Graaff Reinet – the grand old lady of the Karoo Heartland has been described as no other place on earth. Established in 1786, Graaff Reinet is rich in both heritage and natural beauty with beautifully maintained historic homes and buildings, tree-lined streets and a magnificent Dutch Reformed Church at the centre of it all. 

Graaff Reinet is surrounded by a vast and wonderful Karoo landscape that includes the Valley of Desolation, Camdeboo National Park and the Nqweba Dam. Visitors can explore via mountain bike, car or hiking and won’t quickly forget those views of the land meeting the sky. 

Here are five photo opportunities you won’t want to miss when you visit Graaff Reinet: 

Valley of Desolation

The Valley of Desolation is characterised by vast and panoramic views, ageless rocky cliffs (some 120m from the valley floor) and the magnificent plains of the Karoo Heartland. These unique rock formations are the volcanic and erosive forces of nature over 100 million years and standing on the edge of the valley, surrounded by silence and golden light is sure to inspire a sense of timeless beauty. 

NG Kerk (Dutch Reformed Church)

Known as “Groot Kerk” (Big Church) this iconic church stands guard over the town of Graaff Reinet, imposing and quite lovely. Architecturally, the church is Gothic Revival and based on the lines of Salisbury Cathedral in England and the inaugural sermon delivered on the 11th September 1887. The stone for this church was obtained locally and the church, which can seat 1,250 and boasts a chimney, an unusual feature for a church. 

Nqweba Dam

Previously known as Vanryneveld’s Pass Dam, the Nqweba Dam is on the Sundays River and has a vast surface area of 10 000 square metres. Offering lovely views across the water and the mountains, the dam is popular with angling and watersports enthusiasts. Another benefit of Nqweba is that it lies within the Camdeboo National Park. Make time to take in either a sunrise or sunset at the dam – you won’t regret it! 

Camdeboo National Park

Camdeboo National Park is everything you could possibly hope for in a Karoo Heartland national park. Visitors can expect buffalo, mountain zebra, kudu, red wildebeest, eland, gemsbok, springbok, blesbok, ostrich, black widebeest and many other animals whilst taking in the millions-year-old Karoo landscape. 

Obesa Cactus Nursery

What started as a hobby for Obesa Nursery founder, CJ Bouwer has grown into one of the largest privately owned Cacti & Succulent nurseries in the world. Obesa houses some 7000 species of plants in the ideal Karoo Heartland climate and raises about 350 000 plants per year. Be prepared to be swept away by the sheer variety and unusual landscape of Obesa. 

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