A Spectacular Culture-Rich Valley of Fynbos, Ostrich Farms and Quality Wine
Wedged between the Swartberg mountain range to the north and the Langeberg range to the south, the Klein Karoo is home to small towns, wine and sheep farms, river-threaded valleys, dramatic mountain passes and mile upon mile of empty veld.
The Klein Karoo is rich in culture with well-established communities that can trace their ancestry back across the centuries. The towns and villages are overall beautifully maintained, with a rich variety of historic buildings, many of which can be as old as two hundred years. The diversity of the landscapes, with rugged mountains always in view, and the rolling hills and valleys within the Klein Karoo provide an endless source of delight and wonderment.
This is also an ecological hotspot where three distinct plant biomes (succulent karoo, cape thicket and fynbos) converge, hosting the Swartberg mountain range, which is part of the Cape Floral World Heritage Site. The Klein Karoo is also home to the longest wine route in the world, stretching some 270-kilometres from Montagu to De Rust. The wine culture in the Klein Karoo has been established over more than 200 years.
Route 62, an Unexpected Scenic Journey to the Garden Route
Route 62, the longest wine-route in the world, links Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. It unspools across the heart of the Little Karoo, rising and falling through hills and valleys like a cardiogram, the land growing wilder by the mile. Travellers heading for the Garden Route from Cape Town will find this route a better road trip as its scenery is unbeatable.
It is not surprising that a 2017 CNN Travel poll as voted by tourists and travel journalists, put the scenic and fun-filled road as the top road trip destination in the world. CNN calls the road “a journey to the unexpected”, with something for everyone, highlighting the natural beauty of the region’s “fauna, rivers, valleys and plains” and the diversity of activities available that turn the seemingly mundane commute into an adventure. Everything and anything from wine tours and safari drives, heritage and art tours, hiking and mountain climbing, water sport and fishing, or just quiet contemplation while watching one of kind views with a cold drink and a good meal, Route 62 has it all.
This unique part of South Africa is characterised by red soil, stark cliff faces, rivers, orchards, and indigenous scrub. Fynbos, including the beautiful Protea, swirl gently, generously letting every passer-by experience their splendour. The road follows winding and spectacular mountain passes that slowly unfold before your eyes, leading to lush green valleys, hosting crystal streams and framed by the distorted geological shapes and colours of rock faces dating from hundreds of millions of years ago. No fewer than 500 different species of succulents are to be seen along Route 62.
Orchards and vineyards are there in abundance, too. This region has the famous Klein Karoo Wine Route, considered one of the most diverse of South Africa’s wine regions and stretches along Route 62 from Montagu in the west to the Langkloof in the East. This region produces one of the best wines as the climate is generally drier than other wine route region resulting in healthy vineyards which are grown organically to a large extent.
Oudtshoorn – Home of Ostriches, the Cango Caves & Meerkats
Oudtshoorn is known as the ostrich capital of the world and is regarded as the capital of the Klein Karoo. The world’s largest flightless bird is just one of the many attractions in this area of exceptional contrasts and natural beauty. A popular activity in the area is visiting an ostrich farm, where you can learn about these odd birds, and maybe even get the chance to see them race. Visitors can also ride an ostrich, buy ostrich curios and even sample the famous ostrich steak.
The region is also home to the spectacular Cango Caves, Africa’s largest show cave system. This is an enormous underground complex of tunnels and caverns, reaching almost 300 metres underground, the largest two or three of which are easily accessible and dramatically lit to make the most of the striking subterranean formations. Visitors can choose to see the caves as part of a conventional walking tour or do something more daring in the Adventure Tour. It offers guided climbing tours through the caves’ darkest, narrowest, and deepest chambers. The guides that take you around the caves are truly knowledgeable and you can learn a lot about the formation and history of this magnificent attraction.
The town is also uniquely situated to offer sunrise meerkat tours, offering you the chance to see meerkats in their natural habitat. Meerkat Adventures has been researching meerkats for years, tracking the families and their burrows and spending a year or more gradually getting the families used to the sounds and presence of humans, so that you can observe them at a close distance during a guided tour.
Uniquely Beautiful Karoo Towns Full of Character
Travelling through the Klein Karoo the visitor passes through other mainly fruit growing and wine producing towns such as Calitzdorp, Ladismith, Van Wyksdorp, Barrydale, Robertson, Montagu and historic Amalienstein, Zoar, Dysselsdorp and Haarlem.
Robertson is well-known as the Garden Town of the Boland of South Africa and is situated in the fertile Breede River valley. Situated at the foot of the Langeberg Mountains, Robertson offers the visitor wine estates, hiking trails, nature reserves, a riverside holiday resort, racehorse stud farms and above all exceptional hospitality. The town is surrounded by vineyards and orchards that stretch from the outlying farmlands into the very heart of the town. Columns of red or yellow cannas and flaming bougainvillea line the roads outside the wine estates, gardens overflow and vineyards are banked with roses, while brilliant mauve jacarandas shade the streets. Founded in 1853, the town, boasts a proud architectural heritage with Victorian and Georgian houses and cottages lining the streets.
Barrydale, at the foot of the Langeberge in the heart of the Tradouw Valley, is one of those beautiful little villages that beckon one to linger. The climate here is nigh on perfect for growing fruit trees, and apples, pears, oranges, apricots, figs, peaches and grape orchards lie scattered across the valley.
Calitzdorp, surrounded by three mountain ranges, is the fruit-bowl of the Little Karoo and source of the country’s finest port wines. Nowhere is the authentic character of a Little Karoo community and the unique architecture of the region better preserved than here. In the nearby Gamkaberg Nature Reserve there are Cape Mountain Zebra (an endangered species with fewer than 800 zebras in existence), baboons and various species of antelope and raptor. The variety of architecture in Calitzdorp is well-known to architects and social historians and includes many historic old farm buildings in the district.
Known as the ‘mountain mecca’ of the Cape, Montagu lies surrounded by the Langeberg mountain range in the western corner of Kannaland, and is famous for her orchards, vineyards, local herbs, rock formations and healing hot mineral springs. Montagu is one of the best examples of a late Victorian agricultural village in the Western Cape with a number of examples of preserved Cape Dutch and Georgian National Monuments. The town offers a list of activities to get the adrenalin flowing, like mountain biking, kloofing, abseiling, paragliding, fishing and river boat trips up the Breede River.
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