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SSo you've done the scenic Garden Route but want to check out other, equally authentic road trip offerings across South Africa. If this is you, then the Karoo Highlands Route, trailing along the southern part of the Northern Cape, is where you need to be heading on your next road-tripping adventure.

This route covers a small but very unique part of SA; a major sheep-farming and agriculture region. The landscapes are barren and flat – allowing you to zone out and switch off — unlike anywhere else. Not forgetting the nights that will entertain you with some of the best stargazing opportunities in the world.

Key festivals in the region included the Hantam Vleisfees, a proudly South African experience and a must for all who loved Karoo hospitality and, of course, the famous Karoo Lamb. The Williston Winter Festival — which celebrates the Northern Cape and traditions such as the world-famous dust-raising Nama Riel dance, performed by over 100 traditional 'riel dancers', is also an annual highlight.

Nieuwoudtville is known for its unique vegetation, with the biggest variety of indigenous bulbous plants in the world, and the 100m high Nieuwoudtville Falls on the Doring River. A highlight is a stop-in at the Matjiesfontein Farmstall, or a tour of the Quiver Tree Forest, via the Rondekop flower route. 

Did You Know?
TThe Karoo Highlands Route is situated in the southern part of the Northern Cape. The route covers the small Karoo towns of Nieuwoudtville, Calvinia, Williston, Sutherland, Fraserburg, Carnarvon, Loxton and Victoria West, and forms the heart of the Great Karoo.

SSutherland is the perfect weekend breakaway destination. While it may seem like a sleepy town at first glance, it offers all the iconic Karoo charm - friendly local people, icy nights and perhaps the best lamb in the country. It is also one of the best places in the world for stargazing.  Highlights include the  South African Large Telescope — or SALT — the largest optical telescope in the southern hemisphere. This makes a tour of the observatory a must.

Karoo Highlands

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CCalvinia is one of the country's largest wool-producing areas and in Spring, Toren, Matjiesfontein and Nerasie farms are flower pots of spectacular scenery. Like Sutherland, Calvinia is as much an attraction for city-dwellers and astronomers as the rare sterboom is for botanists and horticulturalists. A highlight for 4x4 enthusiasts would be its various routes, some steeped in Anglo-Boer War history, along the escarpment, with picturesque views and San paintings, or along the riverbed with huge Namaqua Fig trees clinging to the rock surfaces. 

Fraserburg also has some extraordinary ancient rocks to see. Check out the Gansfontein Palaeo Surface — originally deposited some 250 million years ago. On the farm Riethuisies there is a distinct trace fossil of a gastropod and the same trace fossil was found recently in Antarctica, of great importance for palaeontologists.  

Williston is one of the many interesting towns of the Northern Cape, playing host to the annual Williston Winter Festival, which takes place just ahead of spring. Another highlight, other than the festival would be to get permission to check out the Tombstone Route, off Oest Road, where you'll find a form of folk-art in the tombstones which were skilfully chiselled out of local sandstone.  

Carnarvon is set among flat-topped hills. This is the region’s busiest farming centre. A highlight includes a visit to Blikkiesbar at the Carnarvon Hotel, with its novel collection of beer cans and whiskies. 

Victoria West is marked as the beginning of the Diamond Way — between Cape Town and Kimberley. Highlights include the Victoria West Nature Reserve, habitat to the rare Riverine Rabbit, and the town's museum which host archaeology and fossilised fish, dating back some 200 million years to when the area was an inland sea.  

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