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Free State – Why I love this place

The Free State Province – and staunchly Afrikaner heartland – lies across the mountain kingdom of Lesotho and KwaZulu-Natal; and borders six of the country’s nine provinces. the Free State remains striking as it is rural and remote. And the rose-covered capital of Bloemfontein is pretty much an oasis in the middle of a rather arid landscape. Bloem (borrowed from the Dutch word for flower) is also the first and closest town to Johannesburg.

The quirkiest though is by far town of Parys. No not Paris. Parys is a small riverside town, and though not home to any towers, it is home (which many of us South Africans forget) to the Vredefort Dome. That is, the largest meteorite impact crater on Earth. Now that’s bakgat if you ask me!

Even though the Free State – sadly – tends to be a place most visitors pass through, it is definitely worth exploration. It’s a place of big open skies; flat open farmlands speckled with fruit tree farms (especially cherries), rolling away into pasturelands, kilometres of maize and wheat fields;  bright-yellow sunflowers and mauve- and pink-petalled cosmos. The Free State is the perfect setting for a road trip. And any landscape photographers.

Discover one of the most scenic drives in South Africa

The Maloti Route skirts the mountainous eastern flank of the Free State and is regarded as one of South Africa’s most scenic drives. And for good reason. To highlight here? The Golden Gate Highlands National Park and the stripy red sandstone outcrops of the Maloti Mountains. To see them in all their magnificence stay till sunset. Trust me, its worth the layover.

If you’re partial to hiking, at the Southeast of Golden Gate, you will find the Sentinel car park. This leads you through an access point and takes you via the really fascinating Basotho Cultural Village. From here you are able to reach the highest plateaus of the Drakensberg. To the West of Golden Gate is Clarens. Nicknamed the “Jewel of the Eastern Free State”, it is by far the nicest of the string of towns along the Lesotho border.

The rest of the province holds a real treasure trove of historical sites too. This includes ancient San rock art, old gold mines, and discarded battlefields along the way.

A few of my favourite places to stay in the Free State:

Inkunzi Cave

Admittedly this is a little sneaky one, as Inkunzi Caves lies closest to KZN and at the foothills of the Drakensberg just outside the town of town of Winterton. I love Inkunzi Cave because of its eccentricity. It was specially designed with a Bushman theme and includes a “rock” bath and shower and rock pool where you can just while away these absolutely magical mountain views.

Lexi’s Quirky Cottage

Who wouldn’t fall in love with Lexi’s?! It’s quirky and cosy with the most amazeballs views! This gorgeous thatched cottage is located just 15km outside the town of Clarens, it’s the perfect balance between farm life and small town ganders (yes, I used the word gander, isn’t it divine?!).

Booking through Airbnb click here for $40 (or R450) off your first stay. 🙂

Karoo Ridge Cottage

This lovely stone cottage with is set in the middle – of well – Middleburg, is perfect for anyone wanting to unplug. The best part about Karoo Ridge Cottage, besides the stargazing? It’s located within a unique 5 000 ha private conservancy, where you’ll find indigenous Nguni and Watusi cattle run alongside wild game like zebra, black wildebeest, springbuck, gemsbuck and sable. This 4 bedroom cottage runs only on gas and solar and lends itself perfectly to outside living. See, there are no fences here, not for as far as your eye can see. I can’t think of a better way to spend a day that in the middle of a place like this…

Booking through Airbnb click here for $40 (or R450) off your first stay. 🙂

Free State – Why I love this place

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