Are you an adventure traveller who prefer to wonder off the beaten track? Then the Free State should be on your bucket list of adventures! You will experience South Africa’s rural communities at a next level: quaint towns, cultural experiences, local products, warm hospitality, fresh and organic market produce and lots of natural beauty.
Not only is The Free State province a gateway to the mountainous Kingdom of Lesotho boasts five routes named after popular South African animals and birds, offering a range of attractions and experiences that would make your holiday experience of South Africa worthwhile.
Ladybrand, Clocolan, Ficksburg, Fouriesburg, Clarens, Bethlehem, Phuthaditjhaba, Harrismith and Memel (Eagle Route)
Ladybrand is a quaint town famous for its Stables, a rock shelter used by the Boers to stable horses during the 1858 Basotho War, and the Cave Church, a hollow sandstone outcrop where Anglican missionaries worshipped.
Clocolan is for explorers. You can fish at Amohela Ho Spitskop dam or enjoy a cherry tour at Ben Nevis Cherry Farm as well as Ionia Cherry Farm. Ficksburg, which is known as the cherry capital of the country, hosts a festival every November.
Be sure to spend a few days in Clarens. Clarens boasts everything from adventure activities, arts and crafts, hiking spots and good food. Places to visit include Clarens Brewery and Golden Gate Highlands National Park.
Phuthaditjhaba gives a glimpse into the area’s culture. A Basotho Cultural Village depicts the lifestyle and habits of the Basotho people during the 17th to 21st century. The Wetsi cave is the famous place where Chief Wetsi of the Makholokoe tribe hid cattle stolen from the Boers.
Bloemfontein, Botshabelo and Thaba Nchu (Cheetah Route)
The Cheetah Route is filled with historical, cultural, and natural attractions that will keep travellers occupied for days.
One of the highlights to include is the Franklin Nature Reserve on Naval Hill, which is the only nature reserve in South Africa that is in the middle of a city. Also on Naval Hill is the second tallest statue of Nelson Mandela, and the Planetarium, which is the first digital planetarium in Africa, south of the Sahara.
Deneysville, Sasolburg, Parys, Vredefort and Kroonstad. (Lion Route)
If you want a taste of everything that is typically “Free State”, the Lion Route has it – from culture to nature and history.
The small town of Vredefort is the gateway to the world’s oldest and largest crater, the Vredefort Dome.
Deneysville is famous for watersports; the annual Round the Island Yacht Race – South Africa’s biggest inland regatta;
The beautiful town of Parys is situated on the banks of the Vaal River and has become a firm favourite for both art and adventure lovers.
You can even do some wine tasting at Ponte Vaal and on the Riemland Wine Route.
Bothaville, Welkom, Ventersburg, Virginia, Winburg and Brandfort (Flamingo Route)
The Flamingo Route runs through the Lejweleputswa District, an important agricultural and gold-producing area. This combination makes for a variety of leisure activities – exploring a local gold mine, viewing game, and visiting key historical sites.
Jacobsdal, Koffiefontein, Jagersfontein, Bethulie, Xhariep Dam and Philippolis. (Springbok Route)
The route follows the original diamond prospectors to the region includes open diamond mines at Koffiefontein (diamonds from this mine are sought after world-wide) and the mining village of Jagersfontein, almost directly south of Petrusburg, which boasts an even bigger man-made diamond hole than the Big Hole of Kimberley. Also on the route are the wine farms of Landzicht and Wilreza around Jacobsdal where you can indulge in wine tastings.
The 13 500 ha Xhariep Nature Reserve encompasses Xhariep Dam and is approximately 200 km south of Bloemfontein. It stretches from the Xhariep Dam Wall in the west to the town of Bethulie in the east. Although the banks of Xhariep Dam boast lush green trees and bushes, the rest of the reserve surrounding the dam is characterised by dramatically contrasting landscapes of hillocks, ridges and rocky outcrops and dry, open plains with very little vegetation. However, animals such as Springbuck (whose population is larger than that of any reserve in the country), eland and zebra roam freely within the borders of the reserve and birds such as the fish eagle and the Goliath heron live here too. The reserve also houses the State Fish Hatchery. While in the area, try to stay on the Game Lodge as it will give you a totally different experience compared to Game Lodges in other parts of South Africa, for example Otterskloof Private Game Reserve
For more information: