Top 4 things to do in the Free State
The Free State province of South Africa is often overlooked by tourists visiting the country. Places like Cape Town, Durban and the Kruger National Park get all the glory, while Central South Africa is considered an uncomfortable drive on the way to the next exciting place. In fact, the Free State is one of the most beautiful provinces in South Africa.
Large parts of the countryside feature flat grassland, farmland and the occasional koppie (small hill. But as you head east, the landscape becomes greener, the hills turn into mountains and the pace of life slows down.
Free State Tourism had a motto that said something like: Visit the Free State; Discover your soul.
The country’s beloved former president and the world’s most famous ex-prisoner and humanitarian, Nelson Mandela had this to say about the Free State:
“The scenery of the Free State delights my heart, whatever my mood. When I’m here, I feel that nothing can shut me in and that my thoughts can wander all the way to the horizons.”
With accolades like this, isn’t it time you came to see what Central South Africa is all about?
Top 4 things to see and do in the Free State
1) Without a doubt, Clarens is the first must-see destination in the Free State. It is a small village at the foot of the Maluti Mountains, which is about three hours from Joburg, Bloemfontein and Durban. It is often referred to as the Jewel of the Free State due to its outstanding natural beauty as well as the hospitality of its residents.
It’s small and sleepy and a haven for artists and art lovers alike. The town has many galleries, restaurants and luxury guesthouses, and because it is at the foot of one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in the country, it is surrounded by scenic hiking and walking trails. Not to mention fishing and picnicking at the many dams.
2) Bloemfontein Botanic Gardens provides a quiet place to escape the busy, growing capital of the Free State. It has over 124 species of birds, 54 species of reptiles and 50 species of mammals, as well as countless species of flora. There is an easy trail for those who like to walk among the flowers and some slightly more strenuous hikes up the dolerite pits.
There are sunset concerts in the summer, but lectures and moonlight walks are available year-round.
3) The Vredefort Dome is a World Heritage Site and the site of the world’s largest meteorite impact. If that wasn’t enough, it’s also the oldest impact site in the world. The Vredefort Dome Conservancy was created by a group of concerned landowners in the region who wanted to preserve the integrity of the site while maximizing tourism. As a result, it is possible to walk, cycle and even drive around certain parts of the Dome.
4) The Gariep (or Xhariep) Dam Nature Reserve is between Bloemfontein and Colesburg and offers plenty of water sports, game viewing, bird watching and picnic opportunities. The reserve is the largest in the Free State and contains the largest springbok population in South Africa. The springbok is the national animal of South Africa, not to mention the emblem of the South African rugby team.
Gariep Dam Village has a number of guesthouses and B&Bs where you can stay overnight and fully enjoy the wildlife experience.
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