The gem of the Karoo

Enclosed by a bend in the Sundays River, amid South Africa’s semi-desert and in the shade of the craggy Sneeuberg Mountain, lies the gem of the Karoo and South Africa’s 4th oldest town: Graaff-Reinet. Even though the small town is in the heart of the flat, sandy plains of the Karoo, it is surrounded by the Camdeboo National Park, disrupting the arid monotony by forming patchwork layers of greenery across craggy mountain sides and tops.

The town still retains a 19th century feel with its H-shaped Cape Dutch style houses topped with thatched roofs and known for high ceilings. The Reinet House Museum is a journey to the past and to a time of country-style living. The yellow, wooden floors groan and the hollow sound of footsteps echo through the spacious rooms that display an array of antiquated furniture, clothes, dolls and utensils. Commanding the centre of town is the magnificent Dutch Reformed Church, loosely modelled after England’s Salisbury Cathedral and a superb example of early Gothic architecture in South Africa.

Venture beyond the town borders to the 19,400 hectare Camdeboo National Park. Standing in the Valley of Desolation, Graaff-Reinet shrinks in comparison to the vast Karoo seen from the peculiar 120 metre dolerite pillars that loom above the town. The park lies at the foothills of the Sneeuberg mountain range and is home to the Nqweba Dam and a variety of wildlife. Keep an eye out for buffalo, eland, gemsbok and red hartebeest.



  • The Valley of Desolation with its uniquely formed 120 metre high, dolerite pillars, allows visitors a bird’s eye view of the town and vast expanse of the Karoo
  • The 19,400 hectare Camdeboo National Park surrounds Graaff-Reinet and houses the Nqweba Dam. A variety of wildlife can be observed including buffalo, eland, gemsbok and red hartebeest 
  • The Dutch Reformed Church’s Gothic architecture, pointed arches and stained glass windows, are the centrepiece of the town
  • The Reinet House Museum offers a glimpse into the past, displaying an array of furniture, utensils, dolls, and clothing from as far back as 1812

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