If you’re in a pinch and have a good companion driver and a pack of Red Bulls, the 1400km drive between Cape Town and Johannesburg can be done in just over a day. If you did though, you’d be missing out on some of the best things this vast, beautiful and incredibly diverse country has to offer. You’d be far better off taking a roadtrip, and seeing a few of these uniquely South African locations.
The Valley of Desolation in the Camdeboo National Park
Yes, it’s really called that, no it isn’t something out of Lord of the Rings althoughit certainly looks like it could be. Situated in the heart of theGreat Karoo, there is no better place to take in the view of this breathtaking landscape than from here, between the towering dolemite columns at the top of the hill. Declared a National Monument of geological and scenic significance in 1939, The Valley of Desolation rivals any of the world’s most striking landscapes and cannot be missed.
Activities: hiking, wildlife viewing & snapping some great landscape photos.
The Owl House
Just off the main road in the Karoo town of Nieu – Bethesda is a house-turned museum populated by strange creatures. Near life-size camels, owls and human figures crafted out of cement and glass bottles guard over the home of the late Helen Martins. After her abusive father died in 1945, the reclusive artist resolved to transform her environment, making her house a lifelong project. The house is now open to visitors who can see it as she left it, and the everyday objects that inspired her. An hour or two in this surreal and dreamlike space is a must on your roadtrip.
Activities: the Owl House, Horse riding, visiting the many small galleries, craft shops and sampling traditional Karoo cuisine in the quaint local restaurants.
Accommodation nearby: Enquire with the tourism office: http://www.nieu-bethesda.com
The Big Hole in Kimberly
The Big Hole is an essential visit on a road trip through the country. Not only does it stand out as a kind of man-made natural wonder, but it represents an important part of South Africa’s history. It was created during the diamond rush of 1871 to 1914 through aggressive mining, and is claimed to be one of the largest holes excavated by hand, without the use of machines. The mining museum attached to the site is well worth a visit. They even have real diamonds on display, and an entire reconstructed 19th century village, which gives you a feeling of how things would have been in the mining days.
Activities: after you have seen the Big Hole, stop by the Sol Plaatjie museum to learn about the author & activist and then the Honoured Dead memorial, dedicated to those who died during the Boer war.
Accommodation Nearby: The Australian Arms Guesthouse: http://bit.ly/1tJnRBU
Warm Water Springs
There are several locations around the country where you can quite literally bathe in these natural wonders. The Calitzdorp hot springs and the quaint Warmwaterberg Spa are two of the best places to experience the hot springs. There is little more relaxing than soaking in these natural hot springs whilst taking in the beautiful natural surroundings.
Activities: Apart from relaxing in the baths, these locations have many opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking and cycling.