There is no better way to experience a destination than by immersing yourself completely in its beauty, its experiences and it people.
Our latest series of blogs aim to help you to fully experience Cape Town and the Western Cape by wholly embracing it with all your senses in all six regions of our incredible province. Next on our list is the Cape Karoo. The land-locked region, made up of towns like Matjiesfontein, Beaufort West, Prince Albert and more, it the ultimate place to get off the grid, lose yourself in the wide open spaces and re-discover yourself.
How to TASTE the Cape Karoo
While the towns may not have a huge amount of choices when it comes to fine dining, the few restaurants and hotel food spots are absolute gems. Prince Albert’s Swartberg Hotel is the perfect choice for a candlelit romantic dinner. Their Victoria Dining Room offers an ideal environment to relax and reflect, while their Sunday roasts allow you to wake up and taste the Karoo! As the name indicates, one of the dishes best associated with the region is Karoo Lamb.
In Matjiesfontein, the Lord Milner Hotel and its Dining Room have been serving its guests for the last 120 years; boasting the same historic ambience found throughout the town. Despite the Victorian style spot, the head chef remains forward-thinking by taking a unique and contemporary approach to many traditional dishes. It’s worth noting that the Hotel is next to two additional feeding grounds: Laird’s Arms is a wonderful spot for a more casual drink or pub lunch, and the cute Coffee House will also satisfy any sweet tooth cravings!
For a lighter taste of the Karoo, visit O for Olive in Prince Albert. The Swartrivier Farm harvests between 50 and 80 tons of olives a year and offers tours and tastings of their produce! The farm also has Cafe O for a bigger bite to eat.
Along your trek through the Cape Karoo, you may pass through Laingsburg and have a craving for padkos. As if to answer your prayers, Tannie Poppie is always there with her famously fresh food. After preparing her dough the night before, she sits above the grill, baking her renowned roosterbroed. Ironically, her craft makes her the sole bread-winner in her family. You may just start making a Laingsburg detour just to see her! For more of her history, watch:
How to SEE the Cape Karoo
To witness some of mother nature’s beauty, travel through the Swartberg Pass. Whether you’re on 4 wheels, 2 wheels or 2 legs, you’re bound to come across the more picturesque views. To reach greater heights, try out some of the hiking trails and maybe stop to watch the birds swoop past.
For a more relaxing stroll, consider taking a walk through the Wolwekraal Nature Reserve.
To see some of the visionaries’ work, visit the Prince Albert Gallery. The exhibit showcases the works of a wide variety of local artists specializing in painting, etching and ceramic art.
Lastly, and definitely not least, is star-gazing: the Central Karoo has one of the clearest skies globally and displays the art of the galaxy above our heads. It is the perfect opportunity to spot the celestial “Big Five”: the brightest star, the closest star, the largest globular cluster, the most beautiful open cluster and the closest galaxies. Astro Tour, led by two passionate local astrologists, is the best way to gain a better understanding of the night sky.
How to HEAR the Cape Karoo
Sometimes peace and quiet is also that is needed to reset the mind. The Cape Karoo and its vastness provide the ideal spot for silence and serenity.
But if you still cacophony of sounds from the city, one of the best ways to experience Prince Albert, its history and the ghosts of its past, is to accompany the Story Weaver, Ailsa Tudhope, as she share the local tales and heritage. Her walking tours are a light-hearted "one-woman show" on the move; informative, fun and entertaining!
If you are unable to sleep, and seek the peace of the Cape Karoo at home, give our podcast a listen. It is designed to relax the mind and help you dream of adventures in the Western Cape.
How to SMELL the Cape Karoo
African Relish is a recreational cooking school in Prince Albert; a perfect place to smell the aromas of the Cape Karoo! Select a themed half- or full-day cooking class, and experience South African produce and cuisine right under your nose. For a more extended foodie time, check out their accommodation, a Chef’s Cafe and Deli.
Another way witness the creativity and expression of the locals is by visiting the fragrant Story Gardenin Prince Albert. The garden’s creator describes it as a ‘unique story of transformation, running parallel to their personal experience’. When booking a private viewing, you can see the 'painted' and 'sculptured' river bed from local rocks and plants
How to FEEL the Cape Karoo
As mentioned above, African Relish offers unique ways to bond with our African roots. Apart from their cooking classes, they offer foraging excursions with plant ecologist and guide, Dr Sue Milton-Dean, and renowned chef, Camilla Comins. You will visit local gardens and harvest seasonal crop that is irrigated with pure mountain water, no pesticides or hormones added.
To get a feel of the past, visit the Karoo National Park Fossil Trail. Not only will you be traveling to one of the world’s richest dessert flora areas, with more than 9000 plant species, the highest concentration of breeding black eagles, and abundant animal life, you'll also be traveling back in time, and visiting creatures that lived on the earth 35 million years before the dinosaurs.
How to get in touch with your 6th SENSE in the Cape Karoo
While the region may be familiar to anyone who has driven from Johannesburg to Cape Town, the real attraction, that draws travelers from all over, is the solitude in the wide open spaces. If you’re searching for some inner peace, some inner-quiet, the Cape Karoo is your answer. May your journey provide you with a greater perspective of what is out there, beyond us, our lives and our worries.
For more information on the Cape Karoo, visit: https://www.wesgro.co.za/trave...