Surrounded by natural splendour and rich in history, Graaff-Reinet features a wealth of fascinating and awe-inspiring attractions. The town is almost entirely surrounded by the Camdeboo National Park, which beckons guests to explore the wild. There is striking beauty and serenity in the land’s vastness – and one of the most incredible vantage points from which to take this in is at the top of the Valley of Desolation, within the national park. This is a wondrous spot where sunsets over the plains of Camdeboo can be soaked in.
The region generously caters to those with adventurous spirits as mountain trails provide the opportunity for guided 4×4 trips, mountain biking and hiking. In addition, Graaff-Reneit provides ample opportunity for those with a love for history and culture to feel contented. Amid the vast number of heritage sites within the town, there are a handful of museums that house memorabilia and photographs that depict the town’s interesting history. Artworks created by famous South African artists can be appreciated at the Hester Rupert Art Museum, and films and live shows can be enjoyed at the John Rupert Theatre. Slightly further afield, in Nieu Bethesda, the Helen Martin’s Owl House Museum can be visited.
Other memorable experiences await at Graaff-Reinet’s Xhosa township, where various amenities can be visited and local cuisine can be enjoyed, at Obesa Nursery, where the largest cacti collection in the world can be viewed, or – quite simply – within the town itself, taking in the marvellous architecture that defines Graaff-Reinet.
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One of the best ways to explore South Africa’s fourth oldest town, the daily guided walking tour allows visitors to explore the most fascinating highlights of Graaff-Reinet, including a number of national monuments, in an hour and a half. The tour commences at the Graaff-Reinet Tourism Office, situated in the Old Library Museum, on the corner of Church Street and Somerset Street. It offers excellent photo opportunities and the chance to gain insight from a knowledgeable guide.
FlyKaroo Air Services is Graaff-Reinet’s first helicopter charter service which takes guests on unforgettable journeys in the sky, offering a bird’s eye view of the town and its stunning natural surroundings. Various scenic and charter flight options are available, including half-day trips, destination picnics and round trips.
Valley of Desolation
The Valley of Desolation – 14 kilometres from Graaff-Reinet – is an exquisite geological phenomenon which is characterised by sheer cliffs and columns of dolerite that rise up to 120 metres from the valley floor. This is the result of many years of volcanic and erosive forces. This breathtaking attraction can be absorbed by car, during hikes along marked trails or at picnic sites.
Camdeboo National Park
The Camdeboo National Park almost completely surrounds the town of Graaff-Reinet, stretching from the south of the Sneeuberg mountain range to Pearston and Murraysburg. The word “Camdeboo” is derived from the Khoi language and means “green pool”. Appropriately, the reserve lives up to its name with its wonderful scenic beauty. It is home to a broad spectrum of wildlife and birdlife, including 43 mammal species and 250 bird species. Animals that are regularly sighted include the steenbok, springbok, blesbok and black wildebeest, among others. Interestingly, a number of fossils have been discovered in the area. The reserve is also well-known for its night skies which offer some of the best stargazing in the world.