Smithfield, Xhariep Region

In the midst of savanna country, on the national road that finally culminates in Port Elizabeth, lies the little Free State town of Smithfield - the third oldest town in the province, just 132 kilometres southeast of Bloemfontein.

The arguments for a visit to Smithfield are numerous: the incredible fresh air, star-lit evenings, peaceful surrounds of the little town (tucked neatly into the Maluti Mountains), and the almost sleepy ambience are enough reason. But add to this the vibrant hospitality of its residents, the fantastic examples of Bushmen paintings in the hills around town, and the myriad opportunities for hiking and mountain biking on local secondary roads and the foothills, and you begin to understand why Smithfield is a well kept secret.

Smithfield is one of those little Karoo towns about which one often hears, but which manages to remain fairly elusive. Artists reside in many of the older homes in Smithfield, a number of which are national monuments, which adds yet another dimension to the historical town, founded in 1848 and named after Sir Harry Smith, the Cape colony governor.

Essentially, what is attractive about Smithfield is the sense of open space and the access to nature, mountains, water - both the Orange River and the Gariep dam are nearby - and the distinct possibility of snow in winter. Locals divide the Free State into two unique spheres of northern and southern, and the southern Free State, which includes Smithfield, Rouxville and Zastron, is intensely proud of its classic little Karoo dorps and hospitable people.

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