A Gentle Guide to Karoo Roadtripping

The Karoo is all about slow travel. Explore, talk to people and appreciate the clean air and water. Here are a dozen handy tips to extract maximum enjoyment from your journey through this semi-desert.

1. Take your time and explore. Venture off the national roads.  Take the dirt roads – they are some of the real treasures of Karoo travel. Take it slowly though – you never know when a flock of sheep, a family of meerkats, a kudu or a farm tractor may cross the road.

A roadside Karoo comfort break to stretch the legs and check the veld out.

2. Get out of your vehicle at a quiet space. Inhale the clean air and the fragrance of the Karoo bossies. Absorb the silence, punctuated by birdsong and the odd creaking Aermotor. Rest your eyes on the far horizons. Make a point of tasting fresh Karoo water from a windpump.

3. Stop at farmstalls. They are great places to stretch your legs, buy some rusks and jams for friends and family, and quite often to sample homemade produce from the region. Try the lamb pies. Also, the toilets are usually well maintained.

4. Make a point of filling up with diesel at the local co-op (look out for a name like BKB, OVK or CMW, or just ask for directions). Co-ops almost always offer much better prices for diesel than other service stations.

“Could we live here, in this little middle-of-nowhere Karoo cottage? Why not?”

5. Don’t judge a Karoo town by a Sunday afternoon (when it seems practically uninhabited) and SASSA Days, when every street is chaotically full of people come to claim their pensions and disability grants. These are the extremes.

6. If you are staying in a Karoo town, make a point of going for a walk through the streets. It’s always interesting to head for the Moederkerk where you might strike up a conversation with the Koster (sexton).

7. On that subject, why not attend a church service if you’re in town on a Sunday? You will almost certainly be warmly welcomed.

Going from town to town on a Karoo road trip – the perfect gypsy life.

8. A farmstay is one of the best ways of experiencing Karoo hospitality. Set aside at least two or more nights to truly enjoy the quiet, to go for long walks in the veld and to enjoy Karoo cuisine.

9. One of the joys of the Karoo is stoepsitting. This is what it means: to sit on a verandah enjoying the view, chatting with friends or just enjoying the peace.

10. You’ll find that you are acknowledged in a Karoo town. Complete strangers will look you in the eye, greet you, or wave at you in your vehicle. It’s good to reciprocate.

Overnight stay at the incredible Karroo Theatrical Hotel, Steytlerville.

11. The Karoo offers some spectacular cloudscapes and sky theatre. Set aside time to look up at the cobalt blue skies and watch thunderheads building up from horizon to horizon in summer.

12. At night, go outside and look at the bright stars in the velvet darkness.

Oh, and one more. Switch off your GPS. It won’t really work well in the Karoo, especially on the backroads. The information here isn’t regularly updated and you might find yourself in front of a locked gate in the dark.

Use a map!

The concrete road between Steytlerville and Willowmore.

Please Note: We have the Karoo Roads trilogy in stock, available for R800 including courier. For more info, contact co-author Julienne du Toit on julie@karoospace.co.za. And come along for the ride!



20 thoughts on “A Gentle Guide to Karoo Roadtripping

  1. sandra kuisis says:

    The Karoo, the most versatile and beautiful on earth, take time to look at the panoramic views and look down at your feet, at the marvels of nature in such a harsh climate. I was born here, and still shed tears of joy at the homecoming everytime I cross the Orange River going south!

    • Chris Marais says:

      Hi Susan, Thanks for the comment, we’ll check your blog out. Travel well, travel safe and if your American friends want a Karoo e-book travel companion or two, you know where to send them! Regards, Chris & Jules

  2. Deon Schaap says:

    Ek sal graag van die wat rerig weet wil hoor watter roete kan ek volg van se vanaf Worcester tot weer daar met ‘n groot sirkel wat die beste dele van al die Karoo”s meer of min sal insluit??? Baie dankie!!!

