South Africa TravelThe Free State, South Africa
With its wealth of historical and cultural attractions and excellent facilities, Bloemfontein is the ideal place to start a tour of the Free State. North of Winburg, the Willem Pretorius Game Reserve is the Free State's major provincial reserve, offering a wealth of wildlife, excellent fishing conditions, and a wide range of sports facilities.
Kroonstad has all you need for a relaxing break, including an excellent holiday resort. Loch Athlone, one of the major attractions of Bethlehem, is a magnet for anglers and those who enjoy pottering around in boats. No visit to the Free State is complete without following the renowned Highlands Route. Starting at Harrismith and ending at Zastron, the route is particularly notable for the Golden Gate National Park, beautiful mountain scenery and charming country towns. In the south-west, the Gariep Dam nature reserve offers an extensive range of leisure activities including water sports, tennis, bowling, horse-riding and golf.
Situated in a region of undulating hills in the Free State, the Northern Free State is blessed with fertile soil and good rainfall, creating excellent conditions for maize, wheat, sunflowers and cattle and game farming. Many farmers throughout the region open their doors to visitors, providing excellent opportunities to enjoy their friendly hospitality and experience the daily routine of a Free State farm.
A major river of South Africa, the Vaal, flows through a green and fertile valley lined with willow trees. Holiday-makers converge on the attractive resorts nestling near the dams on the river - especially popular among anglers, yachtsmen and other water sports enthusiasts. Fun-lovers flaunting tans adorn the river banks, and when the sun goes down, fine wines and gourmet cuisine are served in plush Free State hotels.
The Central Free State is often referred to as "The Golden Country". Fields of corn and golden sunflowers embellish the landscape, and the gold deposits beneath the ground are a source of great wealth. One third of the country's gold is produced in the region of the Free State where modern towns with shopping centres, hotels, restaurants, parks and sports facilities have mushroomed. A wide variety, of good facilities and entertainment options are offered in the larger centres such as Welkom, Kroonstad and Virginia.
South Africa's largest river, the Orange, rises in Lesotho's Maluti Mountains in the Free State and forms the southern boundary of the Free State before winding its way to the Atlantic Ocean. To the Khoikhoi people, the Orange was known as Gariep (river), and for this reason, the Voortrekkers who settled in the region north of the river called it the Transgariep.
Increasingly popular among holiday-makers, the river is also the site of one of the country's most astounding engineering feats, the Gariep Dam. This enormous inland sea and the attractive resort on its banks provide a relaxing interlude for travellers, especially for those who enjoy swimming, water-skiing, fishing and yachting. Those in the know claim that paddling a canoe down the long, lazy flow of the river is the ultimate adventure.
Pride and joy of the Free State, the eastern Free State region, Thabo Mofutsanyana, is a delight throughout the year. In spring, the cool, sparkling air is filled with fragrance. Summer is a time of ripening harvests and the pleasures of the great outdoors. Autumn turns the leaves to gold, and snow shrouds the mountains in winter. The fishing is great. The mountains invite you to climb. The wildlife waits to be captured by your camera, and the golf courses are groomed for your pleasure.
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