This is Africa (Day)
May 24, 2022
When it comes to sustainability every little bit helps to create a ripple effect that ultimately grows into a mighty wave
November 8, 2022

Scenic cliff illuminated by sunset light in the majestic Golden Gate Highlands National Park, famous travel destination in South Africa.

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.

Eagle Route

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.

Cheetah Route

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.

Lion Route

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.

Flamingo 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.

Springbok Route

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 

Tips when planning your trip to the Free State 

  • The best airport from where to plan your trip for most of the routes is Bram Fischer International in Bloemfontein where you also will be able to rent a SUV (if self-driving),
  • The Lion Route can easily be reached from OR Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg and is about an hours drive away. 
  • The best time of the year is either Autumn (April/May) or Spring (September/October) when the temperatures are more moderate and tolerable. (Spring will give you the beauty of Cherry Blossoms in the Ficksburg vicinity)
  • If you are self-driving, rather rent a SUV-type vehicle as the roads can be quite a challenge at some points and make sure you have comprehensive insurance coverage.
  • During winter it can be below freezing temperatures and in summer way above the average temperature for South Africa of 24 – 34 degrees. The climate of the Free State consists of dry, sunny winters, during which it can get cold at night (minus temperatures), and hot summers, during which thunderstorms can break out in the afternoons. 
  • Not all small towns have restaurants, hotels and B&B’s and it is a good idea to plan your daily route ahead before just taking off. 
  • Most of the local people can understand English but might have difficulty replying in English as their mother language is Afrikaans and Sotho. 
  • The normal business hours are 8am to 5pm and some businesses in smaller towns close for lunch between 13h00 and 14h00.
  • Not all towns have a resident medical doctor or hospital. Take a basic first-aid kit with you.  
  • Mobile phone reception might drop (or even disappear) as you get closer to the Maluti mountains of Lesotho or drive between small towns.
  • Don’t rush the trip as each route will provide its own “surprise elements” and you would want to linger a little longer to enjoy. 
  • While you are in the Free State, you can also extent your trip and visit the neighbouring country Lesotho.  

For more information: