Before the town of Citrusdal in the Olifants River Valley was established, there was a village on the farm of Modderfontein, which has been beautifully restored and is open to guests.

Did you know?

There is a natural hot spring known as The Baths situated 18km outside the town of Citrusdal.

The town of Citrusdal in the fertile Olifants River Valley in the Western Cape lies just off the N7 national road on the route to Namibia. It's a thriving farming town that lies at the heart of the citrus industry in this part of the world.

But what many people are not aware of is that before Citrusdal came into being, circa 1918, there was an established village at the foot of what is now known as the Piekenierskloof Pass on a farm called Modderfontein.

The old farm dates back to 1725 when it was established by the Dutch East India Company to supply meat to the company in what was a relatively inaccessible valley.

All that changed in 1855 when the famous pass builder, Thomas Bain, started work on the 12km Grey's Pass (later renamed Piekenierskloof Pass) with the help of 100 convicts. The cottage that Bain lived in while working on this project can still be seen on the farm, along with the remains of the old pass, which is in remarkably good repair.

The pass gave impetus to the settlement at Modderfontein, which soon had a post office added to it, and later a shop and trading store by the owner, James McGregor, who bought the farm in 1860. Over time, a doctor, a smithy, a wheelwright and a policeman were all based there.

But the fortunes of Modderfontein changed. In 1918, McGregor's only two sons died within six days of each other of the Spanish Flu, leaving only daughters on the farm, and the village of Citrusdal was established by the Dutch Reformed Church nearby. 

Time passed Modderfontein by and yet, although the old buildings had all fallen into serious disrepair by the time current owner Michael Stekhoven bought the farm in 2001, they were reasonably intact. He set about restoring them to their former glory. The farm now also produces organic rooibos tea, buchu, citrus and cattle.

It's rare, in South Africa, to find a whole farm village such as this intact. Even better is that the old buildings have been converted into comfortable overnight self-catering accommodation. 

Travellers heading up to Namaqualand or even to Namibia can take a break in these peaceful surrounds in one of the historical cottages scattered around, or walk up the kloof (valley) to look at Bain's old cottage. There's also a restaurant and pub in the old post office, which is open from Tuesdays to Sunday lunch.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

The Old Village
Tel: +27 (0)22 921 3963 or (0)82 802 4580

How to get here

Head out of Cape Town up the N7. The Old Village is at the foot of the Piekenierskloof Pass just outside Citrusdal, about 160km from Cape Town.

Best time to visit

In spring (September/October), this valley also enjoys a good showing of spring flowers.

Around the area

The Cederberg mountains have beautiful hiking trails and there are some excellent rock-art sites.

Tours to do

When in this area, arrange a hike in the mountains.

Get around


What will it cost

Around R1 000 for four people, depending on which cottage you pick.

Length of stay

You could use this as a stopover on route to the Northern Cape or Namibia, or happily spend a few days exploring the valley and surrounding mountains.

What to pack

This valley can get very hot in summer (November to February), so don't forget the swimming costume. In winter, there's often snow on the mountains so a warm jacket would be advisable.

Where to stay

There are several cottages on the farm that are available for overnight stays, among them Postmaster's House, Rooibos Cottage, Smitswinkel and Bain's Cottage.

What to eat

There's a restaurant on site that serves traditional food with a twist.

What's happening

The town of Citrusdal lies at the foot of the Cederberg mountains where you can enjoy hiking, mountain biking, freshwater angling, rock climbing and other outdoor pursuits.

Best buys

You can't leave this area without a stock of rooibos tea.

Related articles