Marvel over centuries-old San rock art paintings; meet the Basotho people and hear their ancient stories; see the colourful sandstone formations in the Golden Gate National Park; go cherry picking in Ficksburg, buy art in Clarens; and experience Bloemfontein, the 'City of Roses'.

Did you know?

Bloemfontein was the site of one of the world’s first concentration camps. The National Women’s Memorial there pays homage to the 45 000 women and children who died in a British concentration camp set up during the Anglo-Boer War.

Travelling on a Free State incentive provides many interesting experiences for the incentive traveller to South Africa.

Bloemfontein - the Free State's capital and South Africa's legislative capital - has beautiful botanical gardens, historic museums and plenty of art and culture - while retaining something of a rustic character.

Just more than an hour's drive from Johannesburg, incentive travellers can explore the Vredefort Dome UNESCO World Heritage Site. It features the largest and most visible meteorite impact crater on Earth. A meteorite larger than Table Mountain slammed into the ground about 2 000 million years ago near what is now Vredefort in the Free State. Its impact created a crater about 90 km wide and 20 km deep and formed, amongst other things, a huge rock-like dome, known as the Vredefort Dome. Today the Vredefort Dome Conservancy is an excellent place for adventure tourism.

Another great Free State incentive travel highlight is the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, with its rugged ochre outcrops, colourful sandstone formations and wealth of unique wildlife. It is a real magnet for photographic safaris.

This 11 600-hectare park is home to a variety of mammals including the black wildebeest, eland, blesbok, oribi, springbok and Burchell's zebra. Birdlife at Golden Gate is nothing short of spectacular and includes the rare bearded vulture and the bald ibis, both of which breed on the ledges in the sandstone cliffs. Walks and hikes are a major drawcard and the numerous sandstone caves were once shelters for the San people. Many of these beautiful rock paintings are well-preserved.

The Basotho Cultural Village nestles in the heart of the Qwa Qwa National Park, which has been incorporated into the Golden Gate Highlands National Park.  Come and learn more about the fascinating Basotho culture, listen to stories of African folklore and become familiar with the gentle sounds of handmade musical instruments. Witness demonstrations of hut decoration, the crushing of maize, traditional dancing, basketry and perhaps purchase a few souvenirs - local arts and crafts and traditional Basotho blankets.

The small town of Clarens in the Eastern Free State is something of an artist's hideout. It's not surprising that locals call Clarens the ‘Jewel of the Free State'.  Visitors arrive in Clarens and suddenly find themselves in a frenzy of art-buying, restaurant-hopping, cycling, game-viewing and hiking in the foothills of the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. There are certainly no dull moments in this vibrant little town.

Other notable small towns in the Eastern Free State include Fouriesburg and Ficksburg - the latter holding a very popular annual cherry picking festival.

The Free State, with its rugged sandstone cliffs, rolling hills and imposing mountains offers many hiking trails featuring San Bushman rock art sites, along with plenty of free-roaming game and a few historic battlefields.

Overnight trails provide accommodation in old farmhouses, rustic huts, chalets and campsites and you will also have the unique opportunity to sleep overnight in a cave. In addition, there are river rafting, mountain biking, horse-riding and fossil hunting opportunities.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Free State Tourism Authority
Tel: +27 (0)51 411 4300

How to get here

It depends on where in the Free State you're travelling to. If you're visiting Bloemfontein you can fly in on several domestic airlines from cities such as Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. To get to the eastern and northern Free State, travelling by road is the best option.

Tours to do

If you're travelling by car, explore some of the great tourists routes suggested by the Free State Tourism Authority. These are the Maloti Route, Goldfields Route, Friendly N6 Route, Bloemfontein, Botshabelo and Thaba Nchu Heritage Route, Battlefield Route, and the Diamond & Wine Route. Each focuses on different cultural, historical and heritage aspects of the Free State. See the Free State Tourism Authority website for more details.

Get around

The Free State is primarily accessible by road so hiring a car or travelling by coach or tour bus is the best way to see the province.

Length of stay

To really explore the gems of the Free State, stay at least a week.

What to pack

During our spring and summer season (September through March), pack light clothes as days can be hot and nights are generally mind. Its advisable to pack a light windbreaker as temperatures can get cooler, especially on an overcast day. During autumn and winter (April through August), bring warm clothes and a warm jacket as it can get chilly in the evenings and early mornings. Most winter days are quite mild.

Where to stay

The are a wide variety of Free State accommodation options from hotels to guest houses, lodges and guest farms. You can even spend the night in a cave.

Best buys

If you're visiting the Basotho Cultural Village in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, be sure to buy some handmade African arts and crafts and musical instruments like weaved baskets, drums and wood carvings.