The Central Karoo
Did you know?
The word Karoo means 'great thirst' in the ancient Khoi Khoi tongue.
It might look bleak as you drive through the Central Karoo on the long stretch between Cape Town and Johannesburg, but this arid environment is full of natural and archaeological treasures.
This fascinating area lies between the Upper Karoo and the Klein Karoo and is home to some of the most important Stone Age sites and Khoisan petroglyths in the world. Look out for them near Nelspoort and Beaufort West in the Central Karoo of South Africa.
You'll also find South Africa's first mountain pass, the small but impressive Molteno pass. It was built by the master of mountain passes, Thomas Bain, outside the charming town of Beaufort West, the oldest town in the area, proclaimed in 1818.
Plan to stay at least one night at the fascinating Karoo National Park, just 5km outside Beaufort West. It's home to black rhino and buffalo, some of South Africa's endemic birds and 20 pairs of Verreaux's eagle.
The small, charming towns of the Central Karoo are famed for their hospitality and historical significance. Don't miss the delightful village of Prince Albert, defined by its unique architecture and scrumptious traditional food. Take a guided tour from Prince Albert through the spectacular Swartberg Pass, or take a day trip to Gamkaskloof.
The Central Karoo climate is generally arid with most rain falling in the blazing hot summers. Winters are dry and cold. You'll catch your breath at the pure champagne air and marvel at the dazzlingly brilliant stars.
Visit the awesome South African Large Telescope (SALT) near the town of Sutherland, located here because of the clear skies and lack of pollution in the area. It's the largest optical telescope in the southern hemisphere and is administrated by the South African Astronomical Society.
You will never again see stars quite like this.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Central Karoo Tourism Authority
Tel: +27 (0) 23 449 1000
Beaufort West Tourism office
Tel: +27 (0) 23 415 1488