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TThe Cederberg Wilderness Reserve, stretching from the Pakhuis Pass in the north to the Grootrivier in the south, is loved for its rugged beauty and solitude. Rich with San rock art and endemic flora and fauna, it’s a wilderness so remote and wild that there are places yet to be explored.
The Cederberg Wilderness Reserve is a protected public-private mountain reserve occupying 71 000ha of rugged terrain inland from the Cape West Coast and lying between the towns of Citrusdal, Clanwilliam and Ceres.
The reserve forms part of the Cape Floral Kingdom, a World Heritage Site, and is host to numerous rare and indigenous plant, animal and fish species, including the rare Clanwilliam Cedar tree, after which the region is named.
The Cape Cederberg is the equivalent of an open-air arboretum, sheltering red data species plants, scarce fynbos, South Africa’s famous rooibos tea plant, many different varieties of buchu and, among the high-peaks of the Sneeuberg, the rare and endemic snow protea.
In spring, drive the Agter-Pakhuis pass where wild flowers carpet the boulder-strewn hillsides as far as the eye can see.
Some of the peaks of the Cederberg Mountains in Clanwilliam rise above 2 000m. Amid the oxide-stained and lichen-covered red sandstone cliffs are hundreds of overhangs and caves adorned with San rock art, varying in age between a few hundred and a few thousand years. The Stadsaal caves are one of the best sites to view these ancient paintings.
Unforgettable in this pristine, elemental landscape are the Cederberg Wilderness Area’s extraordinary rock formations. Fissured and weathered by the elements, the Wolfberg Arch and Cracks, the Maltese Cross, Tafelberg and the Spout leave awestruck hikers feeling as though they’ve stumbled across a rock garden conjured from the mind of Salvador Dali.
Walking trails criss-cross the landscape, leading nature lovers to ravines where rivers spill into cool streams, and rock pools beckon hike-weary bodies. The Cederberg is also attractive to rock climbers, mountain bikers and quad bike enthusiasts.
Animals in the area include many species of birds, reptiles, antelope, baboons, caracal and leopard.
The Cederberg offers a true wilderness experience not easily surpassed. Head for these mountains to lose yourself. You may just find what you’re looking for.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)27 482 2024
Tel: +27 (0)87 087 8250
How to get here
Take the N7 highway north from Cape Town for about 200km. Pass through the towns of Malmesbury, Moorreesburg, Piketberg and Citrusdal. Turn off the N7 at the Clanwilliam sign.
Best time to visit
Spring and summer are the best times to enjoy the Cederberg, especially if you plan to hike and walk.
Things to do
Clanwilliam Dam; Wupperthal and the German Rhenish Mission Station; South African poet and writer CL Leipoldt’s grave outside Clanwilliam; Ramskop Nature Reserve (over 200 indigenous species of wild flowers during flower season, August to September); Cederberg wine estate with South Africa’s highest-lying vineyards; and Cederberg Astronomical Observatory.
Tours to do
Visit the rooibos factory; follow the Cederberg Heritage Route; take a traditional donkey cart ride from the top of the Pakhuis Pass to Heuningvlei; follow the Sevilla and Warmhoek Rock Art trails; do a historic walkabout through Clanwilliam.
Your best option is to drive yourself from Cape Town, although the area is well-serviced by Cape Town and West Coast tour operators.
Length of stay
You can escape to the Cederberg for the weekend or disappear into the mountains for a week or more. Guaranteed, once these mountains cast their spell, you’ll wish you’d stayed longer.
What to pack
Winters in the Cederberg are cold, and evening temperatures can plummet sharply. Most rain falls between May and September, and it often snows in the higher regions. Summers are warm and dry. Either way, pack season-suitable gear, a hat and sun protection.
Where to stay
What to eat
Try traditional West Coast and Sandveld cuisine or a seafood lunch on the beach at Muisbosskerm in Lambert’s Bay, complemented by Cederberg and Citrusdal wines.
Rooibos and buchu products, veldskoene (leather walking shoes) from Strassbergers, wines from Cederberg Cellars and seasonal fruits in Citrusdal.