The Northern Cape is South Africa's biggest and least densely populated province. Consisting mostly of Karoo semi-desert and Kalahari thirstland, it's all about wide open spaces, big skies and immense distances. But it's not all drab and dusty by any means. The Orange River, which flows through the province, is a long, luscious, linear oasis where the combination of generous irrigation and year-round sunshine produces succulently sweet grapes for the fashionable tables of the world as well as a significant crop for wine production. Dates, too, are grown in profusion in the warm sunshine. The Ai Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park consists mostly of a spectacular desert mountain range that straddles the Orange River, which is the border between the Northern Cape and Namibia. It's a hotspot of botanical diversity with an impressive array of flowering succulent plants. It's also an interesting cultural destination, where nomadic herders still tend their flocks of goats and live in their traditional matjieshuise, which are basically stone age tents - portable homes made from straw mats and a framework of sticks.

As well as the awesome botanical diversity and dramatic scenery, visitors to the Richtersveld are likely to see lots of birds and some small game. There are only three ways of seeing this austerely beautiful landscape. There is a four-by-four trail, which can be done either independently or escorted, a hiking trail only for the very fit and - the easiest of the lot - fantastically relaxing escorted multi-day canoeing and rafting trips on the Orange River. The Augrabies National Park, which is centred on the thundering Augrabies Falls and its spectacular granite gorge, has great birding, some small game and a fun hiking trail. Close by is the settlement of Riemvasmaak, which the original inhabitants regained in South Africa's first land restitution agreement. There is a four-by-four trail, warmsprings and some pretty self-catering cottages, all run by the Riemvasmaak community. A part of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park has also been the subject of a land restitution agreement and was returned to a band of San (or Bushmen) but with less success than Riemvasmaak. Nevertheless, it is an awesome game viewing destination straddling the border between the Northern Cape and Botswana.

The coast is sparsely populated - a few fishing villages here and there and some offshore diamond miners who dredge the ocean floor for the elusive gems that form the basis of the Northern Cape's economy. It was in Kimberley that the South African diamond industry first started. And the glittering baubles hidden under the austere surface of this somewhat Spartan and minimalist landscape are reflected in the mega bright stars sparkling in the crystal clear night air unpolluted by urban lightsources. The small town of Sutherland is the site of the Southern African Large Telescope, otherwise known as SALT. In spring the sere browns and ochres of the desert are transformed into an iridescent carpet of multi-coloured flowers as far as the eye can see. It's probably all the more spectacular for the contrast with its usually subdued palette. The main flower-viewing areas are around the towns of Nieuwoudtville, Garies, Kamieskroon and Springbok.

There are numerous cultural attractions. Many of the mission stations that were built in the Northern Cape over the centuries are practically unchanged. David Moffat's Kuruman Mission, where David Livingstone met his wife, the then Mary Moffat, still stands close to the town of the same name and the enormous freshwater spring, the Eye of Kuruman. There are museums aplenty, fabulous rock art sites and some lovely old buildings. So, yes. Although the Northern Cape is a huge expanse of semi-desert, there is so much to do and see. The many small towns each have their own attractions. Much as Kimberley only exists because of diamond mining, the relatively new town of Kathu exists only because of iron mining. You can tour the huge open cast mine where everything is significantly larger than life.

Even the trains that transport the ore are over two kilometres long. The small, and rather isolated, Karoo town of Victoria West has become a mecca for movie buffs with its art deco Apollo Theatre running regular film festivals. The unusual town of Orania, which is owned by the Afrikaner community that has settled there and tried to form an independent 'republic' within South Africa, is an indication of the level of tolerance that exists in South Africa. The small town of Jan Kempdorp is renowned as an excellent winch-launched paragliding venue with enormous thermals and the town Hotazel gives an indication of what the Kalahari can be like in summer.

Planning a trip to the Northern Cape? 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.

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Augrabies Augrabies
Town of Green Kalahari

Facilities great
Facilities at falls are wonderful and well maintained. Worth the visit. Must congratulate Northern Cape for the well maintained roads and general cleanliness of all their facilities.
Richard allen
South Africa

Douglas Douglas
Town of Northern Cape

Do you require peace and quietness?
Douglas is a place that must to visited when travelling to the Northern Cape!
Marius Bailey
South Africa

Springbok Springbok
Town of Namaqualand

Small, friendly town
Springbok is a small, clean, friendly town with all the basic necessities and altogether very pleasant. It's a lovely place to stay over on the N7. Don't expect a big metropolis, but you'll find what you need to refuel and refresh. It's a very beautiful region: dry, like the rest of the Northern Cape, but unspoilt and lovely.
Maya Fowler
South Africa

Springbok Springbok
Town of Namaqualand

A surprisingly scenic destination
A beautiful area. Would love to go there again. A good basis to visit the upper Northern Cape.
Tokkie Vorster
South Africa

Keimoes Keimoes
Town of Green Kalahari

Keimos - The little gem of the Northern Cape
One of the Northern Cape's jewels. I just love arriving from a long trip via Brandvlei, Kenhardt route and we arrive to an Oasis - Palms Trees, Vines, and crossing the Orange River, over thoseone way bridges. We normally stay in this little townon our way up to the Khalagadi Transfrontier Park.We have stayed on both side of the Orange River - Ikaiya Self Cartering, and The Overlook on the hillas well as De Werf Lodge.What is also nice about Keimos is that you can goonto Augrabies, should you wish to vist the falls.We have had many a visitor from overseas and thats extacly what we have done...
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Cheryl McDonald
South Africa

