The Northern Cape, South Africa

Incredible year-round experiences coupled with warm hospitality, plus the tranquillity of off-the-beaten-track towns and villages make the Northern Cape province a must-visit destination that affords travellers the space to reconnect with nature.

Published 13 Jun 2017, 16:19 BST

Incredible year-round experiences coupled with warm hospitality, plus the tranquillity of off-the-beaten-track towns and villages make the Northern Cape province a must-visit destination that affords travellers the space to reconnect with nature. Families, adrenalin junkies and adventurers all find plenty to amuse themselves in what is, arguably, South Africa’s most beautiful province.

Visitors can choose between the Richtersveld UNESCO World Heritage Site and two transfrontier parks: the Kgalagadi and the |Ai-|Ais Richtersveld, with its red and golden sand dunes. And, be it a walking, horseback or 4WD adventure, a wildlife safari is a must. Travellers can also explore the African bush in the company of the region’s oldest human inhabitants, the !Khomani San Bushmen, near Kgalagadi, or the Nama of the Richtersveld.

The Northern Cape is ideal for exploration and adventure, whether it’s stargazing in Sutherland, hunting for fossils in the Karoo or searching for San rock art deep in the caves of the Diamond Fields. Travellers can witness the floral offerings of Namakwa, camp deep in the bush — surrounded by a host of wild animals, including the black-maned lion of the Green Kalahari — or try kayaking down the Orange River. The region makes for a truly enriching experience.

The province is home to six national parks and two of the country’s largest rivers, making it ideal for activities like birdwatching, hiking and archaeological discoveries. And every spring (end of July to early October), the arid winter plains of the Namakwa region are transformed into a kaleidoscope of flora. As the only arid hotspot in the world, the Northern Cape region contains more than 6,000 plant species, 250 of bird, 78 of mammal, 132 of reptile and amphibians, and numerous insects.

Explore the routes of the Northern Cape

The five Northern Cape routes are specifically packaged to give visitors an easy, do-it-yourself option for exploring the province.

Kokerboom Food and Wine Route

Taking its name from the indigenous quiver tree, the Kokerboom Food and Wine Route stretches along the Great Gariep (Orange River) and takes in such towns as Upington, Kakamas, Augrabies, Kanoneiland, Kenhardt and Riemvasmaak. The route has all-round appeal and highlights include visits to Augrabies Falls and Riemvasmaak hot springs, plus river rafting, fly fishing, kayaking and river cruises on the Orange River. There are 4WD, hiking and mountain bike trails to be followed, and plenty of birdwatching opportunities. Foodies will appreciate the traditional Northern Cape cuisine, and delight in wine-tasting at cellars along the route. Accommodation ranges from luxurious guesthouses to farm and community stay-overs.

Kalahari Red Dune Route

Golden dunes, wide-open skies and flat-topped acacia trees epitomise the Kalahari Red Dune Route — the very essence of the province in the heart of the Kalahari. Stretching from Upington, 510 miles north of Cape Town, to the Namibian border, guests traverse the villages of Ashkam, Groot Mier, Klein Mier and Rietfontein. Adventure-seekers can enjoy dune hikes at dawn, eagle-owl encounters, sand duning and surfing, close encounters with meerkats and guided walks with the !Khomani San bushmen.

Richtersveld Route

The Richtersveld is South Africa’s only mountain desert and this route follows rugged gravel roads to quaint towns such as Eksteensfontein, Sendelingsdrift, Lekkersing, Kuboes and Sandrift. The challenging 4WD routes in the |Ai-|Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park or the Richtersveld World Heritage Area are best explored in an SUV or bakkie truck. Visitors will need to pull on their hiking boots to tackle the 373-mile Namaqua Eco 4×4 Route. The Orange River presents more leisurely options, with river rafting and fly fishing, while the whole area is a mountain biker’s dream. Another option is to follow in the footsteps of traditional goat herders, learning about the lives of the nomads.

Namaqua Coastal Route

This route includes a host of hidden gems — Garies, Kamieskroon, Hondeklip Bay, Koiingnaas and Kleinzee among them. Namaqua National Park, nature reserves, coastal hamlets and remote hiking and 4WD trails are on offer. Travellers can also take part in ‘succulent sleuthing’ with a botanical guide, hike the Springbok Klipkoppie for a dose of Anglo-Boer War history, explore shipwrecks along the coast or visit Namastat, a traditional matjies-hut village. Sightings of dolphins and whales in the Atlantic Ocean, combined with spectacular views of mountains and veld, guarantee a remarkable travel experience.

Karoo Highland Route

In the southern part of the province, the small towns of Nieuwoudtville, Calvinia, Williston, Sutherland, Fraserburg, Carnarvon, Loxton and Victoria West are right at the heart of the Great Karoo region. Guests can try a range of activities, such as stargazing at the world’s largest astronomical observatory, visiting Anglo-Boer War sites, viewing Karoo architecture and corbelled houses and sampling Karoo cuisine.


T: +27 53 832 2657

Read More

Explore Nat Geo

  • Animals
  • Environment
  • History & Culture
  • Science
  • Travel
  • Photography
  • Space
  • Adventure
  • Video

About us


  • Magazines
  • Newsletter
  • Disney+

Follow us

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society. Copyright © 2015-2021 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved