Free State DestinationsBethlehem, Thabo Mofutsanyana
Despite being a pivotal town of the Free State, Bethlehem has remained largely obscure - too large to make it in to the popular 'village society' of Ficksburg, Fouriesburg, Clarens and Rosendal, yet not quite big enough to compete with the likes of Bloemfontein for status.
Named after the biblical Bethlehem not for the birth of the legendary Jesus, but for its wheat growing capacity, the town is the heart of the wheat belt of the Free State, its fertile soil an abundance of wheat crops and sunflowers, making it the largest commercial centre in the eastern Free State. It lies on the Liebenbergs River just south of the Rooiberg Mountain on the the N5.
Those who live here claim the climate to be sublime with frosty winters and mild summers, and an average daily temperature of 24 degrees celcius. During summer the mountains are green, in spring they are filled with blossoms and during winter there is every chance of snow.
As with all Free State towns one has but to know where to seek out the activities that will make a visit worthwhile, like the typical, historical sandstone buildings that are now provincial heritage sites in town, the Bethlehem Museum and the Sol Plaaitjie Dam.
And what do Bethlehemers do over weekends? They watch interschool rugby, braai next to the jet ski spot at Lock Athlone, head out to Golden Gate Park Highlands National Park, the village of Clarens, or walk in the Wolhuterskop Nature Reserve. And if they have children then Lion's Rock just outside Bethlehem, or Sunnyside Guest Farm, are safe bets.