• Graaff Reinet Jewel of the Karoo

    Graaff Reinet

    Established in 1786, Graaff-Reinet was named after Governor van der Graaff and his wife Reinet and was the fourth district in the Cape colony to be granted a Drostdy or seat of local government thus making it the fourth oldest town in South Africa. Being the outpost of white civilisation in a barren and untamed country, it became the most important trading centre with the interior by the middle of the last century. Picturesquely situated among the foothills of the Sneeuberg mountain range, Graaff-Reinet has retained much of the character of a typical 19th century rural town.

    Why is it unique?

    The old town tucked into the horse-shoe bend of the Sundays River contains more proclaimed national monuments than any other town in South Africa.

    Graaff-Reinet lies in the centre of the 15 000 ha Camdeboo National Park in which one of nature’s wonders, the Valley of Desolation, is situated. A conservation policy is practised to ensure that many splendid examples of architecture, ranging from simple Karoo-style houses to stately Cape Dutch buildings, are retained.

    With all its historical associations, monuments and restored buildings, Graaff-Reinet is virtually a living museum.

    What does it offer the tourist?

    * Game viewing in the nature reserve (8km from town) with more than 100 Cape Buffalos, Kudu, Black Wildebeest, Gemsbok, Springbok and many more.
    * A tranquil holiday during which to explore the town and its outstanding museums, and to enjoy the peacefulness of the Karoo Nature Reserve.
    * A very convenient stop-over for motorists traveling from the Eastern to the Western Cape or from the northern parts of the country to the Southern or Western Cape.
    * A very healthy climate.
    * Hiking trails in the Camdeboo National Park and in the Sneeuberg mountains.

    The Dutch Reformed Church

    Built in 1886, this is the third church to be erected on this spot. Designed on lines similar to those of Salisbury Cathedral in England, it is one of the best examples of gothic architecture in South Africa and was built using local sandstone. The ecclesiastical silver in use at the church is exceptionally valuable.

    The Valley of Desolation

    Sheer cliffs and precariously balanced columns of dolerite rise 120 metres from the valley floor, against the timeless backdrop of the vast plains of the Camdeboo. This is the product of volcanic and erosive forces of nature over 100 million years.

    This breathtaking site is a short 14 km drive from the town. Any visitor to the reserve will be surprised to discover the diversity of fauna and flora. There are over 220 recorded species of birdlife, 336 plants and 43 mammals. Catch a glimpse of the endangered Cape Mountain Zebra, plenty of Kudu, Buffalo, the majestic Black Eagle and the Kori Bustard, the heaviest flying bird in the world.

    You have a choice of scenic picnic sites in the reserve, and for those a little more energetic, there are three walking trails which range from 1 hour in duration to overnight hikes – be sure to bring your camera!


    The charming village of Nieu-Bethesda is set in a fertile valley of the Sneeuberg mountains beneath the Compassberg (2502m), which dominates the northern skyline. Traffic was once so infrequent that certain streets were allowed to be used for growing potatoes and lucerne. Through it’s isolation, the village has retained a rare historical & architectural integrity. Popular as a retreat for artists, the unique appeal of the village, and the allure of the Owl House make this a place that no visitor should miss.

    Helen Martins, or “Miss Helen” as she was known to the locals, spent the latter part of her life in the house where she was born. Regarded as an eccentric and deeply interested in Eastern philosopy, she lived a hermit-like existence, devoting her life to her beloved owl statues, and “the search for light and brightness”.

    From the moment you step into the house you are enveloped by a 360 degree canvas of colour, where the walls, ceilings and even the doors are decorated with finely-ground glass of various hues.

    In the “Camel Yard” at the back of the house, trapped by a stone wall and high chicken-wire, are hundreds of figures, camels and sphinxes, made of cement and glass, all paying homage to the East. The story of Helen Martins life was the inspiration for Athol Fugard’s book “The Road to Mecca”.

  • Why not try the Paarl Spice Route ?

    The Spice Route in Paarl

    Take a ride into the country and head towards Paarl. Travel until you reach a boutique wine village called ‘The Spice Route’. On a beautiful day, you can relax and stroll around this beautiful village. Forget about the rush and deadlines of yesterday. The village is a mere 45 minute drive from Cape Town itself and provides a plethora of things to do. Galleries, crafts, chocolate, wine, beer, pizza, and need I say more! The ‘Village’ is a great destination for the whole family, child friendly, wheel chair friendly and best of all no entrance fees.

    There is so much to see and do, I have only touched on a few things below:

    De Villiers Chocolates

    Hand crafted makers of single origin chocolate, homemade ice-cream and coffee. This entire experience is available under one roof. You won’t have to convince me twice to visit here.  Exclusive deals on excursions to De Villiers Chocolates can be arranged at the travel centre of Cape Town Backpackers, Ashanti Lodge.

    The factory can be found in an old Cape Dutch Home where you can view them making chocolate behind a glass wall. They also offer chocolate tastings, pairings and workshops.

    Craft Beers

    The Cape Brewing Company offers you a taste of their finest craft beers. They only use the purest ingredients and the brew master is one of the best and highly skilled. Visit, taste and celebrate beer. The craft beer tour is one of the many adventure tourism options available from Ashanti Lodge Backpackers in Cape Town.

    Wine tasting

    Beer not your thing, then the Spice Route wines might be more to your liking. The hand-crafted wines come from the Swartland and you can enjoy them in the underground tasting room. On a beautiful day enjoy the wine in a shaded seating area outside, with spectacular views of Table Mountain.

