Just getting to the holiday hideaway of Rhodes in the Eastern Cape Highlands is an adventure, as you drive through stunning mountain passes and valleys that take you within sight of the Maluti range between South Africa and Lesotho. And once you arrive, the fun and games begin ...

Did you know?

The entire village of Rhodes was declared a South African National Monument in 1997.

A fine South African all-weather destination is the so-called ‘tail of the dragon’ – the Eastern Cape Highlands. (It's named the 'tail of the dragon' as it's at the end of the mighty Drakensberg mount range. 'Drakensberg' means 'dragon's mountain'.)

The tucked-away village of Rhodes is the perfect weekend hideaway and a travel base for adventurers taking on the many mountain passes in the area. Winters are all about deep snow, and summers mean a riot of mountain colours.

Looming above Rhodes is Naude’s Nek, the highest pass in South Africa at 2 500m. At the bottom of the pass is the Naude’s Nek Monument, dedicated to Stefan and Gabriel Naude, who pioneered this pass on horseback in 1896.

Rhodes was established on the farm Tintern on September 16 1891, and one of the first leading lights was a Scottish cleric who became a dominee (minister) in the Dutch Reformed Church: Richard Ross.

Fluent in both English and Afrikaans, Ross would alternate between the two languages each Sunday while conducting services.

During the South African War (also known as the Anglo-Boer War), Ross was interned by the British at their concentration camp in Aliwal North. After the war he vowed to preach only in Afrikaans.

Rhodes is made up of an alluring jumble of architectural styles, from the rather grand traders’ residences of old to the flat-roofed houses of local farmers.

An enduring feature of Rhodes is the local hotel. Once known as the Horseshoe Hotel, the Rhodes Hotel was the scene of much carousing, no doubt helped by the ox wagon-loads of liquor dragged over the mountains from East London. In fact, a star ox called Wydeman had his horns polished and mounted above the bar after he died.

Rhodes even underwent a much-publicised ‘hippie period’ for a while, as followers of alternate lifestyles moved in. Today it’s a much-beloved weekend destination for city dwellers who want to fish, hike, ride their mountain bikes or simply hide away somewhere deep in the hills.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Walks and trails info
Roger Brown of Rhodes Rambles
Tel: +27 (0)82 358 8712
Tel: +27 (0)45 974 9264

Rhodes general info
Dave Walker of Walkerbouts Inn
Tel: +27 (0)45 974 9290
Email: dave@walkerbouts.co.za

Rock art tours
Denorbin Farm: Gavin Small
Tel: +27 (0)45 971 9052

Wartrail and New England rock art sites: Dawn Green
Tel: +27 (0)45 971 9078

How to get here

Rhodes lies approx. 60km east of Barkly East on the R396 through Moshesh’s Ford.

Best time to visit

Rhodes is great throughout the year: deep snowfalls in winter (May to August), hot days in summer (September to April).

Around the area

There are excellent examples of San rock art in these mountains. You are welcome to see some of the art by prior arrangement and under guided supervision. See information under Contacts.

Tours to do

Several walks of varying duration and degrees of strenuousness have been marked on the 900ha village common. Marked trails can also be enjoyed on the farm Den Hagen near Rhodes.

Get around

You can reach Rhodes in a sedan in good weather, but for more access to the mountains and more travelling fun, it is advisable to drive a 4X4 vehicle or a 4X2 pick-up truck with good clearance, especially so in winter, when snow is common. And, at all times, you should drive cautiously and slowly in these mountains.

What will it cost

Accommodation costs are not expensive, and vary according to your choice of farm stay, guest house, self-catering option or local hotel – check the Rhodes Village website for options.

Length of stay

You should stay for at least a weekend in Rhodes to savour the area – or make it a base for a week’s travelling around the southern Drakensberg.

What to pack

Seasonal packing: lots of warm clothes for winter, including special snow gear; good, light hiking gear for summer visits.

Where to stay

There’s so much accommodation up here that it depends on your preference. Check the Rhodes Village website for options and prices.

What to eat

You’re in river-fishing country – ask your hosts for their special trout dishes.

What's happening

The Wild Trout Fishing Festival is usually held on the third weekend in March.

Best buys

Pottery from Play Café in Rhodes.