10 Off-beat road trips to try this holiday season

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Cape Town - South Africa is home with some of the world’s most famous tourist attractions – Durban’s beaches, Cape Town’s mountain and wine lands, and Johannesburg’s bustling hub of economic activity.

But, if you’re looking for something a little less mainstream and a little more quirky – you’re in luck!

Here are 10 off-the-beaten-track, hidden spots you should add to your #SARoadTrip bucket list.

1. Gamkaskloof… not for the fainthearted

Marked by a lone signpost, 15km from Prince Albert, is the road to Gamkaskloof, best tackled by owners of 4x4 vehicles who are comfortable to travel at 25km/h. Access to this long and fertile valley is not for the fainthearted, with treacherous mountain pass roads clinging to the hillsides.

However, the remarkable scenery and unspoiled wildlife are the things pilgrimages are made of, with CapeNature Conservation managing bookings for camping and accommodation along the banks of the Gamka River.

ALSO SEE: SA's most extreme mountain passes

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Steeped in Anglo-Boer War history, the valley was originally discovered by trekboers who settled there – and then left, with just one of the original families – the Jouberts – remaining to tell tales of years gone by.

2. Kaapsehoop… not in the Cape

At an altitude of more than 1700m above sea level, Kaapsehoop in Mpumalanga is a quaint little mountain village that is home to wild horses, blue swallows, eagles, hawks, buck, baboons and other small animals too.

Enjoying a cooler climate, Kaapsehoop is free from malaria (unlike many other towns in Mpumalanga), and boasts several restaurants and craft stores.

You could sleep in The Royal Coach, a train carriage used by Queen Elizabeth II on her visit to South Africa in 1947, or you could spend a night in one of the many charming guesthouses in the village. The surrounding landscape offers contrasts between forest plantations and rocky outcrops, and the village is a welcome stopover en route to the Kruger National Park.

3. Tootle along to Tonteldoos

Moving away from popular Dullstroom in Mpumalanga, you’ll find Tonteldoos. The village is home to several guesthouses that offer a year-round quiet getaway, as well as the Pendle Hill Country estate, which makes its own organic cheeses using milk from its own herd of Jersey cows, who are milked to the strains of classical music.

Don't forget to try the peach mampoer and or a local donkey-cart ride. 

SEE: Exploring the waterfalls of the Panarama route

A photo posted by Angus Ewing (@angusewing) on

4. Head for Hogsback

Hogsback is located at the western end of the forested Amatola Mountains in the Eastern Cape and is home to numerous artists, potters, painters and poets. The surrounding areas of the village are perfect for walking, mountain biking, bird watching, mountain climbing and trout fishing.

The village is also home to a remarkable collection of manicured gardens, with enthusiasts from around the country travelling to view the achievements of local horticulturists. Named for the three mountain peaks that look much like the wild hogs in the nearby forest, the area is also home to a wealth of bird life.

READ: Hogsback - place of magic and legend 

A photo posted by Nix (@vegan_nix) on

5. Beautiful Bethulie

Bethulie is just about spot on in the middle of South Africa, but it is also in the middle of three game reserves: the Tussen-die-Riviere Game Reserve (between the Caledon and Orange Rivers), the Oviston Nature Reserve and the Gariep Eco Reserve.

Located in the Free State close to the Gariep Dam, Bethulie was originally a mission station set up by the London Missionary Society to convert the local San Bushmen, and the original mission station still stands.

READ: 10 Things to do in and around the Gariep Dam

It’s gone through many name changes over the years, having been known as Groot Moordenaars Poort, Caledon, Verheulpolis, Heidelberg and now Bethulie!

Apart from game viewing, visitors can enjoy hiking, fishing, hunting, boating and sundowners on the Hennie Steyn Bridge, the longest railroad bridge in South Africa.

6. Perfect Prince Albert

Home to a wealth of artists and craftspeople, Prince Albert in the Karoo is fast becoming a food, culture and wine destination.

More than 250-years-old, the town is also home to several ghosts, with visitors able to take a guided ghost walk through the town to see who they can see! Well-known for its fresh and dried fruit – particularly apricots and figs – Prince Albert is also at the heart of South Africa’s mohair region.

READ: SA gets two new biosphere regions

(Flickr / Creative Commons / Flickr: Anne-Mette Jensen)

The town has its own unique architecture, and still uses a canal system for water supply, which sees people with water rights in the town allocated specific days and times when they can direct water to their home.

Look out for the cinema (a re-purposed art-deco car dealership), the brightly painted houses, and the hand-painted dustbins (all 107 of them) that offer great advice to tourists.

7. Dear Darling

Pieter-Dirk Uys’s Evita se Perron may have put Darling onto the map, but this pretty town within easy reach of Cape Town has firmly established itself as one of the most beautiful places in the country to visit.

Darling is not only well-known for its flowers, salt and dairy produce but it is also making a name for itself as a wine-making region. Recently, Darling Tourism announced a bird route on which bird lovers can view some remarkable displays of the local wildlife.

READ: 5 Darling things to do in Darling and surrounds 

(Flickr / Creative Commons / Flickr: Allan Watt)

8. Mad about Matjiesfontein

If you think that a national monument has to be an in-animate object, think again. The entire town of Matjiesfontein in the Western Cape is a national monument. Originally established as a refreshment station for passing trains, Matjiesfontein is a time capsule of Victoriana, with the Lord Milner Hotel offering old world charm, elegant décor and a few ghost stories too!

There are numerous fine restaurants and museums in this oasis in the heart of the Karoo, as well as highlights like the Traveller’s Chapel, the Flourmill and the British Army Remount Camp.

READ:Time Travel with four of SA's best train trips 

A photo posted by Henk Badenhorst (@subman) on

9. Set your sights on Sutherland

Sutherland  is in the heart of the Roggeveld region in the Karoo, and is home to its own unique architecture, with buildings incorporating the area’s distinctive grey stone.

There are graveyards dating back to the Anglo Boer war, including two gravestones for the same soldier. Sutherland also boasts the youngest (inactive) volcano south of the Equator, as well as rich findings of fossils. 

(Flickr / Creative Commons / Flickr: Carolina Odman)

The town is not only famous for the depth of its history – this is the place to go if you want to see some of the most amazing night skies, unspoiled by light pollution. There are guest houses aplenty for visitors, who would do well to spend a few days exploring this gem. 

10. Full steam ahead at Sandstone

Head out along the R26 with its magnificent views of the Maluti mountains which sits on the borders of South Africa and Lesotho and you may just spot the restored locomotive chugging along in the distance.

Forming part of one of South Africa's greatest, privately-owned steam train collections this little spot just outside Ficskberg in the Free State is an underrated attraction that should be experienced - you'll be rewarded with vintage memorabilia unlike anywhere else in SA. 

 Source: Cheapflights

Photos: Flickr & Instagram

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