Karoo Heartland

Often referred to as the ‘dry heart’ of South Africa, the Karoo Heartland is but a portion of the Karoo set on the eastern periphery of the central plateau

Eastern Cape Tourist AttractionsThe Karoo Heartland, Eastern Cape

Often referred to as the ‘dry heart’ of South Africa, the Karoo Heartland is but a portion of the Karoo set on the eastern periphery of the central plateau.

Where? Karoo Heartland Region, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Overnight? See Karoo Heartland accommodation, in Eastern Cape

The Karoo, regarded in the past by many as something of a desolate, barren backwater best driven through at breakneck speed, is a huge semi desert encompassing close to 150 000 square miles that manages to sit astride all three Cape provinces. The Karoo Heartland’s rugged and intense beauty is dominated by vast, flat plains, rocky mountains, and the biggest assortment of succulents in the world.

This beautiful area, subject to red dust, thorny acacias, stunted vegetation, aloes, windmills, sheep and the odd Angora goat, boasts some of the quaintest towns in the country, authentic farmstays, the dramatic valley of Desolation, the Owl House and the Camdeboo National Park. Today the Karoo Heartland has been repackaged as an enviro-region that charms with its unusual and unpretentious characters, eccentricities and diversity of activities.

South Africa’s outback, regarded in the past as good for little other than sheep, ostriches and whirlwinds, has become distinctly hip.

And did we mention the skies? Some of the best star-gazing and sunsets in the country are available in this incredible vastness.

The Karoo Heartland has been sequestered by a group of artists, hoteliers, restaurateurs and other creative souls seeking a lifestyle other than that offered by the country’s cities. The boom of consequent galleries, guesthouses, restaurants and a resurging ostrich business have turned the Karoo into a place well worth visiting.

Popular Towns in the Karoo Heartland Region


Stay? Accommodation in 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 of the N1 where it...

More information and photographs: Aberdeen Information


Overnight? Accommodation in 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 serene but typical Karoo...

More information and photographs: Cradock Information


Overnight? Accommodation in 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 between Durban and...

More information and photographs: Dordrecht Information

Graaff Reinet

Overnight? Accommodation in 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 Camdeboo National...

More information and photographs: Graaff Reinet Information


Overnight? Accommodation in 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 blue in the late afternoons...

More information and photographs: Hofmeyr Information


Overnight? Accommodation in 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 protecting...

More information and photographs: Jansenville Information


Overnight? Accommodation in 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 Karoo towns...

More information and photographs: Middelburg Information


Stay? Accommodation in Nieu-Bethesda
ome 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...

More information and photographs: Nieu-Bethesda Information


Overnight? Accommodation in Pearston
That its name is irrevocably linked to the pear is no mistake, for before the town built its Dutch Reformed Church its people would gather under a pear tree on Casper Lötter's farm, where they waited for a pastor to ride all the way from Somerset East...

More information and photographs: Pearston Information


Overnight? Accommodation in 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 to make it...

More information and photographs: Queenstown Information

Somerset East

Stay? Accommodation in Somerset East
Apart from its beautifully preserved buildings that are worth a visit in their own right, Somerset East is perhaps best known because it is on the Blue Crane Route in the Eastern Cape. This picturesque and quaint town is at the foot of the...

More information and photographs: Somerset East Information


Overnight? Accommodation in 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 where it is...

More information and photographs: Sterkstroom Information


Overnight? Accommodation in Steytlerville
The little town of Steytlerville, with its wide streets - originally to allow ox wagons to turn around - is exceptionally beautiful and worth a visit for this reason as well as the richness of local game and bird life. Steytlerville lies in...

More information and photographs: Steytlerville Information


Overnight? Accommodation in 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 buildings...

More information and photographs: Tarkastad Information


Overnight? Accommodation in 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 is little in...

More information and photographs: Wolwefontein Information

Did you know?

The Karoo Heartland lies at the heart of South Africa. Threatened with imminent fracking, this beautiful, water-strapped and desolate area is a series of mountains, vast plains, star studded skies, farmland, idiosyncratic little dorps reminiscent of yesteryear and space – lots of it.

One of South Africa’s best kept secrets, the Mountain Zebra National Park, roughly 12 km from Cradock, is surrounded by mountains, its grass filled plains alive with zebras (and other game).

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