The Upper Karoo Region, Northern Cape

The Upper Karoo is famous for its wide open spaces and healthy climate. The seemingly arid soil of the Karoo bursts into life after rains, which totally transform the landscape.

Did you know? Once you've booked your hotel or Upper Karoo accommodation, explore the destination pages below for info on attractions, activities and things to do when you visit the Upper Karoo.

In the Upper Karoo region hardy succulents are complemented by grasses on which the region’s cattle graze. Seemingly countless windpumps are indicative of the countless streams that flow between cracks and fissures that lie beneath the dry but fertile soil.

Small towns with distinct Karoo architecture and their imposing churches lie in the valleys between lone flat-topped koppies. Visit Colesberg, (a perfectly situated stopover for travellers from Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal to the Cape) a sheep-farming centre, then travel on to Hopetown where South Africa’s first recorded diamond was found.

Did you know? Nieuwoudtville‘s fame during flower season is well publicised. But even when not in bloom its quaintness, the Hantam National Botanical Gardens and the community run Bulb Nursery (follow signs from town) make a visit here essential.

When the wild flowers are not in bloom Loeriesfontein, just up the drag from Nieuwoudtville, is also worth a drive purely to see the Windmill Museum. Return via Orania which is a self-proclaimed Afrikaner 'volkstaat', and take some time to visit the Rolfontein Reserve on the shores of the Vanderkloof Dam.

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Destinations in the Upper Karoo Region

Brandvlei

Overnight? Brandvlei accommodation
Brandvlei lies in a space most people in South Africa would agree is the back of beyond, north west of Loeriesfontein on Route 357. That's halfway between Calvinia and Kenhardt in the heart of what today is known as the Thirst Land, or Dorsland in Afrikaa...

Britstown

Overnight? Britstown accommodation
Britstown lies on the N12, roughly 100 km north of Victoria West, and equidistant from De Aar and Vosburg that lie on either side of it. It is named after a man called Hans Brits. The name, on the face of it, is both obvious and mundane. Until you lear...

Calvinia

Overnight? Calvinia accommodation
This attractive Karoo town lies in one of the largest wool-producing districts in South Africa, about half-way between Cape Town and Upington. The Calvinia Museum, housed in an old Art Deco synagogue in Church Street, focuses on farming, transport and...

Carnarvon

Overnight? Carnarvon accommodation
One of numerous little towns in the heart of the vast inland basin known as the Karoo, Carnarvon lies surrounded by the rather famous flat topped koppies of the Karee Mountains, west of Williston and directly north of Loxton. These hills have become so...

Colesberg

Overnight? Colesberg accommodation
This quiet Karoo town which serves a thriving horse and sheep stud district, has retained a few interesting reminders of the past. When visiting Colesberg, make a point of visiting the old horse-driven mill pub, the quaint Cape Karoo cottages in Bell Stre...

De Aar

Overnight? De Aar accommodation
De Aar is the second most important railway junction in South Africa. In De Aar, the lines from the Eastern and Western Cape, the northern provinces, Zimbabwe and Namibia meet. The town has 110 km of track and a high traffic rate of trains every day. ...

Fraserburg

Overnight? Fraserburg accommodation
Lying perched on a Karoo plateau north west of the Karoo National Park, Fraserburg is regarded as one of the most authentic little Karoo towns in the Nuweveld Mountains, just five hours from Cape Town. Lying on Route 353, off the N1 the town is fairly ...

Gariep Dam

Overnight? Gariep Dam accommodation
South Africa’s largest water storage reservoir, the Gariep Dam, is placed on the Orange River between the Northern Cape and the Free State just 30 kilometres east of Colesberg. Apart from serving an important function - supplying water to parts of the ...

Hanover

Overnight? Hanover accommodation
The little Karoo town of Hanover is often described as the town in the middle of South Africa. It lies halfway between Johannesburg and Cape Town; between Cape Town and Durban, and between Upington and Port Elizabeth. Before the advent of cars, all roads ...

Hopetown

Overnight? Hopetown accommodation
The first diamond discovered in South Africa was found at Hopetown. It was the 23,25 carat Eureka, and soon after its discovery the 83,5 carat Star of Africa was found nearby. It was the discovery of this second diamond which started the great South Afric...

Loeriesfontein

Loeriesfontein may be a small town in the sparsely populated South African province of the Northern Cape, but it has plenty in the way of natural beauty and tourist attractions to offer its visitors. This little town is situated in the Hantam region, 120 ...

