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 94 customer reviews
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Prince Albert 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 Prince Albert
Town of Central Karoo

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

Prince Albert Prince Albert
Town of Central Karoo

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

Prince Albert 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

Matjiesfontein Matjiesfontein
Town of Central Karoo

Nice
Great historic interest.
Karl Laepple
Germany

Town of Central Karoo

A village
Leeu Gamka has literally 4 buildings: the police station, a church, a railway station and a Shell filling station. Nothing else!
Marina Van Rensburg
Zambia

Prince Albert Prince Albert
Town of Central Karoo

Worthwhile
Lovely setting, interesting history, friendly people. Pricey shopping. Not good value for (most) local (SA) tourists.
Cedric Downard
South Africa

Prince Albert Prince Albert
Town of Central Karoo

Swaartbergpass einmaliges Erlebnis
Den Swaartbergpass mit dem Auto Fahrad Downhill oder einfach ein Stück zu Durchwandern dürfte wohl noch ein letztes Stück Freiheit schenken das noch Gratis zu erleben ist !
Gerhard Rauscher
Germany

Prince Albert Prince Albert
Town of Central Karoo

Charming Town
Enjoyed staying overnight in Prince Albert. Some very good restaurants and art and craft shops. The theater is a "must do" experience and Gay's Guernsey Dairy provides outstanding Cheese.
Eddie Watson
South Africa

Beaufort West Beaufort West
Town of Central Karoo

Not just a stopover en route
I was sad not to have more time to explore one of SA's oldest municipalities with a very rich and interesting heritage, grand architecture and stunning blue skies - definitely worth spending a couple of days there. The Karoo National Park nearby was worth an excursion with majestic mountains and spectacular scenery (making a change from the unforgiving flat expanse surrounding Beaufort West.
Christopher Killerby
South Africa

Prince Albert Prince Albert
Town of Central Karoo

Prince Albert
It depends what you are there for. We were doing a bike trip from Cape Town to PE. We wanted to do "Die Hell" and that is why we came to Prince Albert. We really enjoyed ourselves and Die Hell lived up to its name!
Jo Goode
South Africa

Prince Albert Prince Albert
Town of Central Karoo

Lovely Town
Lovely town with excellent restaurants and accommodation. Lots to see and surely a ideal place to explore Swartberg pass.Hans Prinsloo - GautengVisited Dec 2014
Hans Prinsloo
South Africa

Prince Albert Prince Albert
Town of Central Karoo

A place to rest your soul in for a few days
What a little gem ! The attention to detail and the quaint houses and furnishings and gardens are so inspirational. The gardens, gables and grape vines. The shops and brick a brack, the relaxed atmosphere and the simple style want to make you stay there for days. As a stop over there are too many places you want to eat at or visit, so make sure you give yourself a few hours to spare. Watch a sunset and breath it all in.
Angela Harty
South Africa

Beaufort West Beaufort West
Town of Central Karoo

Not much to do in town
There is not much to do in town, though there are some nice buildings from the 19th and early 20th centuries. It's best a stop over to/ from the Karoo and/ or Cape Town.
Mike Nikomarov
South Africa

Laingsburg Laingsburg
Town of Central Karoo

Explore
Explore he countryside. Absolutely breathtaking!
Marlise Pietersen
South Africa

Prince Albert Prince Albert
Town of Central Karoo

Adorable small town
Very friendly people and a welcoming atmosphere. We enjoyed looking at the various craft and curio shops. The architecture is beautiful. There is a lovely small cheese factory. A really gorgeous piece of the Karoo.
Fiona Wallace
South Africa

Prince Albert Prince Albert
Town of Central Karoo

Beautiful
More people need to know about this pristine town. Friendly people and oozing with history.
Leatitia Morley
South Africa

Prince Albert Prince Albert
Town of Central Karoo

Wonderful little Karoo town worth the detour
We have now visited Prince Albert five times on our way to and from Cape Town and love it each time. There are always new shops popping out and there is a good choice of cute self-catering places to stay at, as well as lovely restaurants. I would definitely recommend a visit to this town for two to three nights.
Davina Mortlock
South Africa

Prince Albert Prince Albert
Town of Central Karoo

So much to offer.
So much to offer.
Cheryl Marais
South Africa

Prince Albert Prince Albert
Town of Central Karoo

No flab
This is not a soft town. It sits on a vein of relative green among the muscle and sinew of the exposed earth. Everywhere you look the rocks and stones paint extraordinary pictures of ancient folds and creases and layers and weatherings. It is like a still from a film on the birthing of the world. Sunset turns the great mountains into molten fire and night falls like bitumen. Yes, there are quaint old buildings and quaint old folk and donkey people and leiwater and a church clock that keeps the time (discreetly not at nignt) and even a theatre and some good restaurants, but never mind those;...
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Gregory Kerr
South Africa