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The Karoo, South Africa’s Most Underrated Destination

Vihann Van Wyk

Author: Vihann Van Wyk - 30 January 2024

Last Update: 20 November 2017

Part of the Karoo Desert & African Safari Collection

The Karoo, South Africa’s most underrated destination, is an enchanting hinterland echoing with the magic of the country’s heart.

Comparable to the Gobi Desert, Australia’s Outback, or New Mexico, this vast, semi-arid region was once an ancient seabed. It’s a tapestry of farms, quirky accommodations, and welcoming locals. The term ‘Karoo’ comes from the KhoiKhoi language, meaning ‘desert’ or ‘arid place’, perfectly capturing its essence.

Size and Population

Spanning an area a little larger than Germany, the Karoo encompasses over 100 villages, towns, and various settlements, including some historical railway sidings.

Flock of Sheep in The Karoo
Flock of Sheep in The Karoo

Modern developments have touched this region, yet it retains a sparse human population reminiscent of the early 1900s, giving it a unique rural charm.

The Hinterland and Its Inhabitants

The Karoo stands out as a majestic hinterland of open plains and plateaus. Driving through its arid scrub, you might encounter only a few locals, such as farmhands on traditional donkey carts. This area is a haven for South Africa‘s creatives – novelists, artists, musicians, chefs, sculptors, and even internet entrepreneurs find inspiration in its mystique.

Oudtshoorn and Its Attractions

In the heart of the Karoo lies Oudtshoorn, known for its ostrich farms and as a must-visit destination for both locals and tourists. Nearby, the ancient Cango Caves offer a glimpse into the Precambrian era with its dripstone caverns.

Cango Caves in Oudtshoorn
Cango Caves in Oudtshoorn

This region is also famed for its mohair farms and eclectic roadside hotels, making it a vibrant and budget-friendly destination.

Festivals and Celebrations

The Karoo is synonymous with the spirit of celebration, most notably the Afrikaburn Festival in Tankwa Karoo National Park. This event is more than a music festival; it’s a cultural melting pot celebrating art, community, and an alternative lifestyle under the African sky.

Additionally, the Karoo hosts various local festivals throughout the year, celebrating everything from local cuisine to traditional crafts, offering visitors a glimpse into the vibrant and diverse cultural tapestry of the region.

A Journey into Prehistory

The Karoo holds secrets of ancient life, with fossils like the Bradysaurus painting a picture of its prehistoric richness.

Rock paintings of early inhabitants
Rock art of early inhabitants

Rock art across the region narrates stories from a time long past, providing an intriguing glimpse into the lives of early inhabitants. These sites not only fascinate archaeologists but also captivate anyone interested in the deep history of our planet.

Adventure and Culinary Delights

For adventurers and nature lovers, the Karoo offers numerous hiking trails and game reserves. It’s also renowned for producing some of South Africa’s best meats and biltong, a testament to its rich culinary culture. Art, culture, and a distinctive personality draw visitors back to the Karoo time and again.

The Karoo, a crossroads of routes and stories, is an essential part of any South African safari itinerary. Its blend of natural beauty, rich history, and vibrant culture makes it a destination that should not be overlooked. Get in touch with a safari expert at Discover Africa to explore this beautiful landscape yourself.


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Copyright © Discover Africa Safaris | The Karoo, South Africa’s Most Underrated Destination | Last Updated: 30 January 2024