Whether you eat a smiley (roasted sheep’s head), participate in the local marathon or simply admire the kaleidoscope of wild flowers, a visit to the Calvinia Meat Festival offers unique epicurean opportunities and a small town experience second to none.

Did you know?

The Calvinia Museum exhibits a stuffed sheep which ran wild for several years and sported a fleece so long the beast could hardly walk.

Calvinia is a tiny 19th century Northern Cape town at the foot of the Hantam mountains within the Hantam Karoo wool producing district of the Upper Karoo. The term ‘hantam' means "mountain where the red bulbs grow" in the indigenous Khoi language and the region is chiefly known for its mass of wild flowers in spring.

The Hantam Vleisfees (Afrikaans for Hantam meat festival, sometimes also known as the Calvinia meat festival) is a delicious annual event which takes place in the last week of August and is timed to coincide with the annual flower displays.

Calvinia is set in the heart of sheep country, and the Hantam meat festival is a veritable orgy of lamb chops, stews, curries, kebabs and braaivleis (barbeque). Brave souls can try a smiley (a roasted lamb's head) so called because as it roasts the lips retract to expose a smiling set of teeth.

Even braver types can try a docked lamb's tail known as skaapstertjies. These tiny offerings are cooked wool and all, the skin is peeled off and the meat is sucked from the bone. They have about as much meat as a very small lamb chop and it takes about 10 tails to make a decent sized snack.

Don't miss the kaiings, crumbs of fat: rendered until crisp, the ultimate fat-lover's treat and the peertjies (testicles). No visit to Calvinia is complete without a meal at the multi award winning Hantamhuis which serves traditional Afrikaans style meals and specialises in the use of indigenous ingredients.

Less meaty moments are also on offer with music, marathons, vintage car rallies and the Miss Vleisfees beauty pageant.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Calvinia Tourist Information Offices
Calvinia Museum,
44 Church Street,
Tel: +27 (0)027 341 1043

How to get here

Calvinia is 170km East of Vanrhynsdorp on the R27. By road from Cape Town travel north on the N7 for 300km to Vanrhynsdorp and traverse the impressive Bokkeveldberg using Vanrhyns pass to enter the Hamtam valley.

Tours to do

Orange River Wine Route with tastings and cellar visits. The Melkkraal Women’s Group offer farm tours and insights into the edible and medicinal plants of their region. The tour ends with a traditional meal Tel +27 (0)27 218 1029 Guided tours of the T’Ky Gariep Flyfishing Trail can be booked via www.diamondtours.co.za

Get around

A hire car or self-drive option is recommended to access the interior of the Northern Cape. The roads and key tourist attractions are well-marked and the local tourist office can provide clear directions and maps.

What will it cost

The price of a meal in Northern Cape varies from venue to venue. Phone ahead or enquire at the door. Fine dining meals will cost around R200/ €30 per head but light meals in unpretentious eateries will cost less than a third of this. Advance booking, particularly at award-winning establishments, is essential.

Length of stay

The trip takes a couple of days because of the long distances.

What to pack

The Northern Cape can be extremely hot in summer so sunblock, hats and sunglasses are recommended. Temperatures drop sharply at night so jerseys and woolly hats are essential.

Where to stay

Accommodation ranges from country lodges, B&Bs, backpackers lodges and self-catering cottages. Capacity is limited during the festival so plan accomodation ahead.

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