Graaf-Reinet, Karoo,  South Africa

 We recommend a visit to Graaff-Reinet, sometimes referred to as the ‘Jewel of the Karoo’, set in the horseshoe curve of the Sundays River. This is a Dutch colonial town that time forget, full of classic 18th century residences in smart streets. It is the fourth oldest town in South Africa and home to the largest number of historical monuments. That sense of history pervades the town and the craftsmanship and skill of the various trades can be seen if you walk around the town. Dutch gables are common throughout the region. There is intricate wrought iron latticework decorating some houses, in the style of doorways and chimneys.

Graaff-Reinet is home to several museums and art galleries as well as antique shops and modern curiosity shops selling African crafts, luxury goods, shabby chic goods for the home and locally produced items such as mohair throws. Socially and culturally, Graaff Reinet is wealthy. Churches abound, there is a park and even a golf course on the outskirts. There are plenty of activities in the area if you enjoy the great outdoors and like to go hiking, horse riding, quad biking or bird watching.
A number of good restaurants adds that extra pleasure and satisfaction to a stay in Graaff-Reinet.
This is a safe area where you can walk the streets without undue care. The Valley of Desolation surrounded by the Sneeuberg range of mountains and wildlife viewing awaits at the Camdeboo National Park on the outskirts of Graaff-Reinet. There are zebra, buffalo, wildebeest and ostrich among other animals to spot.  You can either drive in your own car of employ the services of a ranger. Early morning or early evening viewing is recommended for the walk to the crags at the top for panoramic  views of the landscape before the sun is high in the sky or at sunset. The reservoir and Nqweba dam to the north of the town attracts plenty of deer and other animals. We saw fascinating colourful ververt monkeys near the road. The males exhibit crimson bottoms and sky blue testicles. Extremely wary of people, yet curious, the monkeys maintain a safe distance from cars and people. We spent several minutes observing them forage and play. Other animals spotted near the roadside in Graaf Reinet were  a mongoose, a snake, various species of antelope and numerous birds.
 Graaff-Reinet is a town with many facets and interesting local colour including an eccentric  ‘cat lady’ who owns thousands of cats.  This is one town where integration and the Rainbow Nation concept seems to work, people are most friendly. There is a good selection of shops in the high street plus local sellers offer an array of fresh fruit and vegetables and knickknacks.
Take drives out of Graaff-Reinet to the Mountain Zebra National Park to the east near Craddock or nearby towns.