The Karoo is vast and places to visit in the Karoo are myriad.
Divided into the Succulent, Nama, Klein and Grassy Karoo it straddles most of South Africa’s inner country, hogging the west coast, sprawling as far east as Cradock and Smithfield, extending northwards as far as Putsonderwater, and encroaching south on the Western Cape towns of Barrydale, Oudtshoorn and Robertson.
Picturesque places to visit in the Karoo, some would argue, depend on the eye of the beholder, but we think you’ll agree that none of these is worth passing over.
The 15 most picturesque places to visit in the Karoo
The view from Ronnies Sex Shop
Ronnies Sex Shop, on a lesser-known bit of Route 62 just beyond Barrydale, has little to do with sex, and everything to do with getting passersby to stop. Enjoy a beer, a dip in the pool or a great slice of carrot cake while you’re at it. And the views from here are pretty spectacular too, particularly late afternoon during autumn.
To Overnight, Find a Place to Stay in Barrydale
The pass into Die Hel
The windpumps of Loeriesfontein
Get your camera out for this one, best seen in autumn or winter for those brilliant blue skies. If the creaking blades don’t get to you, the stillness of this little town soon will, but the Fred Turner Windpump Museum is a MUST.
The world’s southernmost Quiver tree forest
You’ll find signposts to Gannabos quiver tree forest just outside Nieuwoudtville, the little town up on the plateau above Vanrhynsdorp in the heart of the Hantam Karoo. Don’t miss out on the nearby waterfall and Nieuwoudtville’s bulb nursery!
To Overnight, Find a Place to Stay in Nieuwoudtville
Cradock’s Market street of a Karoo morning
Lined with prettily restored and painted Victorian Karoo ‘huisies’ (houses), including the Victoria Manor Hotel and Olive Schreiner Museum (just around the corner), the Cradock Market Street Precinct is particularly pretty in the right light.
To Overnight, Find a Place to Stay in Cradock
Hondeklipbaai at high tide
Described as a ‘rough and ready fishing village’, Hondeklipbaai is a diamond in the rough, quite literally (it’s on the Diamond Coast where most of the sand and sea has been combed for diamonds). Watch the old jetty at high tide and marvel at how the building remains standing.
To Overnight, Find a Place to Stay in Hondeklip Bay
The Compassberg from Nieu Bethesda
The Compassberg literally looms over the Karoo village of Nieu Bethesda (where you’ll also find Helen Martin’s Owl House and a cheesery and brewery worth visiting). From the top of the mountain you can see forever. If you don’t fancy a walk, the road into town gives you fine views of the mountain.
To Overnight, Find a Place to Stay in Nieu Bethesda
Graaff-Reinet’s Groot Kerk when the sky is blue
Just up the road from Nieu Bethesda is the historical town of Graaff-Reinet that lies within a nature reserve. You can’t miss the beautiful Dutch Reformed Church on the corner of Caledon and Church streets.
To Overnight, Find a Place to Stay in Graaff-Reinet
SKA’s Square Kilometre Array
Its beauty is debatable but regardless of whether or not you like how it looks, this mega-science project – a square kilometre’s worth of radio telescopes – just outside Carnarvon, is drawing visitors from all around the world.
To Overnight, Find a Place to Stay in Carnarvon
The open road, anywhere, everywhere in the Karoo
If there’s one thing you’ll get your fill of in the Karoo, it’s the open road. Whether it’s tar or dirt there is plenty of it. And that feeling of ‘road trip’ is written all over it.
To Overnight, Find a Place to Stay in the Karoo
Billy Kennedy’s garden at Temenos
Temenos is a retreat right in the middle of the Karoo town of McGregor, filled with the most beautiful gardens you’ll ever see. Visitors can just stroll in off the street.There’s a little temple, church and Buddhist mandala garden as well as a restaurant and library.
To Overnight, Find a Place to Stay in McGregor
The pleated, twisted and buckled mountains of the Karoo’s passes
The Swartberg Pass, Seweweekspoort and Meiringspoort have in common the crumpled Cape Fold Mountains that divide the Groot Karoo from the Klein Karoo. It’s a long line of peaks that were once apparently part of the seafloor (we’re talking millions of years ago). Explore these passes to get the full measure of its rugged beauty.
Klaarstroom at sunrise
The little town on the edge of Meiringspoort is often overlooked, swept through on the way somewhere else. It describes itself as ‘an authentic Victorian, working farm village and if you want to experience ‘downtime’, here’s as good a place as any.
To Overnight, Find a Place to Stay in Klaarstroom
The night skies of Sutherland
It’s got something to do with the little town’s height above sea level and the weather – generally cloudless – that makes Sutherland a prime place to stargaze – from here the milky way is very milky. You’ll even see the odd gas cloud if you gaze through a telescope at Sterland or SKA.
To Overnight, Find a Place to Stay in Sutherland
The dolerite pillars of the Valley of Desolation
This is a particularly popular spot at sunset, and easy to get to and from, if you stay in Graaff-Reinet. The unusually stacked dolerite pillars stand sentry over the valley, as they have for millenia.
To Overnight, Find a Place to Stay in Graaff-Reinet
- Plan your trip through the Karoo
- 10 Top natural attractions in the Karoo
- Find other places to stay in the Karoo