Want to explore the off-beaten path of South Africa? Head North! There are many things to do in Northern Cape, it covers over one-third of the nation’s landmass, an area dominated by heat, aridity, empty spaces, and huge traveling distances.
Mostly famous for the diamond mines, the Northern Cape also has a substantial agricultural area around the Orange River, including most of South Africa’s sultana vineyards and obviously wildlife, because it wouldn’t be South Africa if there was no wildlife.
The Northern Cape province was established in 1994 (after Apartheid ended) when the Cape Province was split up. Before 1994, South Africa had four provinces: the Transvaal and Orange Free State, previously Boer republics, and Natal and the Cape, once British colonies.
This Northern Cape Travel Guide includes amazing Northern Cape activities to add to your bucket list.
Where is Northern Cape
Facts about Northern Cape
- The Northern Cape is the largest and most sparsely populated province of South Africa. It’s equivalent to the size of Germany and takes up nearly a third of South Africa.
- The Capital City of Northern Cape – Kimberly is one of the three capital cities of South Africa.
- Northern Cape borders two African countries, Namibia in Karas and Hardap and Botswana in Kgalagadi.
- The province is only 26 years old in 2020.
Places to visit in Northern Cape
Some of the best cities and towns to visit for Northern Cape activities:
Known for its 19th century Diamon Mine, Kimberly is the capital and largest city of the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. The driving distance from Johannesburg to Kimberley is approximately 450 KM.
Known as Springbokfontein until 1911 when it was shortened to Springbok. This town is located about 120km from Nambia in the Namaqualand area in the Northern Cape province of South Africa. The town is also home to The Blue Mine – the first commercial mine in South Africa to mine copper.
Founded in 1873 and originally known as Kharahais, Upington is the principal town and commercial, educational, and social center of the Green Kalahari, owing to its prosperity to agriculture and its irrigated lands along the Orange River. Upington enjoys a summer rainfall and a hot climate.
Things to do in Northern Cape
Here’s a list of the top places to visit in Northern Cape:
See the eye of Kuruman
This phenomenon is the largest natural fountain in the Southern Hemisphere, delivering an astounding 20 to 30 million liters of fresh water every day.
Visit the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO)
Established in 1972, The South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) is the national center for optical and infrared astronomy. The facility’s function is to conduct research in astronomy and astrophysics.
See the Big Hole in Kimberly
Kimberly Mine covers 170,000 square meters, reached a depth of 240 meters, and yielded three tons of diamonds. The mine was closed in 1914.
In 1866, Erasmus Jacobs found a tiny white pebble on the De Kalk farm on the banks of the Orange River near Hopetown in the former Cape Colony. That pebble turned out to be a 21.25-carat diamond.
Today the Big Hole is a unique open-air museum with viewing platforms and a wide selection of original houses, offices, and shops. The museum boasts Kimberley’s oldest house (imported from England in 1877), the diggers pub, a reconstruction of the De Beers’ homestead, and much more.
See the first diamond found in SA at the Kimberly Mine Museum
On display are the “616” (616 carats), the largest uncut diamond in the world, and the “Eureka”, the first diamond discovered the country.
Go on safari at Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park
One of the best national parks in South Africa due to its remoteness, undeniably striking landscape filled with weird rock formations and sandy moonscapes dotted with otherworldly trees. One of the main features of the combined park is the world’s second-largest canyon, the Fish River Canyon.
At Sendelingsdrift, on the South African side, a pontoon has been established to ferry people and vehicles across the Orange River. Sendelingsdrift is a border post and entry to the Namibian side of the park (weather permitting, phone park).
Stargaze in Sutherland
Northern Cape is home to the famous Southern African Large Telescope (SALT). SALT can be visited Monday-Saturday from 10h30 – 14h30 and tourists can book a guided tour at the visitor center.
Go river rafting on the Orange River
The longest river in South Africa.
Play golf at Sishen Golf Course
Ranked as one of the top 30 golf courses in the country. Facilities include a driving range, practice, and halfway house as well as tennis, squash, bowls, and swimming facilities.
Have a drink at the 2nd oldest pub in the country
Open since 1870, Diamond Girls (previously known as the Star of the West Pub) has had uninterrupted service for 147 years.
Catch Waterfalls at Augrabies Falls National Park
Augrabies Falls on the Orange River is around 56 meters in height. It is known as one of Northern Cape’s best-kept secrets. It was created when the Gariep (Orange) River thunders through a ravine.
Namaqua National Park is a wildflower wonderland, and one of three biodiversity hotspots in South Africa.
Namaqualand falls within the winter rainfall region of South Africa. The highest rainfall period is between June to August. Average winter temperatures vary between 7 degrees and 19 degrees Celsius, while summer temperatures vary between 20 degrees and 42 degrees Celsius.
Go Sandboarding at The Red Dune Route
Head up north of Upington all the way through the Kalahari Desert to the Namibian border for a once in a lifetime sandboarding experience!
The dunes are red due to the high iron oxide levels found within the sand. This area is also home to a large variety of wildlife including our national animal – the springbok, gemsbok, and black-maned lions.
Keep in mind that the weather here is quite hot, daytime temperatures can become quite high so sunblock is a definite must, whereas night-time temperatures can drop below zero degrees Celsius.
There are many fun things to do in Northern Cape especially in this Red Dune Region, some activities along the route include dune boarding, camel riding, 4×4 routes, game drives, guided walks, and bird watching.
South Africa Travel Tips
- Best Game Reserves near Cape Town
- Amazing Books about South Africa
- Best Day Trips from Johannesburg
- What to pack for Safari in South Africa
Travel Insurance for South Africa
Use travel insurance while visiting South Africa so you are covered for theft and medical expenses. There are a lot of adventurous activities to do in SA, and it’s best to have peace of mind while driving, hiking, and trying some of the best food in the world.
Find out why I recommend World Nomads, check out my World Nomads Insurance review.
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