Loxton

Overnight? Loxton accommodation
Travelling through the Karoo along the popular R63 towards the West Coast and Namaqualand, the road passes through a little cutting in a hill before revealing the tiny village of Loxton that stands surrounded by endless plains. Loxton is one of those ...

Marydale

To the average person Marydale seems in the middle of nowhere. It lies far north west – only the town of Kenhardt stands between it and the Augrabies Falls National Park on the border with Namibia. Marydale's NG Church, the reason for the little town's...

Merweville

For those who have not ventured into Merweville before, it is best described as: Edwardian dwellings meet the Gothic Merweville Moederkerk (mother church), in Hard Man's Karoo. Set in the heart of possibly the driest part of the country, Merweville is ...

Middelpos

Some may know the name of this Karoo dorp, in the remote parts of the Northern Cape, as the title to a book by the actor, Sir Anthony Sher. Sold as Middelpost the book is a bestseller in England. Sher, who was born in Cape Town, is a renowned Briti...

Nieuwoudtville

Overnight? Nieuwoudtville accommodation
The incredibly pretty town of Nieuwoudtville, its streets lined with historical sandstone buildings, lies just inside the Northern Cape border between Vanrhynsdorp and Calvinia, just off the R27. Nieuwoudtville is extremely popular during the wild flo...

Norvalspont

Overnight? Norvalspont accommodation
Norvalspont, as the word 'pont' in its name suggests (a pont is a ferry boat or punt), lies on the southern banks of the Orange River minutes from the Gariep Dam. It is also really close to the border of the Northern Cape with the Eastern Cape, and the bo...

Orania

South Africa's last apartheid outpost, Orania is the only town in the country that is for whites only. Despite sounding, in the new democratic South Africa, like the stuff of myth and legend, Orania is very much a reality. It lies on the border of the...

Prieska

Overnight? Prieska accommodation
243 km south-east of Upington, the town of Prieska lies right on the Orange River in the midst of dry country in the sense that it seldom rains and summer days soar upwards in the region of 40 degrees Celsius. The unusual name is a derivative of a Kora...

Richmond

Overnight? Richmond accommodation
The little town of Richmond lies nestled next to the N1 between the other typical Northern Cape villages of Hanover and Victoria West. Its residents refer to it not as a destination, but as a way of life, and there is something about the little town that ...

Strydenburg

Strydenburg is a largely Afrikaans town that is situated in the largest, but most sparsely populated province of South Africa, the Northern Cape. This province has a beauty all its own. This town is part of the Thembelihle Municipality. It occupies a ...

Sutherland

Overnight? Sutherland accommodation
Mention the town of Sutherland and most people will know that this is the place people go to look at the skies. And they would be right. Almost 120 kilometres due north of Matjiesfontein in the Roggeveld of the Karoo, Sutherland is a space of clear, dark ...

Three Sisters

Overnight? Three Sisters accommodation
Between Beaufort West and Hanover on the N1 there is virtually nothing. By nothing, I am not describing the beauty of the scenery, of which there is plenty, but the lack of any development. This part of the journey between Johannesburg and Cape Town begin...

Vanderkloof

Set on the far northern shore of the Vanderkloof Dam lies the little community of Vanderkloof, forming the eastern corner of a triangle with Hopetown (north) and Philipstown (south). The hamlet is small, but the Rolfontein Nature Conservation Offices l...

Vanwyksvlei

The only thing remotely marshy or wet about the tiny town of Vanwyksvlei, which means Van Wyk's marsh, is its position close to the dam that goes by the same name, built way back in 1882. The inadequacy of its name becomes all the more obvious when yo...

Victoria West

Overnight? Victoria West accommodation
Victoria West is a typical and flourishing Karoo town on the N12 between Cape Town and Johannesburg via Kimberley, a minor detour off the N1 of some 60 kilometres or so. You can also reach the village via the R63. It is well worth a visit for its hist...

Vosburg

Overnight? Vosburg accommodation
Vosburg is seriously gorgeous. Move there kind of gorgeous. More so for the completely unexpected surprise of its yet-to-be-discovered appeal. It lies in the Upper Karoo between Carnarvon and Britstown. Few people get there, unless they’re on the Nama...

Williston

Williston may be a small town tucked away in the Upper Karoo of the Northern Cape, but this part of the Namaqualand certainly enjoys its fair share of natural splendour and unadulterated South African landscapes. The Karoo is a very special part of the co...

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