The Karoo, South Africa’s most underrated destination

discoverafrica 20 November 2017
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The little-known and underestimated Karoo is synonymous with South Africa's heartland magic. If anything, it can be compared the Gobi, the Outback or even New Mexico. This vast, semi-arid ancient seabed is dotted with farms, funky hotels and friendly faces. The word ‘Karoo’ is believed to be the KhoiKhoi word for ‘desert’ or ‘arid place’.

This is typical Karoo country

The Karoo is as big as Germany and harbors over 100 villages, towns, settlements and a couple of railway sidings. Despite the proliferation of modernity in this area, the human population is still as sparse as it was back in the 1900s, effectively giving the Karoo an enticing rural feel.

South Africa's Scenic Soul Space

Farm stalls like this are dotted all along the Karoo. These places often sell homemade jams and other local knick knacks

The Karoo is a majestic hinterveld of open plains and plateaus. One can drive for miles along the arid scrub and meet no one but the occasional farm hand going about their business on an old donkey cart. This quaint part of the country is home to some of the nation's creatives and story tellers. From novelists, artists, musicians, beer brewers, sculptors, chefs and internet wizards, the Karoo offers inspiration and mystique for many of South Africa’s talent.

The ostrich farms of Oudtshoorn in the the Karoo are popular destinations for locals and tourists alike. The Cango Caves, located a few miles from Oudtshoorn is a Precambrian site of dripstone caverns formed millions of years ago and we recommend including this site in your travel itinerary. From mohair farms to funky roadside hotels, the Karoo is an exciting and inexpensive space to visit.

The Karoo is also home to the annual Afrikaburn Festival that is hosted deep in the Tankwa National Park. This iconic music festival brings music, art and like-minded individuals together to celebrate an alternative mindset of giving, sharing and loving. As the gathering crowd fires up the night against the backdrop of reverberating beats and an unpolluted starry sky, the liveliness of the African spirit is almost palpable.

Afrikaburn Festival is an alternative, themed event that draws visitors from all the over the world

The Karoo is also home to the annual Afrikaburn Festival that is hosted deep in the Tankwa National Park. This iconic music festival brings music, art and like-minded individuals together to celebrate an alternative mindset of giving, sharing and loving. As the gathering crowd fires up the night against the backdrop of reverberating beats and an unpolluted starry sky, the liveliness of the African spirit is almost palpable.

This is dinosaur country. Remains of the Bradysaurus indicate that this ancient land once hosted an impressive array of prehistoric life. Rock paintings can be found all along the Karoo, telling us the story of a landscape enmeshed in the past.

Visitors can hike along numerous trails, visit a game reserve and indulge in what South Africans consider to be the best meat and biltong producing area in the country. Art, culture and sheer personality is why many people always return to the Karoo.

The Karoo is incredibly beautiful

All roads lead through the Karoo. If you haven't included this intriguing destination into your itinerary, take a look at our South Africa safari options. 

Feature image: Samara Karoo Private Game Reserve


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