Clanwilliam, Cederberg

Resting at the foot of the Cederberg Mountain range, a little over two hours’ drive from Cape Town, lies the little hamlet of Clanwilliam. Regarded as the only town in the world where rooibos is planted and cultivated, it is also famous for its locally made veldskoens or leather shoes.

Clanwilliam is one of the ten oldest towns in South Africa and historical walks through the town centre take in seven national monuments that include the original farmhouse of Jan Disselsvalleij - the town was initially his namesake before it became Clanwilliam in 1814 - the old jail building, now a museum, and an 1820 Settlers house.

Pertinent to the town’s history is the Clanwilliam cedar, after which the Cederberg Mountain range is named. This magnificent tree, with its durable wood and particular fragrance, is now on the brink of extinction due largely to global warming and the increase in the frequency of fires in the area - few saplings every reach seed-bearing maturity.

An initiative to restore the cedar is active in the Cederberg Wilderness Area, recently proclaimed a World Heritage Site within the Cape floristic Region. The reserve borders to the north of the Pakhuis Pass at Clanwilliam and includes over 71 000 ha of mountainous terrain popular with hikers and mountaineers and those wanting a true ‘wilderness’ experience.

To experience first-hand the paintings and motifs of the Bushmen, the Clanwilliam Living Landscape Project, a local empowerment programme, offers a rock art trail on which trained guides facilitate an exploration of the paintings as a journey across the landscape.

The annual Wild Flower show in August/September is renowned, the Cederberg Wine Cellar definitely worth a visit and both the Clanwilliam and Bulshoek Dams offer a number of water sports opportunities. Don’t forget to stop off at the Die Kunshuis art gallery to scout out some local talent. Wuppertal, just 72 km southeast of Clanwilliam, has been a Moravian mission station since 1865 and the little village today is little changed with an old thatched church, a store and neat little cottages lining the main street, making a visit worthwhile.

Additional Reading

For more info see our article "Top 10 Attractions in Clanwilliam".

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