A friend of mine recently emailed with a request. She needed a remote hideaway for her family, who want to escape the Christmas festivities; get away from it all to reconnect with what really matters – nature, their children and stillness.
And it is only fair to share. Here are 12 remote places to stay in South Africa where you can survive Christmas. Enjoy!
Photograph: Papkuilsfontein Guest Farm
PAPKUILSFONTEIN GUEST FARM, Nieuwoudtville, upper Karoo, Northern Cape
The Northern Cape is not normally where you head over Christmas, given the heat, but this wonderfully tranquil farm is possibly an exception. There are three old, beautifully restored stone cottages, each in its own fynbos setting, to choose from on a farm that lies just outside the remote village of Nieuwoudtville, which lies on a plateau between the West Coast and Namaqualand.
There are rock pools, hikes, bike trails and total relaxation.
Find out more about Papkuilsfontein Guest Farm
Photograph: Wolwekraal Guest House
WOLVEKRAAL GUEST HOUSE, Prince Albert, Karoo, Western Cape
Once you see the photos of the interior of this little cottage, you’ll be smitten. Not only because it meets all the pre-requisites of ‘remote’, but also because the farm owners have gone the extra mile when it comes to furnishings.
Surrounded by 4 000 hectares of veld, with glorious views of the mountains, this is remote Karoo farm living at its best.
Find out more about Wolwekraal Guest House
Photograph: Cloud Cottage
CLOUD COTTAGE, Uniondale, Karoo, Western Cape
Voogsekraal Farm borders the Outeniqua Mountains, and Cloud Cottage looks as though it would restore even the hardened workaholic, positioned as it is in amongst the rugged hills, its distinctly organic stone and adobe walls, wooden furnishings, and lack of electricity a balm for all in search of a remote and tranquil space.
Expect breathtaking scenery, farm cheeses, hikes, rock-pool swims, a unique farmyard, horse-rides, maypole dancing and interesting hosts.
Find out more about Cloud Cottage
Photograph: Vuna Valley
VUNA VALLEY, Port Edward, KwaZulu-Natal
In true laidback, Port Edward, style this boutique backpackers oozes relaxed vibes with a difference. Set on the banks of the Umtamvuna river, Vuna Valley lies in indigenous subtropical bush. It is not your average backpackers – the rooms are styled on an Afro-chic theme, the covered patios give incredible views of the gorge, and the gardens add to the tranquil chill that descends within a day of arrival.
Choose from self-catering chalets that sleep up to 12 at a time, twin and double chalets and a family chalet. Communal lounge, rustic bar, lapa area and black pool are there to share, whilst the quaint dining area provides breakfast at ridiculous rates.
Find out more about Vuna Valley
Photograph: Tswalu Kalahari Reserve
TSWALU KALAHARI RESERVE, Northern Cape
Set in the heart of the Kalahari Desert Tswalu is over 1 000 kilometres stretching from the Korannaberg into the dunes and pans of the Kalahari; a restored land that was once grazing ground for sheep, cattle and goats. Restoring the ecosystem has taken a while, but you can see four of the big five (elephant are not Kalahari animals) whilst also experiencing meerkats, aardvark, bat-eared and Cape foxes, and porcupines.
The varying colours of the sand through the day, the night skies, the elegance of the cool lodge accommodation and outside showers is a tempting mix. Good to know too that Tswalu is Fair Trade accredited in Tourism (no Evian water bottles here, then). It makes the vast desert wilderness that much easier to savour.
Find out more about Tswalu Kalahari Reserve
Photograph: Kurisa Moya Nature Lodge
KURISA MOYA NATURE LODGE, Houtbosdorp, Limpopo
This 422 hectare property near Magoebaskloof is situated right on the edge of the Drakensberg escarpment with incredible views over the Lowveld. Kurisa Moya is a place of indigenous forest, pretty streams and the call of birds and monkeys.
The Farmhouse (perfect for family get-togethers), Lodge Cabins (best for couples), and Stone Cottage (couples or family) each give a private retreat from the world, surrounded by massive moss-covered, ancient yellowwoods, mountains, and bushveld with access to walking paths, hiking trails, guided birding walks, sunset drives, and fly-fishing. Unwind in a space in which candles and fireplaces, peace and tranquility, tangled vine forests and bird song make it a unique retreat from the world.
Find out more about Kurisa Moya Nature Lodge
Photograph: Makalali Private Game Lodge
MAKALALI PRIVATE GAME LODGE, Gravelotte, Limpopo
We had to include at least one game lodge on our list, and Makalali is a one-of-a-kind lodge. The unusual mix of thatched spires and earthy walls, unusual ornaments, and the ode to luxury make it one of the most memorable safari retreats around.
There are four camps, each with six suites, on the Makhutswi River banks set in 22 000 hectares of Lowveld Acacia and open savannah grassland. Early morning and sundowner game drives give access to a full range of wildlife, including the big five. But it is the original accommodation that makes Makalali so special.
Find out more about Makalali Private Game Lodge
Photograph: Antbear Guest House
ANTBEAR GUEST HOUSE, Giants Castle, Drakensberg, KwaZulu-Natal
On the theme of one-of-a-kind, the Antbear Guest House in the Drakensberg not only gives you impressive views out over the Bushman’s River Valley with a perspective of the amphitheatre, but it is also filled with unusual and beautifully hand-crafted furniture, wooden sculptures and a collection of artistic features, like woodwork lizard toilet holders and wooden hands holding a mirror, that make it really different.
The eccentric and artistic woodwork is a highlight of your stay; a bit like Hobbitville, except the mountains are bigger. The thatched, whitewashed cottage hosts no more than 12 guests at a time, in large en-suite bedrooms. And meals serve up vegetables from the farm’s organic garden.
Find out more about Antbear Guest House
Photograph: Hillhouse in Dargle
HILLHOUSE, Dargle, Midlands, KwaZulu-Natal
This is a rather atypical house, perched on a hill overlooking Midmar dam and the Midlands countryside. A converted farm shed is now something both unusual and chic – with an open-plan design and an upper level that overlooks the living area. Four bedrooms and four bathrooms make this a foolproof gathering-of-the-clan kind of space.
There is also Lakehouse, a smaller, but no less appealing, house that sleeps four, with a wrap-around veranda. Set in the heart of the Natal Midlands, Hillhouse is perfect for a retreat from it all; a space to slow down.
Find out more about Hillhouse
Photograph: Bredon Cottage
BREDON COTTAGE, Hogsback, Eastern Cape
This pretty stone cottage in Hogsback is enough to have you returning at least once, to enjoy it both in summer and during the months of snow, when the fires in the lounge and kitchen promise cozy afternoons.
Set in a secluded garden, with its own waterfall and natural spring-fed swimming pool, the cottage is an invitation to entomb yourself in the mystical mountains of the Amathole; a world of ancient forests, waterfalls, climbing roses and incredible views.
Find out more about Bredon Cottage