A Great Karoo road trip is often referred to as South African’s greatest self- drive and is divided into two separate parts. The Klein Karoo, which is a 300km strip between Worcester and George and the Great Karoo, which traverses the heart of South Africa’s interior. The Great Karoo spans nearly 400 000km and is often compared to the Australian outback. Travellers who have done it many time report that you can travel for months in and around the towns of the Great Karoo and have a different experience every time. If you plan on exploring it yourself, here are some of the Karoo towns (and more) along the way, that you must stop and explore.
Karoo South Africa: Travel Guide
Prince Albert is a wonderful town at the gateway to the Great Karoo and is famous for its restaurants, creative inhabitants and working moonshine distillery. Situated at the foot of the Swartberg Mountains, it is surrounded by vineyards and fruit and olive farms. There is so much to do in Prince Albert, that the town even has its own free APP to guide you around the town. Things not to miss include the Prince Albert Farmers Market, which takes place on Saturday mornings, the Prince Albert Ghost Walk and the Prince Albert Art Gallery.
The owl house at Nieu Bethesda
Nieu Bethesda is a gorgeous little village situated in a valley at the foot of the Sneeuberge which is fed by a spring that flows all year round. In this arid region, Nieu Bethesda is an oasis, famous for being the home of Helen Martins’ Owl House. The Owl House is an amazing display of shining glass and concrete sculptures. The Owl House is now a museum and is open to the public daily (except 25 December). Nieu Bethesda is also home to a growing number of artists who are drawn to this mystical place, abundant with plants where one can connect with nature and yourself!
If you are a book lover, you must make a stop in Richmond – a tiny town with over ten bookshops! Richmond is often referred to as the ‘gem’ of the Karoo and is situated between the villages of Hanover and Victoria West. Richmond is built along a river and is famous for its Edwardian and Victorian Karoo-style houses. Every year Richmond hosts the Richmond Book Festival when authors and book lovers gather together and celebrate everything literary.
Karoo National Park
The Karoo Natural Park is situated just outside Beaufort West and is a wonderful refuge for nature and bird-lovers. Here you can find kudu, mountain zebra, lion and wildebeest.
Situated in the Great Karoo against the Augrabies National Park, Riemsvasmaak is famous for its hot springs, which invite visitors to relax and unwind in therapeutic waters surrounded by high cliffs that tower above you. Riemsvasmaak is a place of truly unusual beauty and is a large area made up of stark mountains and vast desert plains.
Top tips if you are travelling the Great Karoo
- This route is meant to be enjoyed slowly so take your time and explore the dirt roads, where some of the best treasures of the Groot Karoo are hidden.
- Stop at the farmstalls – they are always filled with delicious foods and homemade products and are run by locals who can point you in the direction of some local treasures.
- Karoo towns on Sundays are notoriously quiet, so don’t judge a town by this. Instead why not attend a church service at the ‘Moederkerk’ (Mother Church) and speak to the locals afterwards about places to visit.
- Take your time to just enjoy the magnificent scenery of the Great Karoo. At night gaze up at the stars, which will seem twice the size they usually are, due to the lack of streetlights.
- Take a map with you. Your GPS won’t work that well in the Karoo’s vast spaces – so it’s always a good idea to have some paper back-up!
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