From rolling hills and mountain peaks, elephant-filled national parks and picturesque coastlines and unspoilt beaches to Afromontane forests - the Eastern Cape offers travellers a virtually endless variety of experiences to enjoy.
The cities and towns of the Eastern Cape are also replete with amazing sights.
It can be said with certainty that the Eastern Cape is one of South Africa’s most beautiful, adventure-filled and history-rich provinces. The average, relatively well-informed traveller is likely familiar with Port Elizabeth, Grahamstown, Port Alfred and other locations that see a fair amount of visitors - however, this is a guide to one of the places you’re likely not too familiar with.
SEE: #EcoTravels: A nature lover's guide to Eastern
So read on, start planning and get ready to wind your way through this dorpie of the Eastern Cape.
Nestled between the mountains of the southern Drakensberg area, between the villages of Elliot and Lady Grey in the Eastern Cape is one of the most overlooked dorpies in the country - Barkly East. If the name isn't ringing any bells, that's okay because this guide aims to change all of that.
Lying at an elevation of more than 5800 feet or 1767 metres above sea level, it is one of the highest lying towns in the country. In no small part due to this elevation, the temperatures tend to drop to freezing in winter. Sometimes referred to as the Switzerland of South Africa, if there are reports that it is snowing anywhere in South Africa you can be sure that the powder and frost are falling in this bucolic little town.
When it's not attracting tourists wanting to see the snow, the town is blessed with beautiful scenery such as green valleys and picturesque, rugged mountains. The mountain streams are rich with life such as Smallmouth yellowfish and Rainbow trout that you can try your hand at catching. When the season is right and the snows have melted, the valleys are coated in a beautiful carpet of wildflowers.
Top things to do in Barkly East:
Check out the Barkly East Museum
There is no better place to develop a greater understanding of the history of Barkly East than at the Barkly East Museum. Offering visitors a fascinating glimpse into the history of the area, its founding and hosting artefacts and objects of interest found in the area - this should be the first stop for visitors.
Originally built as a municipal office and a library in 1891, it was turned into a museum in 1971. Local items of interest were collected incrementally over the years and the collection grew to be the contemporary collection of articles, photographs, domestic items and items used in the sheep and cattle farming that is rife in this area.
Moreover, the museum has an admirable collection of items that hark back to the Anglo Boer and First and Second World Wars as well as Xhosa weapons, beadwork and artwork.
For more information, follow this link.
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Flyfish on the Barkly East town dam
This part of the southern Drakensberg is renowned for its excellent fly-fishing opportunities with over 200 kilometres of mountain rivers and streams filled all year around with a variety of fish just waiting to be snagged.
Rainbow trout, Smallmouth yellowfish and more are just some of the fish you're likely to encounter on a fishing excursion during the warmer summer months. Walking along these rivers and seeking out your next fishing location is also a great way to truly immerse yourself and experience the natural beauty of the area.
From stunning river gorges to rock paintings there is much to see here. While you wait for that tell-tale nibble on the line, make sure to keep two ears and an eye out for the over 230 bird species in the area.
For more information, follow this link.
SEE: From Addo to the Wild Coast: SA’s top wildlife experiences to add to your Eastern Cape itinerary
Do some bird-watching
As mentioned above, this area has prolific birdlife with over 230 species of birds recorded. From the Bearded Vulture to the Drakensberg Rock-jumper and Bald Ibis to the Grey Crowned Crane - who knows which bird visitors might be so fortunate to stumble across.
So put on your hiking boots and get ready to climb to the top of the high mountain peaks to get a great view of the different species. Work on your birdcall identification skills, get a reference book or download an app, whatever you do get ready to be blown away by the sheer beauty of this part of the world and the life that calls it home. For more information, follow this link.
Build a snowman or play in the snow
Depending on when you decide to visit Barkly East, there is a great chance that visitors will have the chance to enjoy snow in South Africa. Due in no small part to its elevation, the town of Barkly East receives substantial snowfall when conditions are right.
This town, the Switzerland of South Africa, is almost guaranteed to see some of the white stuff during winter, which is one of the major draw cards to the area. So when you can, take to the mountains, build a snowman and enjoy some winter wonderland fun.
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