The town of Clarens is known as “The Jewel of the Free State” and is a must-see on any Free State trip. Take a walk down the main street and sample eateries, art galleries and arts & crafts shops galore. If you enjoy the outdoors, you’re in for a treat – experience white water rafting, 4X4 safaris, horse trails and hikes in a truly spectacular landscape.
Launched in 1997, the Mangaung African Cultural Festival (Macufe) has become one of the biggest cultural festivals on the continent. Featuring the best African and international talent, Macufe offers something for everyone: boxing, gospel, craft markets, theatre, dance, poetry, film, African music, comedy, jazz, a divas’ concert, an Afrikaans music concert, a music festival and the annual Macufe Cup.
On your way through the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, pop in at the Basotho Cultural Village for an interactive tour of traditional Sotho life from the 16th century to now. You can also take a two-hour guided hiking trail to explore a nearby rock-art site and learn about the area’s medicinal and plants.
The Gariep Dam is a staggering 100km long and 24km wide. Take a guided tour through the passages inside the wall of South Africa’s largest dam, or sample the many water sport activities on offer: fishing, windsurfing, sailing, jet skiing, canoeing, rowing…and even game-viewing by boat! That’s right – there’s a well-stocked 11,237-hectare game sanctuary on the dam’s northern shore. If you’re visiting in February, don’t miss the annual Gariep 500 Rubber Duck Race and Watersport Festival.
Situated in the heart of Bloemfontein, Naval Hill is one of a kind. It contains a 6.5m-high statue of Nelson Mandela, two historic British naval guns, the famous White Horse sculpture, a theatre, a brand new digital planetarium…and a game reserve! The 250 hectare Franklin Game Reserve is one of only two nature reserves in the world to be located in the middle of a city.
Ficksburg presents the spectacular Cherry Festival each November. With live entertainment provided by well-known South African artists, festival activities include cherry tours, a golf classic, a half marathon, cherry product competitions, veteran vehicle displays, equestrian events, beer fests and a food and wine fiesta. Watch the popular ‘ready, steady, bake’ competition and see how cherry ‘mampoer’ is made.
Many well-known artists, antique dealers and craftsmen have made the northern Free State town of Parys their home. Enjoy berry picking, beer and ‘mampoer’ tasting, art displays, shopping galore, tranquil spas, cheetah interaction and plenty of outdoor fun on land and water.
At 2286m above sea level, the Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge offers spectacular views of Sentinel Peak and the Amphitheatre. Owned by the local Batlokloa community, the resort offers a range of upgraded accommodation. You can also hike to Mont-aux-Sources, camp overnight on the mountain, try base jumping or go mountain biking. A must-see is the Vulture Restaurant which serves up fresh, safe carcasses for the threatened Bearded Vultures that live in the area.
Take a guided tour of one of SA’s largest and oldest townships, where the African National Congress (ANC) was born in 1912. To experience township nightlife, join an evening tour of Mangaung’s buzzing shebeens (bars), where you can sample home brews and dance to live jazz.
The oldest and largest crater on earth, the Vredefort Dome was caused when a massive meteorite struck the earth 2,000 million years ago. The force of the impact caused the rock layers to ‘bend’, resulting in a semi-circular ring of mountains that are home to abundant bird and plant life – and the world’s only pink granite. Both Parys and Vredefort are located within the Vredefort Dome’s original impact area.