Travel · Travel Writing

South Africa Insider: Best Small Towns

South Africa has many grand and spellbinding attractions – Table Mountain, The Kruger National Park and the Drakensberg Mountain Range, just to name a few.

Table Mountain found in Cape Town

It is easy to get lost in the reverence of them and only want to see those kinds of major attractions when you take a trip to South Africa but there is beauty and awe found in the small things too – in this case the small and quaint towns dotted all over the country.


Vredefort is home to just 3000 people and is known as a small farming town found within the province of the Free State. This small town holds a big secret in the form of the Vredefort Dome – the largest and oldest meteor crater in the world (300 kilometres wide), making it South Africa’s seventh World Heritage Site. With there only being 160 surface meteor sites in the world, visiting this meteor site should definitely be on your list of attractions to visit in South Africa.

The views spanning over the Vredefort Dome – Courtesy of Unesco World Heritage List



There are many words you can use to describe Nieu-Bethesda but my best must be quirky and a little odd. Located along the Owl Route in the Eastern Cape has an established art scene and creative culture. There are many special art shops to be found here with the most notorious known as The Owl House. The Owl House was created by one of the residents, Helen Martins, who turned her house into a work of cement and glass – made famous by Athol Fugard‘s play, The Road To Mecca. A road trip down to Cape Town is not complete without a visit to this eccentric place.

We were fortunate enough to visit the interesting Owl House that was created by Helen Martins
Owls being the prominent art pieces, hence the name – The Owl House. From Flickr: Andy Carter



If you have read my previous post on the Desolation Valley then you will know that I am one of Graaff-Reinet’s biggest fans. The small town of Graaff-Reinet was found in 1786 and has maybe some of the best Karoo Lamb dishes that I have ever tasted. With With beautiful old churches dotted all over the town along with the Camdeboo National Park just a short drive away, including the awe-inspiring Desolation Valley, makes Graaff-Reinet a must see for any trip to South Africa. Stay at a cute B&B like Beau and I and dine at one of the cosy restaurants such as Pioneers Restaurant for wholesome, traditional dishes. 

The town of Graaf-Reinet below us – made for a stunning view!
The indescribable Desolation Valley, courtesy of SA Venues


Lake Jozini

Although not a typical town but with a small population of locals, I just had to include this mecca of wildlife and stunning landscapes. Lake Jozini is slang for the Pongolapoort Dam found in the province of Kwazulu-Natal that has views and game-viewing that can rival Botswana’s Okavango Delta and Zimbabwe’s Lake Kariba. The dam is surrounded by two nature reserves that provides ample fishing spots and even Rhino tracking by foot. They say that the real way to experience this wildlife haven is by joining one of the houseboats found in the area and while away your days on the water.

The herds of elephants that can be seen from the water



Although Oudtshoorn is a more well-known and equally well-loved small town destination in South Africa, attracting many tourists each year it still maintains it old town charm. Oudtshoorn has been dubbed the “Ostrich capital of the world” and it is here where you can interact, ride and just get to know more about the fascinating creatures. From the biggest bird in the world to the underground wonder of the Cango Caves – one of the most spectacular caves that you can explore in the world – Oudtshoorn cannot and should not be missed.



Prince Albert

Found at the foot of the magnificent Swartbrg Pass, Prince Albert boasts Victorian and Karoo-style architecture, ancient leiwater channels and a famed R8 million theatre. The Showroom Theatre attracts major artists all year round due to the town’s prolific residents that have moved from all over the country to settle in the charming town of Prince Albert. For the climbers and hikers reading this, you can retreat to the russet coloured mountain range and breathe in all that wonderful fresh air, for the more adventurous you can descend into the valley of Die Hel on a very steep and windy road. And if you are more likely to relax with a glass of wine – the rock perches above the valley floor are perfect for those lazy sundowners with a great view.

Prince Albert town



A visit to Matjiesfontein can be likened to stepping into a time machine and landing up in a world full of old school charm, Victorian anecdotes, magical historic tales – truly a world of yesteryear. With it being the smallest of the towns on this list makes for it to be the most cozy and warm out of all of them. In Matjiesfontein you get to live like they did many years ago and maybe even have the pleasure of meeting someone who lived there many years ago – at the Lord Milner Hotel where ghost stories abound.

The Lord Milner Hotel



The area of one of the oldest towns in South Africa, Tulbagh, provides for one of the most beautiful settings in the province of Western Cape. The town is nestled within three different mountain ranges – Winterhoek, Witzenberg and Obiqua Mountains that makes for great exploring and stunning photographic opportunities. Wine lovers, this is the place for you – with Twee Jonge Gezellen, Drostdyhof and Theuniskraal vineyards originating in the valley known as Het Land van Waveren since 1906 makes Tulbagh a town that should definitely not be left off your list of places to visit in South Africa.

The stunning landscape surrounding Tulbagh, SA Venues


Have you been to any of the small towns mentioned above or have other small towns that you want to visit? Let us know in the comments!



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