Destinations & Attractions in Karoo Heartland, in Eastern Cape

Karoo Heartland Destinations & Attractions

The Karoo Heartland of South Africa includes well-known towns like Cradock, Somerset East, Queenstown and Graaff-Reinet. The Karoo is a fascinating part of the South African landscape. It is a massive semi-desert that extends some 150 000 square miles (or almost a quarter of a million square kilometres) in area. Its beauty is haunting and mysterious, and it seems to impart an eerie allure that is irresistible. Once you have tasted the magnificence of the Karoo, it is very difficult to conceive of world without it.

The Karoo Heartland is characterised by a landscape that comprises huge mountains, flat, scrubby plains that stretch on for miles, and an impressive array of hardy succulents, some of which boast magnificent blooms. Every now and then, a massive windmill moves slowly and deliberately, as a herd of sheep or Angora goats grazes determinedly below.

Karoo HeartlandKaroo Heartland

Nieu Bethesda is one of the tiny towns in the midst of the Karoo Heartlands. This settlement is known primarily for one attraction – The Owl House. This was once the home of eccentric artist Helen Martins, who adorned her home in colourful crushed glass, and made incredible sculptures using innovative, if unusual, materials. The home is haunted by the remnant of Martins’ commitment to expressing herself, and few visitors leave without a sense of having a small part of their souls touched by this intense experience.

The Camdeboo National Park covers more than 19 400 hectares (or almost 75 square miles) of the Karoo landscape and is known for its beautiful diversity of fauna and flora. Some of the local species for which to look out include the caracal, red hartebeest, mountain zebra, black wildebeest, springbok and the black-backed jackal.

The splendour of the countryside can be enjoyed in so many ways. For those that want to immerse themselves in the wonders of nature, there are trails on which to walk, hike or mountain bike. You may even want to take your horse on these. Explore the caves along the way, as many are home to drawings and paintings left behind by the original Khoisan people. Due to the mountainous terrain, those who enjoy mountain climbing will not be disappointed. Nor will visitors with 4 x 4 vehicles that are looking for adventure, as there are many 4 x 4 routes that are designed to test your abilities and endurance, while showcasing the views at the same time.

The Karoo Heartlands is steeped in history, and the people of this area are known for their fascinating tales and indescribably charming character. Many of these residents are creative, producing stunning art that reflects their take on the wondrous Karoo. Therefore, visitors to the area are invited to visit the many galleries and craft stores that have infused the entire region with a sort of Boho charm and progressiveness.

Aberdeen

Lying in amidst the Camdeboo Mountains (don't you just love the name Camdeboo - it comes from a Khoi word that means 'green hollow', which should give you an indication of the surrounds), Aberdeen is a small town just south west ...

Baviaanskloof

There is a gorge that lies in the valley, stretching for over 100 kilometres, between the Baviaanskloof Mountains to the north and the Kouga mountains to the south. Recently awarded World Heritage Site status this 192 000 hectare ...

Cradock

Lying on the banks of the Great Fish River, on the site of what was intended as a Boer fort to contain the Xhosa who competed for grazing grounds for their cattle in this part of the Cape, is the historical town of Cradock - a ...

Dordrecht

The little farming village of Dordrecht is situated in the heart of the Stormberg region, north west of Queenstown. The town lies in the shadow of the Stormberg or Western Drakensberg Mountains and is on the popular Route 56 ...

Graaff Reinet

The oldest town in the Eastern Cape, the fourth oldest in South Africa and certainly one of the most atmospheric, Graaff-Reinet lies enclosed by a bend in the Sundays River, overshadowed by the rocky Sneeuberg Mountain within the ...

Hofmeyr

The pretty little town of Hofmeyr lies in the shadow of the Bamboes Mountain Range in the Karoo. This beautiful mountain range that, depending on the time of day, ranges in colour from purple red in the mornings to a deep smoky ...

Indwe

Indwe is a little historical mining town. It lies between Dordrecht and Elliot, about 70 kilometres north-east of Queenstown, named for the Indwe (Xhosa for blue crane) River just east of it. Today few travellers do anything ...

Jansenville

Lying north west of the upper reaches of the Addo Elephant National Park, Jansenville lies in the Eastern Cape's nature and conservation region, an area of roughly 438 000 hectares of managed nature reserves that are committed to ...

Klipplaat

Not many towns in drought-stricken parts of the Eastern Cape can boast that the Queen once came to tea. Alright then, she did not have tea, but she did stop off in Klipplaat as part of the Royal Family's grand railroad tour of ...

Middelburg

Lying in the middle of the Karoo, surrounded by mountains in an area recognised for its prolific and naturally occurring herbal plant life, San rock art and a scenic beauty beyond description, Middelburg is and isn’t like other ...

Nieu-Bethesda

Some 60 km from Graaff-Reinet, Nieu-Bethesda is in essence completely isolated, with only two roads in and out of the village. Established in 1875 and named by the preacher Andrew Murray, Nieu-Bethesda was eclipsed by larger ...

Pearston

Head across the great expanse of the Camdeboo from Graaff-Reinet, along Route 63 in the direction of Somerset East, in company with the Karoo Mountains, and you reach the little Karoo village of Pearston. That its name is ...

Queenstown

The commercial centre of a rather prosperous farming community, the attractive town of Queenstown, known for its roses, climate and amicable townsfolk, lies on the Komani River close enough to the Wild Coast and Karoo Heartland ...

Sterkstroom

Not many people can claim they've visited Sterkstroom. That it occupies a space close to the towns of Molteno, Dordrecht and Queenstown - quite far inland of East London - is about the best description you can give anyone asking ...

Tarkastad

Set against the dramatic Winterberg Mountains, between Cradock and Queenstown, only three hours from Port Elizabeth, Tarkastad is a typical Karoo town on the banks of the Tarka River, its streets lined with quaint historical ...

Wolwefontein

The village of Wolwefontein lies on the southern edge of the Karoo. It is one of those sleepy, little villages to which one pays no heed, on the road between Jansenville and Uitenhage, north east of the Baviaanskloof. There ...
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