“When I am here I feel that nothing can shut me in, that my thoughts can roam as far as the horizons”. Nelson Mandela.
Most travelers plan a stop in Golden Gate Highlands National Park only, but this does not do justice to this province. The Free State is an ideal place for a farm- or homestay, a camping trip or a multinight hiking trail.
On your travel from Jo’burg to Cape Town or Port Elizabeth, the Eastern High-lands are worth the detour.
The high-lands with their eroded sandstone hills dominate the eastern part, to the west the landscape consists largely of rolling grass- and farm-lands. The highlight of the Eastern Highlands is Golden Gate NP, part of the Drakensberg, not famous for its wildlife but for the red sandstone outcrops. This is one of Africa’s best hiking spots.
West of the park is Clarens, the nicest of the small towns along the Lesotho. This artists town has good outdoor restaurants and plenty B&B accommodation, here you’ll find some of the best horse-riding.
Close to Clarens lies Rustler’s Valley, where you can ride, hike or just simply hang out on a farm. This is the epicenter for young travellers, ageing hippies and party-goers.
The eastern Free State is the gateway to Lesotho, a tourist can cross the border close to all small towns. Lesotho (the land of the people who speak Sesotho) is totally surrounded by South Africa and is making a reputation for itself as a fantastic adventure tourist destination.
The Basotho people are very friendly and welcoming, and the country is relatively safe and politically stable compared to some of its neighbours.
No post-apartheid effects, traditional lifestyles still very much alive and a laid back pace make Lesotho refreshingly different.
Add superb mountain views, excellent hiking and horse riding trails, comfortable accommodation in lodges, B&B’s, Guest Houses and hotels and most places are accessible with an ordinary rental car.
Travellling southeast you should stop at the Basotho Cultural Village and Phuthadijhaba. Here it is possible to hike up the highest plateaus of the Drakensberg. Affordable accomodation is offered by Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge, a local community project.
Free State’s capital Bloemfontein, offers good Bed and Breakfast accommodation at reasonable prices. People come from all over for hospital treatment, the university and boarding schools.
There is enough to explore to justify a two day stay, the Oliewenhuis Art Gallery, historical Pres. Brand Street and there are good restaurants, museums and accommodation. The hip, student-led nightlife and relaxed atmosphere make Bloemfontein one of the more pleasant cities in South Africa.