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South Africa» Free State

Free State


Free State

Free State


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, 4x4 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. read more »

General: CLIMATE:
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.

SHOPPING:
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.
 
 
Getting there: Via N1 South from Johannesburg
 
Destinations > Golden Gate National Park

Destination: Golden Gate National Park 
Type: National Heritage Site 
Region: Free State, South Africa 
  
 
 
Overview: Nestled in the rolling foothills of the Maluti Mountains of the northeastern Free State lies the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. The park derives its name from the brilliant shades of gold cast by the sun on the park's sandstone cliffs, especially the imposing Brandwag rock, keeping vigil over the main rest camp.
 
Highlights: This 11 600 hectares of unique environment is true highland habitat, providing home to a variety of mammals – black wildebeest, eland, blesbok, oribi, springbok and Burchell's zebra - and birds, including the rare bearded vulture (lammergeier) and the equally rare bald ibis, which breed on the ledges in the sandstone cliffs.
 
 
General: Generaalskop, the highest point in the park, reveals a breathtaking tapestry of red, yellow and purple hues as its warm shades merge with the cool mountain shadows towards evening.
 
 
Getting there: Drive south on the N3 from Johanneburg and turn right at Harrismith.
 
 
Destinations > Vredefort Dome

Destination: Vredefort Dome 
Type: World Heritage Site 
Region: Free State, South Africa 
  
 
 
Overview: The Vredefort Dome, approximately 120km south west of Johannesburg, is the oldest and largest meteorite impact site (Asrobleme) in the world and was declared a World Heritage Site in 2005.  The Dome was formed an estimated 2000 million years ago when a gigantic meteorite (larger than Table Mountain) hit the earth close to where the town of Vredefort is today. The force of the impact opened up a crater, which is still visible, and is about 40km in diameter.
 
 
Highlights: The Vredefort structure is currently regarded the biggest and oldest clearly visible impact structure on Earth. It just beats the Sudbury impact structure in Canada for this ranking. The Sudbury structure is some 200 km in diameter and is estimated to be 1.85 billion years old.

Many activities can be enjoyed in the area, from river rafting, river tubing, abseiling, horse riding, mountain biking, archery or walking. Alternatively, visits to Anglo Boer War sites, the largest wild olive forest in South Africa at Venterskroon, or a visit to a distillery where traditional South African "witblits" (extremely strong spirits) could be made.
 
 
General: Within the ring of hills at Vredefort is found granitic gneiss rock. The force of the impact produced deep fractures in the underlying rock. Rock melted by the impact flowed down into the cracks, producing what are now exposed as ridges of hard dark rock - the granophyre dykes. This contrasts with normal geological dykes, where molten rock from deeper in the earth has flowed upwards through cracks.
 
 
Facts: When visiting the area you will notice small hills in a large dome shape with beautiful valleys between them. Evidence has been found by geologists that the cause of this upliftment was an extreme impact event, caused by an asteroid some 10 kilometres in diameter. The ring of hills we see now are the eroded remains of a dome created by the rebound of the rock below the impact site after the asteroid hit. The original crater, now eroded away, is estimated to have been 250 - 300 kilometres in diameter. Some 70 cubic kilometres of rock would have been vaporised in the impact.
 

Top tourist attractions in Freestate:

Golden Gate Highlands National Park

Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Golden Gate 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

Bloemfontein

Bloemfontein
Bloemfontein

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

Parys and the Vredefort Dome
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

The Battlefields

The Battlefields
The Battlefields

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

Towns of Thabo Mofutsanyana
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!

Eastern Highlands

Eastern Highlands
Eastern Highlands

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

Vaal River

Vaal River

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)

Lejweleputswa (Free State Gold Fields)
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

Basotho Cultural Village, Qwa Qwa National Park
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

 


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