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AA visit to the Basotho Cultural Village is a chance to experience a way of life that integrates comfort and practicality with a unique aesthetic.
‘Basotho’ is the word in the Sesotho language meaning ‘the Sotho people’, and you can discover authentic Sotho hospitality, aesthetics and tradition at this Free State cultural village, set amid the splendour of the Golden Gate Highlands National Park in Free State province.
The village offers a unique South African experience in which you can learn about traditional Sotho arts and crafts and their way of life.
It consists of a rest camp that resembles an 18th-century Sotho village combined with replica homesteads dating from the 16th century to the present day. These showcase good examples of the mural art of the Sotho people, known as litema.
The replica homesteads do more than document the evolution of Sotho culture. Visitors are also invited to taste the local beer, brewed on site, share local food, enjoy traditional dances, meet village elders and learn how local arts and crafts are produced.
Most of the objects produced in the village are for sale, along with items sourced from further afield in Free State province. Traditional Sotho villages abound with crafters who work from home. They produce pottery, fabrics, beadwork and grass hats, mats and baskets using traditional techniques and local materials. You can arrange to visit some of these crafters, or simply buy their products at the Basotho Cultural village.
Among the items on sale at the village are cushion covers, tablecloths and clothing made from shweshwe textiles by the women of the Ahanang Basotho Project. The Bolata Pottery Project makes and sells traditional pots and dishes from local clay, and the Letweneng Grass Project makes grass bags, floor mats and baskets using traditional weaving techniques.
Lesedi Arts and Crafts creates and sells beaded cutlery, bags and ties, and the Thaba-Bosiu Project makes large traditional storage baskets (called disiu and originally used to store grain), as well as beer strainers.
You will also find iconic, conical Sotho hats, called mokorotlo, on sale at the village. They are used to keep the sun at bay as well as for cultural festivals. Also look out for traditional Sotho blankets. Their designs and colours are significant, and blankets are worn in different ways for different ritual purposes.
TTravel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Basotho Cultural Village
Tel: +27 (0)58 721 0300/0301/0302
How to get here
The village is accessible by road. It is 55km from Harrismith, which can be reached by the N3 from Gauteng or Durban. The R712 will take you from Harrismith to Golden Gate Highlands National Park and the Basotho Cultural Village. The drive is 350km from Durban and 320km from Johannesburg, or 330km from Bloemfontein if you take the N1 heading north, switching to the N5 heading east at Winburg, and right onto the R57 going south at Kestell, which takes you to the R712, where you turn right again.
Best time to visit
Any time of year. The rainy, warmest months are from October to March, but from April to September it’s cold during the day and often drops below freezing at night, especially if it snows. Pack accordingly.
Self-drive – you can hire a car after flying to Durban, Johannesburg or Bloemfontein.
Around the area
The Golden Gate Highlands National Park is world famous for its variety of mountain and grassland bird species, so spend some time exploring the park facilities as well as the cultural village. If you opt for a herbal tour with a village guide, you’ll get to know the traditional uses of many local flora, while drinking in the magnificent views.
Tours to do
Three different guided tours of the village and surrounds are available daily, exploring cultural, herbal and architectural heritage. Advance booking is advised.
What will it cost?
All the guided tours cost less than R100 per person, and last about 45 minutes. Note also that since 2012, a 1% community fee has been levied on all accommodation and activities in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, which is invested in community development and upliftment.
What to pack
Warm clothes if you’re here between April and September, and a raincoat or umbrella from October to March. Sunscreen and a hat are advised all year round.
Where to stay
The accommodation offered at the Basotho Cultural Village is budget-friendly. Alternative and more up-market accommodation is also available in Golden Gate Highlands National Park as well as in the nearby town of Clarens.
What to eat
The restaurant at the Basotho Cultural Village serves traditional meals, including motoho (porridge made from sorghum) and dipadi (toasted ground maize with a bit of salt and sugar). Booking in advance is essential.