The broad, mostly sandy, expanse of undulating plains known as the Karoo is divided between the Little Karoo, nearer the coast and the Great Karoo, which seems to stretch into the interior forever. The Karoo, which means 'great thirst' in the local Khoi-San language, receives little rain so the rather dramatic landscape exhibits interesting geological features. The broad expanse of the endless plains is broken by flat-topped mesas and kopjes (conical hills), which display interesting stratigraphy, contorted fold structures and deeply striated glacial pavements. The Karoo is particularly rich in dinosaur fossils, many of which can be seen at the Old Library Museum in Graaff-Reinet.

Many people consider the Karoo something to be endured in order to get from Johannesburg to Cape Town, or vice versa but it really is an attraction in its own right. The two national parks, the Karoo National Park near Beaufort West and the Mountain Zebra National Park near Cradock are nothing like the bushveld reserves around the Kruger National Park. The vegetation is much more sparse but, strangely, far more interesting, as it's characterised by low-growing succulents and aromatic shrubs which, upon closer inspection are very beautiful and many of which flower spectacularly for a short season.

There are black rhinos in the Karoo National Park and, not surprisingly, many of the beautiful, endangered and rather rare Cape Mountain Zebra in the Mountain Zebra National Park.

Although midday can be over-bright and washed out, the quality of light in the Karoo is magnificent. Sunrises and sunsets are awe-inspiring with pastel shades of purple, blue, pink and gold filling the entire horizon. The sky before a storm is particularly dramatic, with shafts of light burning down through indigo clouds and rainbows dancing merrily just behind the thunder and lightning.

And the clear skies and freedom from light pollution makes for wonderful stargazing - the recently built Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) is in the small, rather remote Karoo town of Sutherland.
As well as showcasing some very pretty Victorian houses, the many small towns reflect a sort of sleepiness, which is appropriate to their status as urban centres in a large sheep farming area.
On the edges of these vast plains lie lovely, almost unexplored mountains, with deep gullies, pretty streams and overhangs filled with rock art. And even the older buildings - one-roomed stone cottages, corbelled huts and old stone sheds are coming into their own as they are renovated as tourist or hikers accommodation.

Graaff-Reinet and Cradock offer a wealth of cultural attractions as well as some great accommodation Nieu Bethesda is the site of South Africa's best known outsider art - the Owl House, created by Helen Martins. Nothing happens very fast in the Karoo. It's a place to go to relax, to sit back and watch time move gently over the purple hills.
The Great Karoo stretches over part of the Eastern Cape, the Western Cape and the Northern Cape.

Planning a trip to the Northern Cape or the Eastern / Western Cape Karoo? A useful and inspirational book to have on the road is the  Getaway Guide to the Karoo, Namaqualand & Kalahari - Out and About in the Northern Cape by Brent Naudé-Moseley & Steve Moseley, who are also the proprietors of Karoo Cottage in Loxton.

Karoo, Namaqualand and Kalahari represents not only some of the most remote areas in southern Africa, but also the most scenic and rustic on the subcontinent – a region framed by a stark beauty that provides an ideal getaway from well-trodden tourist paths. This fascinating guide provides a unique exploration of its hidden treasures, national parks and wildlife reserves. Find out where to go and what to see, sound advice on finding your way through the Karoo, Namaqualand and Kalahari as well as alphabetical accounts of all the towns, villages and stopovers, maps and the what, where and how of adventure activities.

Authors Steve Moseley & Brent Naudé-Moseley live in the Karoo where they’ve spent the past ten years writing and photographing this and neighbouring regions. During this time they have developed a great love and respect for its natural and historical heritage, people and culture - all of which have opened their eyes to a simpler lifestyle and different values. Their travel articles and images appear in local and international publications and, after years of travel and research, they have launched a unique photo library (www.karooimages.co.za) specialising in the Great Karoo, Kalahari and Namaqualand.

Central Karoo Fun Rating

from 110 customer reviews
4 out of 5 stars!

