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Posted on: Friday, 21 June 2013

The Beautiful Karoo

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Today I find myself reminiscing about the six soul-stirring months I had the great privilege of spending in South Africa’s Karoo. Though you may not have six months laying around in spare change; a week or weekend trip into the Karoo is probably one of the most worthwhile trips of your travelling life.

Once you’re there and all illusions of a dry desert scene with clay-pot cracks spanning the length and breadth of some inhospitable, vulture-ridden space are shattered you will find out exactly why this is one of the best areas to go and recharge your mind and body.


The Karoo National Park
Photograph: The magnificent Karoo National Park

They often say to hide something of value in plain sight is the best way to conceal it and it rings true of the Beautiful Karoo too. Divided into two main eco-regions – the smaller Succulent Karoo occupying South Africa’s west coast and the Nama Karoo which is further divided into three subdivisions; namely The Upper Karoo of the North, The Great Karoo of the interior and The Little Karoo in the South. The Karoo is vast in magnitude, with the Great Karoo occupying 400 000 square km it’s easy to see how people spend whole lifetime’s exploring it.

Extending out of Mother Cape Town the N1 invites you on a journey right through the heart of the country heading straight through the Karoo. The landscape begins to change and cement block buildings are slowly replaced by vineyard covered hills. Once the hues reach a melting point and spill over into deepening reds, greens and mauves as the heavy footprints of industry fade into farms, shrubs and windmills.


Die Hel, Gamkaskloof, Western Cape


My advice is to choose your destination and journey there at a slow pace – places like Barrydale, Calitzdorp, Cradock, Graaff-Reiniet and the embodiment of picturesque – Matjiesfontein are just a handful of the endless hamlets to explore. The locals are very friendly throughout, and in my experience, are very happy to welcome you into their establishments in which they pride themselves on.

My disillusions were hammered the first time I watched the sun set from the top of a rocky hill (koppie). I have never – in all the sunsets since – seen the sun splinter golden rays through the clouds, which seemed as though they were set on fire, the way I did there. Nor have I seen a thunder-storm so close and powerful that it rattled my bones and lighting that tore the smog from my eyes. The most surprising thing, however, were the oases- beautiful, rich green areas near the springs that abound in soft – waist high grass that we explored on horseback.

Karoo Information:
Accommodation in the Karoo
Eat at a Karoo Restaurant
Find things to do in the Karoo
Western Cape Accommodation
Accommodation in South Africa

Go and have the trip of a life time in the Karoo! Sleep beneath the stars, taste the crisp air, recharge, and return inspired.

Vaughan McShane


Vaughan McShane travels the world with his wife teaching English, surfing where he finds waves and capturing it all on his GoPro camera. Together they seek new terrain to explore, adventure in unlikely places and delicious cappuccinos. Follow their wanderings on The Travel Manuel and follow Vaughan's adventures on Twitter @VaughanMac.

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3 comments about The Beautiful Karoo
  1. June 21st, 2013 at 11:08
    Michelle says:

    Sounds like a fabulous place to visit!

  2. June 24th, 2013 at 13:24
    Helen says:

    Couldn’t agree more – the Karoo is utterly beautiful.

  3. June 24th, 2013 at 18:47
    Renan Ferrer says:

    I did not know Karoo. The South Africa has amazing places. I’ve been wanting to know this place. I prefer the coast, but should be beautiful Karoo.
    Thanks for sharing with us!
    Renan Ferrer