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TThabo Mofutsanyana is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque regions in South Africa. Located in the north eastern corner of the Free State, Thabo Mofutsanyana borders the magnificent Maluti Mountains, which dominate its landscape.
These ancient mountains and the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, which rests along its foothills, are Thabo Mofutsanyana's biggest attractions.
The Golden Gate National Park is renowned for its impressive sandstone features which rise up from the valley and shimmer like gold in the afternoon sun.
The park holds many secrets; the oldest dinosaur embryos ever discovered were found here in 1978, fossilised pre-historic animal remains have been unearthed and San rock paintings uncovered. Activities such as hiking and nature trails, guided walks and horse riding encourage you to explore these and other wonders.
A few minutes' drive away is Thabo Mofutsanyana's Basotho cultural village. Here you can delve into the history and lifestyles of the South Sotho people, view traditional art and buy Basotho crafts. Enjoy the warm Basotho hospitality with an authentic meal and traditional entertainment.
Just west of Golden Gate is the delightful village of Clarens. It features picture perfect pastoral scenes, but its close proximity to the park means it also enjoys beautiful mountain views. Stop off for a meal at any one of its quaint restaurants or visit its many art galleries. Other activities available include bird watching, horse riding, river rafting, hiking and trout and bass fishing.
History buffs should definitely visit the nearby Surrender Hill, a national monument and the spot where the Afrikaners or Boers surrendered to British forces during the South African War.
Other historical gems include the sandstone buildings at Bethlehem and the battle sites, blockhouses and military cemetery at Harrismith.
RRound off your trip with a visit to scenic Ficksburg, a pretty little rural town that hosts the popular Cherry Festival each November.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Free State Tourism
Tel: +27 (0)51 409 9900
Tel: + 27 (0) 12 428 9111
How to get here
Fly direct from any of South Africa’s major cities to Bloemfontein Airport. From Bloemfontein, take the N1 north to Winburg and then the N5 to Bethlehem.
If you’re driving from Johannesburg and Cape Town take the N1 south and north respectively to Winburg and then the N5 to Bethlehem. From Durban, take the N3 out of KwaZulu Natal to Harrismith.
Best time to visit
Thabo Mofutsanyana is generally an all-year-round destination. Spring to autumn (September to May) is warm and hot, while winter (June to August) is mild, with very cold mornings and nights.
Things to do
Golden Gate Highlands National Park; Basotho Cultural Village; Maloti Tourism Route, which takes in the eastern highlands of the Free State and Maluti Mountains.
The Cherry Festival at Ficksburg in November; the Asparagus Festival in Fouriesburg in September; Bethlehem Air Show at Bethlehem in August; Vintage Tractor Fair at Clocolan in March.
Traditional arts and crafts at the Basotho cultural village; original South African art at Clarens; cherry products at Ficksburg.
What to pack
For the summer months (October-March), pack lightweight clothing but include a jacket for the occasionally chilly evening. This is a summer rainfall region, so it is best to carry an umbrella or raincoat. Warm clothing is suggested for the chilly to very cold winter months (April – September).
What to eat
Authentic Basotho fare at the Basotho cultural village; cherries and cherry liqueur at Ficksburg during cherry season (October and November); farm-fresh asparagus at Fouriesburg in season (September to November).