The Free State Province of South Africa is dry, but far from dull, the Free State with its vast open spaces and cloudless blue skies offers those who like to explore, literally and figuratively, the ideal canvas.
Here outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy birding, game viewing, trophy hunting, hiking, horse riding, biking, 4×4 off-road driving, river rafting, fly-fishing, camping, climbing, spelunking or just relaxing in its more than 80 parks and reserves, such as the scenic Golden Gate Highlands National Park.
History buffs have many significant sites to delve into and those with geological interests will marvel at the meteorite-impact site at Vredefort, the world’s oldest crater.
The Free State is hot in summer (Dec-Feb) when most of the rain falls, but can be very cold in winter (Apr-Jul) with heavy frost over most of the province. Snow is often recorded on the eastern mountains and occasionally over the rest of the region.
Traditional dress; woven baskets; silk painting; bead work; ‘mampoer’ (alcohol distilled from fruit); red meat, game and ‘biltong’ (dried meat); cherry or asparagus products; original art; beautiful handcrafted items from Phuthaditjhaba; mohair rugs and sandstone products.
TOP TEN ATTRACTIONS DESCRIPTION:
Highlands National Park In the Maluti Mountains, named after the golden sandstone cliffs; the scenery is magnificent incl. the imposing Brandwag rock and the climate invigorating; staying over is a popular option for humans and animals alike in this highlands habitat
The ‘City of Roses’, Bloemfontein boasts cultural and political significance, featuring sandstone architecture, important museums and monuments and a busy events calendar; don’t miss the Franklin Game Reserve, only one in the world completely surrounded by a city; the Macufe Festival in Sep; the Loch Logan Waterfront; the historical township jazz performances and the War Museum.
Parys and the Vredefort Dome:
Named after Paris, Parys is situated on the Vaal River in the Vredefort Dome – a crater caused by a massive meteorite which hit earth about 250 million years ago; in Parys, don’t miss the Golf Island in the middle of the Vaal and other water activities and at Vredefort, adventure junkies can go on hiking routes, see untouched San paintings and ruins of iron age settlements, rock climb and abseil; the 200km Dome is best seen from the air.
Many historic sites related to the Anglo-Boer War are to be found in the Free State. Explore 13 battlefield sites, 8 military monuments, 2 war museums and 3 war and concentration camp cemeteries. Some of the main battles of war in 1900 are: Paardeberg, Poplar Grove, Driefontein, Sannaspos, Mostertshoek, Jammerbergdrift, Sand River, Biddulphsberg, Yeomanry Hill, Roodewal, Surrender Hill and Doornkraal.
Xhariep / Gariep:
Meaning ‘Great River’; a vast open grassland fed by the 2000km Gariep Dam offering travellers endless vistas of open blue skies, starry nights and unpolluted air; land of farms, parks and reserves ideal for hunters and eco-tourists alike.
Towns of Thabo Mofutsanyana:
Clarens is a picturesque town described as the “Jewel of the Free State”, here artists and art galleries abound and photographers find the scenery a magnet in autumn and spring; Memel is fast becoming a birding mecca with over 350 species including many ‘specials’ and 15 Red Data listed species, other attractions are the scenery and the spectacular Seekoeivlei Wetlands floodplain; Ficksburg is filled with adventure options from the usual hiking, fishing and game activities to the unusual such as altitude scuba diving (2650m above sea level) and ox-wagon adventures!
Breathtaking scenery in pristine area with snow-capped mountains, densely vegetated valleys and wild gorges; ideal for romantic hide-aways, trout-fishing, bird watching and hiking; don’t miss the Bushmen paintings.
The inland water mecca of South Africa offering boundless water sport opportunities such as white water rafting, relaxed sailing, powerboating and water skiing; game farms, accommodation facilities, camping sites and a casino also feature; Deneysville and Jim Fouche Resort near Oranjeville are major venues.
Lejweleputswa (Free State Gold Fields):
Go on underground mine tours of some of the deepest mines in the world on the Goldfields Route; visit Welkom, one of the few cities in the world planned to completion before building where you can go on a trip to the world’s deepest wine cellar at 857m below the earth’s surface at St Helena Mine and see the Gold Museum in the city as well as Phakisa Freeway, one of the top 5 motor racing circuits in the world; Virginia was home to the richest gold reefs in 1946 and is a nature lover’s paradise.
Basotho Cultural Village, Qwa Qwa National Park:
Scenic Qwa Qwa National Park offers an authentic traditional African experience in the form of its Basotho Cultural Village; see the reed-and-stick structures and mud huts, drink sorghum beer, watch the weaving and have your fortune predicted by a local healer.