At first sight Upington, in the vast Northern Cape, may seem an unremarkable town, but its layers must be peeled away to find its intriguing essence on the banks of the Orange River, a lifeline that runs through what is known as the Green Kalahari.

Did you know?

Date Palm Avenue is 1 of the longest, densest palm avenues in the Southern Hemisphere.

Upington is one of the Northern Cape’s largest towns and welcomes you to life in the semi-desert of the Kalahari along the Namaqua Route, bordering the Orange River.

An archetypal frontier town, Upington simmers and swelters in 40-degree Celsius temperatures during summer.

No place for the meek, it started out as a mission station, established by a Reverend Christiaan Schroder. A church was erected in 1875 and is today the Kalahari Oranje Museum, complete with all its period furnishings.

Upington was originally called Olyvenhoutsdrif ('Olive wood drift') due to the abundance of olivewood trees in the area. It was renamed Upington in 1898 after the Cape Colony’s attorney general at the time, Sir Thomas Upington.

Like Wild West towns, Upington had its share of skirmishes and its share of fortune-seeking scoundrels.

One of these was a man called George St Leger Gordon Lenox, alias 'Scotty Smith'. An adventurer born in Scotland, he bought and sold illegal diamonds, stole horses and masterminded highway robberies. His gravestone is one of Upington’s tourist attractions.

Another historic attraction is the spectacular Date Palm Avenue. Two rows of more than 200 date palm trees escort visitors over 1 000m to the entrance of Die Eiland Holiday Resort on the banks of the Orange River.

A choice of good accommodation is available in Upington, with the award-winning Le Must Residence and Le Must Manor setting the standard.

Upington also offers many activities, including 4x4 adventures to the Spitskop Nature Reserve, which is stocked with gemsbok, springbok, ostrich, eland, hartebeest and mountain zebra.

If you’re in Upington on a weekend, book a sunset cruise on Sakkie se Arkie, a floating bar on the river that accommodates up to 20 people.

It’s the perfect ending to a stay in this historic Wild West town.

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