The Xhariep Region, Free State

Lying in the south western Free State, the Xhariep Region, named after the Gariep Dam, is typically dry and probably the region most likely to fulfil the picture held by many of the Free State as a place of endless space, vast tracts of sheep and cattle farmland, tranquillity, and a part of the world known to few.

Did you know? Once you've booked your hotel or Xhariep accommodation in the Free State, explore the town and destination pages below for info on attractions, activities and things to do when you explore the region.

A mere 129 000 odd people live in Xhariep, a region regarded in the past as the country’s backwater. But now, as the need by tourists to venture into authentic territory away from the country’s over visited and generally overextended hot spots, grows, this region is unhurriedly being ‘discovered’.

The !Gariep Dam, lying in the southernmost part of the region, and regarded as the Karoo heartland, is the largest expanse of fresh water in the country. It lies on the Orange River, one of the country’s largest rivers, its shoreline extending some 435 kilometres near the towns of Bethulie, Venterstad, Colesberg, Oviston and Aliwal North.

Did you know? When it comes to outdoor and nature activities it doesn’t come better than the Gariep dam that lies above the town of Venterstad, on the border of the Free State and the Eastern Cape. The huge Gariep Dam, or Lake Gariep as it is also known, is a major recreation space for Free Staters and overland visitors.

Rouxville, one of the lesser known towns in the Xhariep, now forms part of the Maloti Route that claims the status of the longest signed tourism route in Southern Africa spanning over parts of Lesotho, the Eastern Cape and Xhariep. Similarly, together with Smithfield, Rouxville forms part of the Friendly N6 route, another long route that extends from Bloemfontein in the north to East London in the south, covering over 600 kilometres and spanning two provinces.

Other highlights of the Xhariep region include the chance to visit open mine museums, the Laurens van der Post Memorial at Philippolis, the ‘Eye’ of Zastron - a hole in a sandstone ridge on the hill at Zastron, and the Landzicht wine cellar at Jacobsdal.

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Destinations in the Xhariep Region

Bethulie

Overnight? Bethulie accommodation
Bethulie, or the town of many names - from the time of its founding in 1872 it has been called Caledon, Verhuellpolis, Heidelberg and Bethulie - may lie off the beaten track and barely defie the definition of 'rustic', but it is also full of historical si...

Edenburg

Edenburg, like its more southerly neighbour Trompsberg, lies alongside the N1 highway roughly 83 kilometres south west of Bloemfontein. Yet the average traveller using the freeway has never heard of it. The N1 travels through few towns. Those that bene...

Fauresmith

Fauresmith lies in what is known as the False Karoo in the southern part of the Free State, a little town that serves as a centre for the local lucerne and potato farming community, and apparently one of only a few towns in the world where the railroad jo...

Gariep Dam

Overnight? Gariep Dam accommodation
The self-catering lodges and guest jouses offering accommodation in Gariep Dam, promise gorgeous views and a comfy place to stay in South Africa. South Africa’s largest water storage reservoir, the Gariep Dam, is placed on the Orange River between th...

Jacobsdal

Overnight? Jacobsdal accommodation
Jacobsdal was a farm called Kalkfontein until the mid-1800’s, when Christoffel Jacobs established it as a tiny town. Today, it remains a small farming community, just 154 kilometres outside of Bloemfontein in the Free State, but its history and the surrou...

Jagersfontein

Jagersfontein lies 115 km south west of Bloemfontein, nearest stop: Koffiefontein. It is one of very few places in the world with a big hole open diamond mine. In 2005 the media considered Jagersfontein 'forgotten in history'. Today the little town has...

Koffiefontein

The first thing that strikes you about the Karoo is the huge distances between towns. The Grassy Karoo, also known as the 'false Karoo', is the eastern part, which, as its name suggests, is fundamentally grasslands that stretch from Jacobsdal to Somerset ...

Petrusburg

Overnight? Petrusburg accommodation
Petrusburg lies on the N8 between Bloemfontein and Kimberley, and is connected to Koffiefontein by the R48 - another little farming town in the Letsemeng of the south-western Free State. Suffice to say that most of this area makes its money from farming -...

Philippolis

Overnight? Philippolis accommodation
Virtually smack bang in the middle of South Africa lies the little historical town of Philippolis, renowned for its hospitality and convivial atmosphere. It is not only considered the oldest settlement in the Free State, but Philippolis is also the birth ...

Rouxville

If you haven't heard of Rouxville, someone you know will have stopped off here on their way to East London on the N6, possibly after overnighting at somewhere like Smithfield. Despite outward appearances, Rouxville, which lies in the southern most rea...

Smithfield

Overnight? Smithfield accommodation
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 ...

Springfontein

Overnight? Springfontein accommodation
The little town of Springfontein, lying in what is largely farming country, derives its name from an artesian well on the original farm Springfontein. Despite the fact that the little farming community today suffers from something of an inferiority co...

Trompsburg

Overnight? Trompsburg accommodation
The little town of Trompsburg dates back to the 19th century, having been established on the Middelwater Farm in 1891 and declared a municipality in 1902. This is a veritable “dorpie”- a small farming town in the heart of the South African province of the...

Zastron

Overnight? Zastron accommodation
The little town of Zastron, just off the N6, north east of Rouxville lies in some of the most picturesque countryside in the south eastern Free State close to the border of Lesotho. The scenery is dominated by beautiful mountains and the town itself l...

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