The Western Cape is currently facing a severe drought, but it is important to remember that not every region is facing water restrictions at the moment. Towns in the Cape Karoo, for example, are facing moderate or no restrictions at all and it is here that you can find true peace, off the grid, deep in the open spaces of a land that is rooted in the country’s astonishing history. There are a number of amazing towns in the Cape Karoo, ready for you to explore, and this three-day itinerary is the perfect opportunity for you to do exactly that.
Aquila Private Game Reserve
A mere two-hour drive from Cape Town, lies the Aquila Private Game Reserve near Touws River. Boasting the Big 5 – elephant, lion, rhino, buffalo and leopard - and many other iconic African animals, such as the Cape Zebra and Hippo, the 4 star Aquila Safari Lodge is the perfect place to start your journey into the Cape Karoo.
Supporting a wide range of conservation initiatives, including Rhino conservation, compost recycling and maggot farming, this is responsible tourism at its finest. The family friendly reserve has something for evertone to enjoy with the African Boma restaurant that offers local cuisine, the pool deck overlooking the vast open spaces and a children’s entertainment area just some of the offerings. Enjoy a game drive and sundowner as your guide stops en-route for light snacks and drinks, providing for perfect photographic moments.
Take a step back into time and visit the charming Victorian town of Matjiesfontein. Fondly known as “The Grand Duchess of the Karoo”, the town was established in the year of 1884. The whole town of Matjiesfontein is a national monument and is believed to be one of the most haunted places in South Africa. And there is no better place to base yourself for the first half of your visit to the Karoo.
The Lord Milner Hotel is popular attraction as well as the London Red Bus, which will take you on the shortest tour in the country accompanied by the local tour guide, Johnnie, this humorous and informative tour is a must when visiting. Lasting no longer than 10 minutes, you will be back in no time for a quiet pint at the Laird’s Arms pub right next door to the hotel.
Just 20km from Matjiesfontein, the charming town of Laingsburg offers old-school hospitality and with buildings dating back to the 1800s, you will remain in time capsule mode. Make sure you visit the Flood Museum in town, which allows you to view artefacts and images from the terrible flood that hit the town in 1981.
End your evening in The Dining Room at the hotel, where we recommend you order the lamb, sourced from the local Karoo farmers. The Dining Room at The Lord Milner Hotel has been serving its guests for the last 120 years; and boasts the same historic ambience found throughout Matjiesfontein. Dine in a Victorian setting filled with period antiques and let the red-jacketed porters welcome you and offer a selection of fine wines from across the Western Cape region.
The charming town of Prince Albert in the Cape Karoo is a 40km drive off the N1. Along this road you will discover vast landscapes and empty roads making for perfect photographic moment’s true Karoo style. Visit the Showroom theatre that hosts a number of unique productions, jump on board the Red bus for a historic tour around the town. Enjoy a ghost tour that happens every Friday as you discover the spooky stories as your journey through the graveyard and the quiet streets at night. Easy accessible from the town of Prince Albert you find Meiringspoort a scenic drive to Oudtshoorn and then back again via the Swartberg Pass makes for a perfect day trip. This historic town has a charming coffee shops, art shops and accommodation that make for the perfect getaway.
Discover O for Olive at the Swartrivier Olive Farm
Enjoy some Olive tasting at O for Olive just outside of Prince Albert. A short gravel drive allows you to taste picked olives and a number of Olive jams, chutney and products to purchase. Go on a guided tour through the olive factory and discover how the olives are stored and sorted before packaging.
The Swartberg Hotel
The Swartberg Hotel - a national monument is a Victorian styled hotel in the charming town of Prince Albert. The Swartberg Hotel offers single, twin rooms, and double rooms as well as five cottage suites in the garden. Enjoy traditional Karoo cuisine in the Victoria Room or collect unique trinkets and locally produced products such as jams and breads at the Gift Shop near hotel reception.
Stargazing is a must when visiting anywhere in the Cape Karoo it only takes you to look up and view stars pinned against a black canvas. From open vast landscapes, to sunsets following open starry night skies. The Cape Karoo is an untouched region just waiting to be discovered by you.