Landlocked with healthy blue skies, fields of sunflowers and wheat, irresistible little 'country' towns and a still vivid distinction, more so than in any other province, between black and white, this predominantly Afrikaans speaking part of the world nonetheless holds a flavour all its own. The Free State is fundamentally flat, although the presence of the Drakensberg and Maluti Mountain foothills in the east raise the already high-lying province to over 2000 metres above sea level and break the otherwise rather monotonous landscape. If one can call the presence of Karoo sandstone, shale and mudstone, and the rich presence of mineral deposits, boring. [cont.]
Maluti is the Afrikaans for the Maloti Mountains that form the highlands of Lesotho, but extend into the Free State for 100 kilometres or so across the eastern border of the province. Part of this north eastern end of the Malotis grace the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, one of the province's tourist flagships, called such for the golden shades cast by the sun on the incredible sandstone cliffs of the park. The little towns of the Thabo Mofutsanyana region – Clarens, Clocolan, Ficksburg, Rosendal and Fouriesburg - are another major draw card, and Gautengers often head here to their holiday homes over long weekends or school breaks.
All of these getaway towns have an inherent capacity for true Free State hospitality with a huge offering of bed and breakfast and self-catering establishments, luxury hotels, villas, farm stays, guest lodges, retreats and campsites.
The Free State has resourcefully designed a number of tourist drives, like the eastern highlands Maloti Route, the Goldfields Route that incorporates the history of Lejweleputswa's gold mines, or the Battlefield Route that tours the war museums and battlefields of the Free State. Add the N6 between Bloemfontein to Aliwal North to this list, if visiting still-in-the-process-of-discovering themselves towns like Smithfield, Rouxville, and Zastron sounds tempting. These Xhariep dorpies (little towns) have a distinct flavour and are well worth a stop, particularly Smithfield and Zastron, whilst just over the Eastern Cape border, Lady Grey makes a worthwhile inclusion.
A visit to the province would be incomplete without a detour through Bloemfontein full of Boer War monuments, historic art galleries, and a museum dedicated to rugby. Its alternative nightlife in Westdene at pubs like the Mystic Boer may not make it into the average guide book, but is pleasantly vibey.
Find a wide variety of places to stay from comfortable, neat and impressive bed and breakfast establishments, to luxurious hotel suites and self-indulgent lodges. The Free State is more than a pretty face. [close]