Choose your country and language:

Africa

  • Global
  • Angola
  • Botswana
  • DRC
  • Ghana
  • Kenya
  • Mozambique
  • Nigeria
  • South Africa
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda

Americas

  • USA
  • Argentina
  • Brazil

Asia Pacific

  • China
  • India
  • Japan
  • South Korea
  • Australia

Europe

  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Netherlands
  • United Kingdom
Back
Eastern Cape

You are only

0 HOURS

away

Vibrant culture

Mountain biking and the Owl Route

Arts
Attractions
Culture
History
Sport
Routes
Family
Small town charm

TThe Owl Route is a 50km U-shaped dirt road in the Eastern Cape province, best explored by bicycle. The route leads explorers to the well-known Owl House, a museum in the town of Nieu Bethesda that features the interesting artworks of Helen Martins and Koos Malgas.

If the idea of combining mountain biking, art and history appeals to you, then the Owl Route in the Great Karoo region – including a stop at the famous Owl House museum – is a trip well worth taking.

The route, in the Sneeuberg mountains, is reasonably flat and the journey is more about the scenery and serenity than the physical challenge.

Nieu Bethesda, a small rural town 305km north of Port Elizabeth, was established in the 1870s by a group of innovative farmers, led by BJ Pienaar, who established the farm Uitkyk (“Lookout”). Many of his descendants are still prominent in the area today and will greet you with a wave as you cycle by.  This town is where the land meets the Karoo sky and stone water furrows still line the wide, dusty streets. Night skies are unpolluted by streetlights, and the air is still fresh and clean.

Did You Know?
AA polar explorer and a Boer general lie buried in the Cradock cemetery.

TThe town has retained its historical charm and has managed to shun modern technology and systems. It does not even have a bank, let alone credit card facilities or petrol stations. The town will transport you back in time and the realisation of old-school charm awaits you.

 

Nieu Bethesda, Eastern Cape

AArid, unspoilt grassland surrounds the town, which features some beautiful old buildings, such as the white Dutch Reformed Church building that was inaugurated in 1905. This is a nature-lover’s paradise, a high altitude semi-desert that is home to the largest variety of succulents in the world – as well as eagles, sacred ibises, secretary birds, blue cranes, flamingos, otters, tortoises, bat-eared foxes, kudu, springbok, reedbuck, wildebeest, wild cats and aardvarks

Nowadays much of the industry is based around art. There are craft shops and galleries, potteries and sculpture gardens – most famously, the late Helen Martins’ extraordinary Owl House. The Owl House museum is Nieu Bethesda’s best-known attraction, with its garden full of statues (the Camel Yard) that were created by Helen Martins, the lady who inspired Athol Fugard’s play, The Road to Mecca.

HHistorians refer to Martins as a reclusive, yet immensely talented and passionate person who devoted the majority of her later years to her sculptures of cement, glass and wire. Owls and camels were clearly among her favourite subjects. What began as a decorative quest for light and colour soon developed into a fascination with the interplay of reflection and space, of light and dark and different hues; and if you find yourself in this area it is most definitely worth a visit.

Whether your interest lies in art, hiking, bird watching, mountain biking, horse riding, game viewing, or stargazing, you’ll never be at a loss for things to do in Nieu Bethesda

Who to contact
How to get here
Best time to visit
Length of stay
What to pack
Where to stay
What to eat
What's happening

Related articles

Take a stroll down Route 67 and explore Port Elizabeth’s rich heritage.

Vibrant culture

Take a stroll down Route 67 and explore Port Elizabeth’s rich heritage.

Port Elizabeth's urban-based Route 67 is one of the most exciting and creative of South Africa's inner-city developments.

Immerse yourself in history with the Donkin Heritage Trail

Vibrant culture

Immerse yourself in history with the Donkin Heritage Trail

The Donkin Heritage Trail in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro city of Port Elizabeth is mainly based around the Central district, and consists of a large collection of historic Victorian buildings and monuments

South Africa on social media

With a clear 15km stretch of beach, natural forest, exciting outdoor adventures, cultural encounters on tap and a range of accommodations and restaurants, Chintsa in the Eastern Cape is recognised as 1 of South Africa’s prime coastal destinations. It’s the perfect chill-out hideaway for travellers of all ages. The region covered by the Wild Coast Jikeleza Route is among the most carefree areas on the planet, ideal for taking time off from the hustle and bustle of modern-day life. LENGTH OF STAY You can do the entire route in a day but you will miss plenty. Rather spend at least a week relaxing and exploring the area. Incredible snap by @gavmam18. #MeetSouthAfrica #SouthAfrica #thisissouthafrica #exploresouthafrica #Travelgram #wanderlust #travelsouthafrica #exploresouthafrica #Wonderlustsouthafrica #EasternCape #Chintsa

Explore South Africa’s rich cultural & natural heritage when you visit the Point of Human Origin in Mossel Bay. Begin your journey by going on the Human Origins Experience tour which focuses on the beginnings of modern human behaviour followed by a guided cave tour by professionals. This is a one of a kind experience waiting for you. Amazing image from @zanemeadon. #MeetSouthAfrica #SouthAfrica #thisissouthafrica #exploresouthafrica #Travelgram #wanderlust #travelsouthafrica #adventure

Mossel Bay is a coastal town, tourist haven or another stop along South Africas beautiful 3 200-km-long coastline. This must-visit town is nestled in the Western Cape approximately 400 kilometers from Cape Town with an incredible range of the things to do. Picture yourself walking amongst its friendly community members as you pop in some of the local stores, restaurants & historic sites. Come #MeetSouthAfrica for an authentic coast living experience like no other. Thank you to @diaryofjustin for the stunning image. #MeetSouthAfrica #SouthAfrica #thisissouthafrica #exploresouthafrica #Travelgram #wanderlust #travelsouthafrica #MosselBay #WesternCape #beachvibes

With warm weather all year round, Durban welcomes visitors to a relaxed, outdoor lifestyle where beaches, braais (barbecues ) seafood and curry restaurants, clubs and upmarket accommodation establishments provide everything an out-of-towner could wish for while on holiday. Durban is South Africa’s self-styled 'playground', where year-round warm weather encourages visitors to make the most of the province’s outdoor lifestyle. The beautiful city has so much to offer, why not visit a cultural village and learn about the ways of the Zulu people or explore its oceans and meet some new friends. Amazing image from @southafricaanz. #MeetSouthAfrica #SouthAfrica #thisissouthafrica #exploresouthafrica #Travelgram #wanderlust #travelsouthafrica #Durban #KZN #adventure

If you’re looking for the complete coastal forest experience, Tsitsikamma, in the Eastern Cape has to be on the top of your list. Walk through the ancient forest, chill on the beaches, kayak up rivers and hike some of the most famous trails South Africa has to offer. The Tsitsikamma National Park forms part of the greater Garden Route National Park. The area is covered by large areas of forest as well as many rivers that have carved deep gorges into the mountains as they wind their way from the plateau to the sea. Accommodation in the area is not a problem at all, the fernery lodge and chalets is the perfect place to relax after an exciting day of adventuring. Beautiful image @tsitsikammalangkloof. #MeetSouthAfrica #SouthAfrica #thisissouthafrica #exploresouthafrica #Travelgram #wanderlust #travelsouthafrica #Tsitsikamma #Adventure #EasternCape

Copyright © 2017 South African Tourism | Disclaimer | Privacy Policy | Terms and conditions