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Beaufort West
Town of Central Karoo

Pitstop
Friendly and helpful community.
Naas Caroto
South Africa

Prince Albert
Town of Central Karoo

4
Maybe more shops that is not so expensivethe museum is the best
Johan Kriel
South Africa

Prince Albert
Town of Central Karoo

A true Gem
Beautiful characterful and friendly town with great food and great little stores.A Relaxed & peaceful town.
Vicky Geralis
South Africa

Prince Albert
Town of Central Karoo

A Lovely Karoo Town
We have been on a three-week road-trip, with Prince Albert as our last stop. We agreed that it was the nicest of 7 or 8 towns and villages that we stayed in our visited.
Jon Plowman
South Africa

Prince Albert
Town of Central Karoo

Could happily have stayed longer
We only had one night and a day there and would happily take taken a few more days to chill out in Prince Albert. It is a Foodies delight -visit the cheese factory at the Dairy and there are amazing places to eat out, the village is interesting historically, has quirky shops and lovely people.
Shayne van Rensburg
South Africa

Prince Albert
Town of Central Karoo

Will be back soon xxx
Wish we could stay a bit longer in Prince Albert but will definitely return again soon. The town is very neat with wide roads and an extremely relaxing atmosphere.
chanel campher
South Africa

Matjiesfontein
Town of Central Karoo

matjiesfontein
Beautiful historical and a must to see and experience
Adriaan de la Rosa
South Africa

Prince Albert
Town of Central Karoo

Love Prince Albert.
We have visited many times over the past 25 years and it has just got better and better. Interesting shops and friendly people. Hendry's restaurant excellent. Lazy Lizard has good food and great coffee. Swartberg pass stunning as usual although very busy over Easter weekend. They are doing a great job of restoring the gravel road. Our American grandchildren loved the experience.
Averil Maskew
South Africa

Matjiesfontein
Town of Central Karoo

The best place to rest
Matjiesfontein peace and calm, you will feel it ones you have stayed in Matjiesfontein. You will make friends for a life time.
Michael Lourens
South Africa

Matjiesfontein
Town of Central Karoo

Matjiesfontein review
The best place in the world
Johmare Bezuidenhout
South Africa

Prince Albert
Town of Central Karoo

un old Dutch village
the best place to stay in the little Karoo
John Weyeneth
South Africa

Beaufort West
Town of Central Karoo

a historical must see
We really enjoyed spending a few hours in Beaufort West. There is a reaally lovely museum, butchery where we bought half a Karoo lamb, and we also did a sundowner donkey cart tour which was a real treat and is a must do. And dont forget to yry the Karoo sushi at Karushi restaurant
Tracy Carter
South Africa

Leeu Gamka
Town of Central Karoo

Leeu Gamka Town
Leeu Gamka is not an attraction town, thus will only be all right for a overnight stay.
Chantal Kriel
South Africa

Prince Albert
Town of Central Karoo

A Gem on route to any where in the Western Cape
A place where you can relax and enjoy scenery that will sooth your sole !Stay more than 2 nights to really appreciate the town and its surroundings.
Ras van der Merwe
South Africa

Prince Albert
Town of Central Karoo

A little piece of magic
A beautiful little town!
Ella Van Zyl
South Africa

Prince Albert
Town of Central Karoo

Wonderful town offers so much more
Prince Albert might be a detour for the average traveler on the N1 or N12, but if you make the detour this town will reward you handsomely.
Hans Potgieter
South Africa

Prince Albert
Town of Central Karoo

Lekker place
Beautiful place coming from Gamkaskloof.Clean town with wide roads and lots of character.Good balance between of the beaten track and modern facilities.
Thys van der Merwe
South Africa

Prince Albert
Town of Central Karoo

Mooi dorpie
n Baie gasvry gemeenskap en interessante dorpie.
Neville Joerdens
South Africa

Prince Albert
Town of Central Karoo

Holiday in Prince Albert
Wonderful place to rewind!
aletta mocke
South Africa

Prince Albert
Town of Central Karoo

Ghost Tour
We all loved the Ghost tour as well as the dairy with great Cheese, well did only stayed one night, but will come back for more.
Hanspeter Jenny
South Africa