    • Julienne du Toit says:

      Dis nou a moeilike vraag. I’m switching to English now because I’m already at a disadvantage without a map in front of me (being on the road). Obviously you must start your trip at the Karoo Desert Botanical Garden in Worcester to get a distilled flavour of Karoo vegetation. Route 62 from Robertson and Montagu through Barrydale, Calitzdorp and so on through to Oudtshoorn is fantastic. Then over the Swartberg Pass to Prince Albert. From there you can head to De Rust and have a look at Meiringspoort (taking in Klaarstroom on the way). Willowmore is very pretty, as is Steytlerville. Then navigate north through to Cradock, then Graaff-Reinet (bit of a dog-leg, but worth it). Somehow you’ll have to squeeze in Nieu Bethesda. Try not to miss Loxton, Victoria West, Williston, Calvinia. The little towns along the N7 are wonderful (Kamieskroon is a must-see in spring).
      You might also want to get hold of Nick Yell’s book, called Circling the Great Karoo, and our e-book, 101 Karoo Towns. Hope you have a fabulous time!

      • Deon Schaap says:

        Thanks for your reply…..think I’ll get hold of the books suggested …really want to
        travel into the northen part of the Great Karoo

  3. Liezel says:

    We want to stay over on a ‘lekker” traditional Karoo farm when we drive down to Stilbaai. Preferably between Colesberg and Beaufort West or Colesberg and Graaff-Reinet. As little exposure as possible to other human beings but still accessible by car. Please assist. Thank you!

    • Dirk van Rensburg says:

      I am 75 years old and I still want to travel through all the little places in the old Karoo. My wife and I have been to Prince Albert and surrounding places a few times but still want to travel the rest of the Karoo. It’s beautiful, especially those sunsets and the tranquillity.

  4. Liz Gildenhuys says:

    The most serene place in South Africa must be the Karoo. What a wonderful place full of lovely people and experiences.I am privileged to have very good friends, Peter and Clare who farm in the Colesberg area. Every year I look forward to my Karoo holiday yhere and I’m never disappointed.it’s a great place to unwind from the bustle of Johannesburg .

  5. Glad Filur says:

    Hi, what about safety? In the 80ies and early 90ies I did some very nice road trips by car. Wonderful! Now I would feel a bit uncertain; do I need a gun for protection? But I guess that would be forbidden?

    • Marianne Gouws says:

      Depending on where in the Karoo – but we travel regulary to Sutherland, Merweville, Middelpos, murderers Karoo and the Tankwa. Some nights we talk around the camp fire the whole night, some night we sleep under the stars and some nights we book in and sleep at establishments. Did about 13 trips the past 3 years and never ever did we ever have any trouble – best is to talk with the local people and trust your gut feeling….

  6. Bart Logie says:

    What excellent advice and applicable generally, not only to the Karoo. For more than 50 years we have chosen whenever possible to drive on the dirt and have never regretted it, even when we found ourselves with a puncture and 10 metres of barbed wire wrapped around a back wheel and axle. It resulted in our meeting three of the most helpful, charming and generous of young people, and restored our faith in the youth of South Africa.

  7. D.G. Jansen van Rensburg says:

    I still feel the same about the Karoo, still want to travel more in this part of the world. The tranquility, peaceful environment and silence where you can even hear God calling.

  8. Alex F. says:

    Love this! Still dreaming of semi-grating from the big smoke. Thanks Chris & Jules! (and would also like to wish you a belated Merry Christmas!)

    • Julienne du Toit says:

      Hi Lora
      The Eastern Cape Karoo is a lovely place to roadtrip. The towns are generally around two hours apart, the scenery is spectacular, and the people are really friendly. Head south past Bloemfontein to Middelburg, Hofmeyr and Cradock. Then you could explore Nieu-Bethesda, Graaff-Reinet, Aberdeen and Somerset East. Bedford is also lovely. For a taster, see https://karoospace.co.za/cruising-karoo-heartland/.

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