is located in the Western Cape
of South Africa
The high altitude land that lies north of the Cape Fold Mountains is a stark semi-desert area renowned for its open terrain and severe swings of temperature.
For early European settlers the are represented an almost impenetrable barrier which separated the Cape from the interior of the continent. However the presence of strong groundwater aquifers means that water can be pumped to the surface and much of the land has since been turned into enormous sheep farms.
Although there are places of interest in the Great Karoo, notably the national park close to the town of Beaufort West, the majority of travellers through the region simply tear along the main N1 highway between Cape Town and Johannesburg.Matjiesfontein
is a remarkable little place just off the N1. In 1884 a Scot by the name of Jimmy Logan purchased the land around a spring and proceeded to build a Victorian spa town, complete with the graceful hotel, pub, post office, stores, villas and even a cricket pitch. Boasting of the health giving properties of the dry air, he attempted to lure customers to come by train to his new resort. The crazy part is that it is all still here ...Lord Milner Hotel
... may these days be a little jaded, but it is suitably eccentric and well worth a visitBeaufort West
is a significant but relatively uninteresting town on the N1 highway, a reasonably point at which to break the journey with an overnight stop ...Lemoenfontein Lodge
... is the best accommodation option in the area, a pleasant farmstead to the north of the town and nicely set back from the main highway.Karoo Restcamp
... is a lower cost option inside the national park.
Set at the northern end of the Swartberg Pass lies the quaint village of Prince Albert
, gateway to the Great Karoo and a time capsule of Victorian life, featuring an excellent fossil museum and some really decent and intimate lodge options.Dennehof Guest House
... is a lovely family run guest-house, also alongside the main street to the south end of the village.