Kenhardt Kenhardt
Town of Green Kalahari

Kenhardt
'Nestled' remains the most overused cliche by copywriters. Yet Kenhardt – set in a cartographic sea of ‘nothingness’, an all-to-soon to be forgotten stop on the road between ‘here’ and ‘there’, lends the word its true meaning. Nestled – or ‘nested’ – in an unlikely dip in the vast, apparently featureless expanse of the Northern Karoo, this unpretentious town reminds us of the graciousness, hospitality and ‘gasvriendelikheid’ that have – almost imperceptibly in many Northern Cape towns – been supplanted by giant ore trucks, raucous chain stores and that most odious byproduct of ‘development’,...
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Elma Le Roux
South Africa

Sutherland Sutherland
Town of Namaqualand

Sutherland; the place where star dust meets earth dust
Sutherland, known as the coldest place on average in South Africa, is the jewel to be explored. Follow me on a journey that will change your mind. Winter time is synonymous to snow with Pine trees full of cones. The healthy pips get free when the pine cone breaks open and let us pick each pip one by one and becomes symbolic in the heart of a village. Sutherland is the place where star dust meets earth dust. Earth dust includes geology and rock formations. The sedimentary rocks of mudstone and sandstone are criss-crossed by dolerite dykes and sheets (volcanic). We have the last working volc...
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Jurg Wagener

Hondeklipbaai Hondeklipbaai
Town of Namaqualand

Hondeklipbaai
For the romantics, watch the sunset at Spatklip (Spitfire) and take some amazing pictures. Go crayfish diving (permit needed).Gather seafood from the rocks for your next meal. Don’t forget to tour the Hondeklip Bay Abalone Farm. The completed Abalone Grow-Out Pilot was conducted in Hondeklip Bay in the Northern Cape in partnership with HIK-Abalone, the industry partner, and Stellenbosch University. The trial has proven a success, and to this a commercial business plan, to leverage the DST investment into a commercial activity has been completed, requiring R40 million investment over 3yrs. Enjo...
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Esme Nel
South Africa

Calvinia Calvinia
Town of Namaqualand

Calvinia
Your Host, Karen Steyn of Katryns B&B invites you to come and experience the true Hantam Karoo Hospitality and beauty of our small Karoo Town in the Northern Cape. Come experience the restfulness, the tranquality of our Hantam Mountains. Come listen to the sound of silence and enjoy the breathtaking views, the icy cold winters and our flowers from Gods Hand. Calvinia is the place in South Africa you have always been looking for. Take a trip to this beautiful town of us, Calvinia, where our people are one of a kind.
Karen Steyn
South Africa

Sutherland Sutherland
Town of Namaqualand

Small, quiet and clean
This is a small, quiet and clean town. There are some good restaurants, and the stargazing facility at Jurg's is excellent. It is a good place for a quiet getaway.There are some fascinating rides in the vicinity but Northern Cape administration needs to do some more upkeep on the roads, particulary Ouberg Pass.
Anthony Prtice
South Africa

Kakamas Kakamas
Town of Green Kalahari

Kakamas
Kakamas is a good place for a stopover with the best droëwors in the Northern Cape!
Hannalie Korf
South Africa

Augrabies Augrabies
Town of Green Kalahari

Somewhere different
This area is mostly visited by tourists who have been to South Africa several times. Augrabies Falls is a highlight of the Northern Cape. This is a remote arid location with bizarre rock formations and the sixth largest waterfall in the world in an amazingly impressive gorge, makes the area an unmissable destination for those looking for somewhere a bit different.
Lesley Smith
England

Springbok Springbok
Town of Namaqualand

Small town, great town
This is a small town in the middle of the Northern Cape. It is a town with all the shops you need and great architecture. I will visit it again.
Marius Britz
South Africa

Augrabies Augrabies
Town of Green Kalahari

Awesome
The magnitude of the falls is overwhelming. It is so big. Also visit Moonrock and Ararat. At Ararat, we walked up the hill, and had a clear view of the Augrabies gorge. It was very impressive.
theunis Schutte
South Africa

Port Nolloth Port Nolloth
Town of Namaqualand

Best kept secret in the Northern Cape
Port Nolloth is a gem of a little town. A visit for lunch or dinner at Vispetti is a must !
Deon de Swardt
South Africa

Sutherland Sutherland
Town of Namaqualand

Visit to SALT
Wow, how interesting, the visitor centre is fascinating, the staff are friendly and very knowledgeable, and the visit to SALT itself is amazing, made even more amazing by visiting a smaller telescope on the site. I forgot to ask....why does the temperature drop at sunrise?
Mark Gericke
South Africa

Augrabies Augrabies
Town of Green Kalahari

'n Belewenis
Alhoewel die waterval nie groot was nie was dit nog steeds 'n belewenis om en die moeite werd om se ver te ry om die waterval te besoek
Anita Groenewald
South Africa

Sutherland Sutherland
Town of Namaqualand

sutherland may 2015
fully enjoyed visiting SALT as well as scenic routes. the old town feeling- wind singing through pinetrees at night and sound of windmill and of course the cold mornings. real gem in the raw
Brentia Shaw
South Africa

Hopetown Hopetown
Town of Upper Karoo

Oorslaap in Hopetown
Slegs daar oornag in die vars karoo lug. Andre Rossouw
Andre Rossouw
South Africa

Sutherland Sutherland
Town of Namaqualand

Visit SALT
Well worth a visit to SALT- its been on our bucket list and now we can tick it off. Would love to return for a night when there is a lot of snow around. Cant wait...
Patrick and Vivienne Delaney
South Africa