The Free State

The Free State has rolling hills, wide golden plains, impressive sandstone mountains, year-round sunshine and numerous heritage attractions. Bloemfontein is the economic and cultural centre of the Free State. Called the City of Roses, it is the seat of the South African Supreme Court. Bloemfontein is home to The National Museum, which is a natural history, cultural history and art museum, and through its education programmes, enriches the learning opportunities of all individuals. Oliewenhuis Art Museum, a satellite of The National Museum, has a collection of early South African artists and continually expands its collection of works by contemporary South African artists. The nearby Free State National Botanical Garden spans a valley between picturesque dolerite koppies, and displays magnificent wild olive and karee trees.

The Motheo and Xhariep Regions lie in the south of the Free State – an area of vast open spaces of great natural beauty. Visit the Landzicht Wine Cellars in Jacobsdal – the first wine cellar built outside of the Cape; the mining hole and museum in Jagersfontein – at 500m wide and nearly as deep, the excavation is arguably bigger than the “Big Hole” in Kimberley; the charm and history of Philippolis – the oldest town in the Free State; the artistic flavour of Smithfield and Bethulie with their many art galleries and resident artists; the vital African flavour of Thaba’Nchu; and the legendary “Eye of Zastron”. Lejweleputsa lies to the north of the Xhariep Region and is traversed by some of the most sophisticated mines in the country. Visit the the folk-dancing monument and museum in Boshof; the Florisbad and Baden-Baden excavation sites outside of Dealesville – the 40 000-year-old skull of the Florisbad man was discovered here and is thought by many experts to be the most important archaeological find ever; the Goldfields Wine Cellars outside Theunissen; and the gold museums and mines in Welkom.

Covered by large tracts of water, the Northern Free State has both rustic charm and sophistication, and is home to the Vredefort Dome, South Africa’s seventh World Heritage Site. The dome-shaped Bergland area is located near the countryside towns of Parys and Vredefort. 2,023 million years ago, a meteorite as big as Table Mountain struck the earth and for ever changed the face of our planet. Because of its size the resulting impact structure is best viewed from the air or from space. Thabo Mafutsanyane’s picturesque mountains are capped with snow in winter. Backed by the Drakensberg and Maluti Mountains, the area is redolent of history and offers all kinds of adventure tourism opportunities. The nationally acclaimed Golden Gate Highlands National Park is well known for its splendid scenery and its unusual sandstone formations.