilometers of tracks and a high volume of train traffic that graces its pathways each day.

The name De Aar originates from the Dutch word for “artery,” alluding to the presence of an underground watercourse in the area. Initially established on the Farm “De Aar,” the town’s strategic central location prompted the government to purchase the farm in 1881, leading to the construction of the first railway line from Cape Town to Kimberley. Today, De Aar serves as the primary commercial distribution center for a vast region of the central Great Karoo, with notable economic activities revolving around wool production and livestock farming.

Delve into the rich cultural heritage of De Aar by exploring its remarkable attractions. For enthusiasts of rock art, the farms Nooitgedacht, Brandfontein, and Damfontein boast excellent examples of Khoisan rock engravings, providing a fascinating glimpse into the ancient artistic expressions of the region. Take a leisurely stroll through the Garden of Remembrance, a serene sanctuary honoring the British soldiers who lost their lives during the South African (Anglo-Boer) War. Immerse yourself in the tranquility of this garden as you reflect on the historical significance of the conflict.

A visit to De Aar would not be complete without paying homage to Olive Schreiner, a renowned South African author and feminist. Schreiner’s residence in De Aar, known as Grundlingh House, has been transformed into a museum and restaurant, offering visitors the opportunity to delve into her life and works. Explore the exhibits that celebrate her literary contributions and gain insight into her influential role in advocating for women’s rights and social justice.

Beyond its cultural treasures, De Aar is also blessed with natural wonders waiting to be discovered. Surrounding landscapes offer a serene escape where you can revel in the untamed beauty of the Great Karoo. Explore the vast plains, breathe in the fresh Karoo air, and immerse yourself in the mesmerizing landscapes that define this unique region.

De Aar beckons travelers to embrace its railway heritage, uncover its cultural gems, and surrender to the tranquility of nature in the heart of the Upper Karoo. Whether you’re fascinated by the intricacies of railway junctions, captivated by the stories of Olive Schreiner, or seeking solace in the raw beauty of the Karoo, De Aar promises an unforgettable experience that blends history, culture, and natural splendor. Plan your visit to De Aar today and let the wonders of the Upper Karoo captivate your soul.


Nestled on the southern banks of the majestic Orange River, just moments away from the renowned Gariep Dam, lies the enchanting town of Norvalspont. True to its name, which incorporates the word ‘pont’ meaning ferry boat or punt, this picturesque destination offers a serene escape in the heart of the Upper Karoo. Situated in close proximity to the borders of the Northern Cape with the Eastern Cape and the Free State, Norvalspont is a hidden gem awaiting discovery.

Located 39 kilometers from its nearest neighbor, Colesberg, Norvalspont is seamlessly connected to the town via the scenic R58 route. Its idyllic setting is embraced by rolling hills, with the majestic Bethulie hills adorning the skyline. The town’s charm is further enhanced by its strategic position along the meandering Orange River, where the shimmering waters create a captivating backdrop.

At the heart of Norvalspont’s history lie two iconic bridges that span the Orange River, serving as vital links for both rail and road transportation. These historic structures stand as testaments to the town’s significance as a transportation hub. The origins of Norvalspont can be traced back to the 1840s when John Norval, a Scottish immigrant, established a ferry service named ‘Glasgow’ after his hometown. The river, with its substantial width, necessitated the presence of a reliable means of crossing, and Norval’s service became an integral part of the region’s connectivity.

A fascinating aspect of Norvalspont’s heritage is the existence of a Facebook group dedicated to genealogical research on the Norval family, exploring their ancestral roots in both Scotland and South Africa. This testament to the town’s historical legacy reflects the enduring connections that shape its community.

During the tumultuous South African War of 1900 to 1902, Norvalspont played a significant role as the site of a British concentration camp. Notably, humanitarian Emily Hobhouse visited the camp and documented its conditions extensively. Today, visitors can pay their respects and learn about this somber chapter of history by visiting the memorial that stands as a poignant reminder of the past.

While exploring Norvalspont, be sure to venture beyond its borders and discover the neighboring town of Colesberg. Regarded as the halfway mark on the N1 highway between Cape Town and Johannesburg, Colesberg is a gateway to the captivating wonders of the Karoo. Immerse yourself in the vastness of this arid landscape, where the open plains and rugged beauty invite contemplation and awe.

Norvalspont beckons travelers to embrace its tranquility, immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of its history, and bask in the natural splendor of the Orange River. Whether you seek a riverside retreat, a journey into the past, or an exploration of the Karoo’s enchanting landscapes, Norvalspont promises an unforgettable experience that will leave an indelible mark on your soul. Plan your visit today and let the serenity of the Upper Karoo envelop you in its embrace.


When the town of Sutherland is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind for most people is its reputation as a stargazing paradise. And indeed, they are correct. Situated approximately 120 kilometers north of Matjiesfontein in the Roggeveld region of the Karoo, Sutherland offers an expansive expanse of clear, dark night skies. Here, visitors can witness the awe-inspiring beauty of the star-studded heavens that stretch to the far reaches of the universe. It is no wonder that astronomers flock to this destination to utilize the world-class telescopes at the renowned South African Astronomical Observatory.

However, the captivating skies of Sutherland are just one facet of its allure. Nestled in the heart of a remote and untouched landscape, the town offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. With its tranquil atmosphere and serene surroundings, Sutherland provides the perfect sanctuary for those seeking solace and respite. Additionally, it holds the distinction of being one of the coldest towns in the country, experiencing frequent snowfall during the winter months. The majestic Roggeveld Mountains, adorned with a blanket of snow, create a breathtaking sight that further enhances the town’s unique charm.

Sutherland is also in close proximity to the sites of the distinctive corbel houses. These remarkable structures, resembling stone beehives, can only be found in the region surrounding the towns of Fraserburg, Williston, and Carnarvon. Constructed using flat stones readily available in the area where wood was scarce, these homes showcase the ingenuity of the local inhabitants. A mixture of wheat chaff, sand, and water served as the “cement” or binding material, with sand sourced from ant hills known for their exceptional binding properties. Typically, a corbel house featured a single door, a window, and a domed roof with openings at the top that could be covered during rainfall.

For those with an adventurous spirit, a journey to the south of Sutherland leads to the captivating Salpeterkop, an eroded volcano. This geological wonder offers a fascinating glimpse into the area’s ancient history and geological processes, adding another layer of intrigue to an already captivating destination.

However, if you find yourself in Sutherland, chances are that all you desire is to immerse yourself in the celestial wonders above, to recline under the stars, and contemplate the escape from the constraints of city life. Sutherland invites you to indulge in this simple pleasure, offering a haven where you can marvel at the cosmos and reflect on the boundless possibilities that lie beyond.

In Sutherland, the beauty of the night sky intertwines with the rich cultural heritage of the Karoo, creating an experience that is both otherworldly and deeply rooted in the region’s history. Whether you seek to explore the mysteries of the universe, discover the architectural wonders of the corbel houses, or simply find solace in the peaceful surroundings, Sutherland promises an unforgettable journey into the heart of the Upper Karoo.

The Upper Karoo beckons adventurous spirits and curious minds to uncover its hidden treasures. With its vast open spaces, thriving flora, and fascinating history, this captivating region offers an experience like no other. Book your stay today and prepare to immerse yourself in the wonders of the Upper Karoo—a land where the arid becomes alive and the extraordinary becomes reality.


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