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hhe Free State is a province of extreme natural, cultural and historical diversity. The province's nature reserves and mountains, museums and monuments, and its extensive cultural offerings are popular attractions.
It feels as though time itself began in this picturesque province. It is home to the Vredefort Dome (the world's oldest meteorite impact site), ancient San rock art, dinosaur remains and fossils. The National Museum in Bloemfontein has prime examples of the latter.
As one of South Africa's agricultural hubs, the Free State comprises rolling farmland, meandering between its dominant natural features - beautiful sandstone cliffs.
LLocated in the province's north eastern region, at the foot of the Maloti mountains, is the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. Aside from its imposing sandstone peaks, the park's highland habitat sustains a great variety of animals and birds, including the rare bearded vulture. It offers guided walks, hikes, game viewing and horse riding.
Thanks to its great diversity, the Free State boasts a number of tourism routes. Do the eagle route and discover the eastern highlands and Maloti mountains of neighbouring Lesotho; follow the flamingo route and delve into the history of Lejweleputswa's gold mines; or explore the province's battlefields and war museums on the lion route.
Experience the region's cultural and political heritage on the springbok route or walk in the footsteps of the diamond prospectors on the diamond and wine route. This tour also features the Landzicht and Wilreza wine estates in Jacobsdal.
If authentic home-grown hospitality is what you're after, make sure you do the friendly N6 route, which covers the route from Bloemfontein to Aliwal North.
With its bountiful natural, historical and cultural attractions, there's something to tempt every visitor's fancy in the golden Free State.
Travel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Free State Tourism
Tel: +27 (0) 51 411 4300
SANational Parks reservations
Tel: + 27 (0)12 428 9111
How to get here
Fly direct from any of South Africa’s major cities to Bloemfontein Airport. If you’re driving - from Johannesburg and Cape Town take the N1 south and north respectively to Bloemfontein, and from Durban, take the N3 out of KwaZulu Natal, and pick up the N5 at Harrismith to Bloemfontein.
Best time to visit
Spring to autumn (September to April). Summer days get very hot, while winter days are mild, with cold evenings. Snow regularly falls on the eastern highlands.
Things to do
Tour Winnie Mandela House in Majwemasoeu; the region’s various wine cellars; the self-drive tourism routes (the cheetah, eagle, lion, flamingo and springbok routes); the National Museum in Bloemfontein; the Basotho cultural village; and the Golden Gate Highlands National Park.
NAMPO farm show (agricultural show) at Bothaville in May; the Bloemfontein Show (agricultural and entertainment festival) at Bloemfontein in late April/early May (since 1883); the Craft Beer Festival in Clarens in February, the Macufe Mangaung African Cultural Festival in Bloemfontein in October; the Cherry Festival at Ficksburg in November.
What to pack
Don’t forget a hat and plenty to sunscreen, even in the winter. Pack warm clothes for winter months as it gets very cold, especially when it snows.
Where to stay
The region offers a full range of accommodation from backpackers and B&Bs to hotels and guest houses.
What to eat
Traditional boerekos (farm-style food) and potjiekos (pot stew) in most towns and villages; authentic African cuisine at the many African cultural villages; the Free State’s famed corn on the cob and juicy cherries.