    Red Hot Glass

    Red Hot Glass is a glassblowing studio that offers unique and beautiful original glasswork. Their pieces are commissioned all over the world. Visitors can browse the large selection in the gallery or can actually watch glassblowing in action at their studio.

    La Grapperia Pizzeria and Bistro

    Are you hungry after a busy morning exploring? Sit down and relax under the oak trees and enjoy a variety of thin based wood fired pizzas. Raining outside, no worries get warm indoors by the fire and have a little locally made schnapps to warm you from the inside.

    Barley and Biltong Emporium

    This establishment offers yummy gourmet burgers, delicious biltong and their unique craft beers. The biltong is selected from an excellent range of Beef, Kudu, Eland and Springbok. The gourmet burgers come with hand cut double-fried chips. Wow, that’s something new to try. Delicious!

    Accommodation in Paarl

    There are so many choices, so I am going to only give a few bed and breakfast options. Who needs self-catering when you can get everything done for you?

    De Kleijne Bos Country House

    The De Kleijne Bos Country House offers comfort and luxury. They are equipped with all you could want from a pool to a pizza oven, free Wi-Fi and lots more.

    Location: 35 Kleinbosch, Paarl

    Contact: 021 868 0883

    Madeliefie Bed and Breakfast

    Elegant, is the word to describe this Accommodation venue. A warm and welcoming atmosphere with all you could want. The guesthouse also provides the best breakfast.

    Location: 424 Main Road, Paarl

    Conact: 084 493 1258

    Dot JJ B&B

    Located within a residential area, it provides great hospitality with a personal touch.

    Location: 33 Des Pres, Paarl

    Contact: 072 261 5164

    Skinkikofi Manor

    The Skinkikofi Manor offers friendly, clean and spacious accommodation. The Manor can be found on a foothill under the famous Paarl Rock. The Manor is close to many restaurants and shops and offers all you could possibly need.

    Location: 40 Main Street, Paarl

    Contact: 082 875 1055

    The Spice Route is a great place to start if you are visiting Paarl, but there are many other adventures and things to do in Paarl.  For starters you cannot leave Paarl before climbing the Paarl Rock. Fairview farm is also a must see and don’t forget to visit the Afrikaans Taal monument to brush up on your history and culture.


  • Top Tourist Attractions in Cape Town

    Table Mountain

    This is, in my opinion, the number one attraction in Cape Town which the whole family can enjoy.  Table Mountain was voted as one of the Seven Wonders of the World in November 2011. The more adventurous and energetic person can climb up the mountain as an option; it is always a challenge to reach the top. The average person might prefer the Cable Car as a far better alternative.  It will only take five minutes to reach the top, which is 1 089m above sea level. The cable care floor rotates giving the tourist a 360˚ view of Cape Town City and the harbour area.

    Once on the top you can indulge in self-service drinks and food or just enjoy the spectacular view of the surrounding mountains and town. On a clear day you will be able to see Robin Island and both the Atlantic Ocean and False Bay. It is recommended that the trip be made in the late afternoon as the sunset is unbelievable. There is free Wi-Fi available for your mobile device so you can contact your friends and share the experience with them first hand. There is also no need to fear battery failure, as there are a number of USB points available in order to recharge.

    You are also free to download the audio tour app. This gives you a self-guided tour on your mobile device. If you feel like a brisk walk there are three trails clearly marked for your convenience. It must also be mentioned here that the mountain trails, including the cable car are wheel chair friendly.  If you are feeling very adventurous there is also the opportunity to go Abseiling down the cliff face.

    Sightseeing and bus tours

    You must take the topless bus tour in order to explore the city and many other attractions. There is the Cape Town City Tour which includes 11 stops around the city including Table Mountain. Then there is the Cape Town Peninsula Tour which makes 14 stops around the peninsula including Kirstenbosch Gardens. The Cape Town Wine Tour is very popular and stops at three of the best wine estates in Constantia.  What is interesting with these tours is that your bus ticket allows you to hop off at any attraction that interests you and hop on again when the next bus comes through.

    Cape Point Explorer Tour

    This tour is a full day experience. The bus leaves Cape Town at around 9:45 and travels along the sea front passing through Muizenberg and Fish Hoek and makes its first stop at Boulders Beach. This beach is the home of thousands of African penguins and allows you to come within a few meters of this endangered species. After leaving Boulders Beach the bus travels through the Cape Point Nature Reserve and stops at Cape point where you will enjoy a light lunch. The view from Cape Point is remarkable as you can take in the surrounding mountains and the sea where the two currents meet. You will be offered the privilege of taking numerous short walking trails which lead to wonderful beaches and scenic viewing points.  After the day is almost over the bus returns to Cape Town making use of the scenic coastal drive and also extends over the Ou Kaapse Weg mountain pass to arrive back at 17:30.

    Accommodation in Cape Town

    Accommodation is plentiful in Cape Town and ranges from Hotels, Self Catering, Holiday Cottages, Holiday Homes, Holiday Apartments and Bed and Breakfasts and more. This includes the V and A Waterfront that has 32 accommodation facilities and is within 2 Km of Cape Town. Camps Bay with 142 places to stay and is 14km from Cape Town. There is also Bloubergstrand with about 270 places to stay and can be found 20km from Cape Town. Then Sea Point has 66 places to stay and is only 8 Km from Cape Town. The accommodation available in Cape Town is of the best in the world and offers the tourist affordable prices and five star services.