SA Road Trips Mapped: Highlights of the Karoo Highlands Route

2018-09-08 21:00
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So you've done the scenic Garden Route but want to check out other, equally authentic road trip offerings across South Africa.

If this is you, then The Karoo Highlands Route, trailing along the southern part of the Northern Cape is where you need to be heading on your next road-tripping adventure.

This route covers a small but very unique part of SA, as a major sheep-farming and agriculture region. The landscapes are barren and flat - allowing you to zone out and switch off - unlike anywhere else. Not forgetting the nights will entertain you with some of the best stargazing opportunities in the world.

Key festivals in the region included the Hantam Vleisfees, a proudly South African experience and a must for all who loved Karoo hospitality and, of course, the famous Karoo Lamb. The Williston Winter Festival - which celebrates the  Northern Cape and traditions such as the world-famous dust-raising Nama Riel dance, performed by over 100 traditional 'riel dancers', is also an annual highlight.

EXPLORE: Party in the Karoo with one of these 10 annual festivals

Add these standout dorpies as you head for the highlands high road:  

Nieuwoudtville is known for its unique vegetation, with the biggest variety of indigenous bulbous plants in the world, and the 100m high Nieuwoudtville Falls on the Doring River. A highlight is a stop-in at the Matjiesfontein Farmstall, or a tour of  Quiver Tree Forest, via the Rondekop flower route. 

Sutherland is the perfect weekend breakaway destination. While it may seem like a sleepy town at first glance, it offers all the iconic Karoo charm - friendly local people, icy nights and perhaps the best lamb in the country. It is also one of the best places in the world for stargazing.  Highlights include the  South African Large Telescope - or SALT - the largest optical telescope in the southern hemisphere. This makes a tour of the observatory a must.

Calvinia is one of the country's largest wool-producing areas and in Spring Toren, Matjiesfontein and Nerasie farms are flower pots for spectacular scenery. Like Sutherland, Calvinia is as much an attraction for city-dwellers and astronomers as the rare sterboom is for botanists and horticulturalists. A highlight for 4x4 enthusiasts would be its various routes, some steeped in Anglo-Boer War history, along the escarpment with picturesque views and San paintings or along the riverbed with huge Namaqua Fig trees clinging to the rock surfaces. 

EXPLORE: SA Road Trips Mapped: Exploring the Wild Flower route of the Northern Cape  

Fraserburg also has some extraordinart ancient rocks to see. Check out the Gansfontein Palaeo Surface - originally deposited some 250 million years ago. On the farm Riethuisies there is a distinct trace fossil of a gastropod and the same trace fossil was found recently in Antartica, of great importance for Palaeontologists.  

Williston is one of the many interesting towns of the Northern Cape, playing host to the annual Williston Winter Festival, which takes place just ahead of spring. Another highlight, other than the festival would be get permission to check out the Tombstone Route - off Oest road where you'll find a form of folk-art as tombstones were skilfully chiselled out of local sandstone.  

Carnarvon is set among flat-topped hills, this is the region’s busiest farming centres. A hightlight includes a visit to Blikkiesbar, with a novel collection of beer cans and whiskies to be snapped at the Carnarvon Hotel. 

Victoria West is marked as the beginning of the Diamond Way - between Cape Town and Kimberley. Highlights incluse the Victoria West Nature Reserve, habitat to the rare Riverine Rabbit and the Town's museum which host archaeology and fossilised fish, dating back some 200 million years when the area was an inland sea.  

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