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Open Africa

Mid-Karoo Route


Middelburg Cultural Historical Museum
This cultural and historical museum displays the history of Middelburg and the surrounding areas. The museum is 25 years...

Bethesda Art Centre
The Bethesda Art Centre, situated in Muller Street, Nieu-Bethesda, cannot be missed with its big fairytale like tower, w...



Below is a list of accommodation establishments along this route. Bookings and enquiries can be made directly with the establishment.

Karoo Ouberg Lodge
Karoo Ouberg Lodge is a 3-star country executive lodge situated in Middelburg, the Heartland of the Karoo. The nine won...

Celtis Garden Cottages
These garden cottages are all stylishly furnished with en-suite bedrooms and fully equipped kitchens. All meals can be a...

Glen Farm Stay
With its close proximity to town, Glen Farm Stay offers ideal alternative accommodation, with hiking, birding, quad biki...

Ganora Guest Farm and Excursions
Ganora Farm was registered in 1838, just after the Great Trek, by the Davels who came to live there. They had a son who...

Aloe's Guesthouse
Aloe’s Guesthouse can sleep up to 17 guests and caters for every need. It offers a gated swimming pool, huge patio...

Owl House Backpackers
The Owl House Backpackers offers a clean, bright, welcoming home away from home in the heart of Nieu-Bethesda. It is on...

@Schoombee Karoo Accommodation
This house sleeps up to 10 people with inside and outside braai (barbeque) areas, fully equipped kitchens, comfortable b...

Aandster Guestroom
Sunshine pours into this spacious self-catering house with a view of Compass Mountain during the day and at night the st...

Carlton Heights Guesthouse
Carlton Heights offers a fully equipped Karoo farmhouse with five rooms, great braai (barbeque) facilities, secure under...

Hillston Farm
At Hillston Farm you will find vast grassy plains interspersed with ironstone koppies and valleys with dams and rivers,...

Erin Country House and Cottages
This facility serves as a relaxing stopover with its early 1900’s Edwardian farmhouse, which over the ye...

Karoo Country Inn
The Karoo Country Inn, built in 1853, is a beautifully restored Cape Victorian hotel that takes you back to the frontier...

Karoo Herberg
The Karoo Herberg is restored in typical Karoo style with a view to maintaining as much of its simplicity as possible. I...

Lazy Lizzard B&B and Restaurant
Lazy Lizzard B&B and Restaurant, owned by Terry and Avon Anderson, is situated close to the old station building in...

Middelburg Manor
The Middelburg Manor is a typical Karoo style house with its big 'stoep' and sash windows. It is situated in Richmond Ro...

Monaghty Guest Farm
Monaghty Guest Farm is on a working sheep farm and guests are able to experience the day to day workings of the farm. Th...

Mt. Melsetter Karoo House and Hunt
Mount Melsetter provides a superb venue to break away from the pressures of day to day living. The Karoo House lies und...

Nicky and Co. B&B Cottage
Nicky's B&B Cottage is adjacent to his coffee shop in an immaculately restored traditional Karoo style house. It off...

Outsiders B&B
After travelling around the world, launching weather balloons in Antarctic blizzards, crossing the Congo in a dug-out ca...

Somerland Guesthouse
Bruce’s interest and research into the Owl House eventually led to him settling in Nieu-Bethesda where he opened a...

The Don Guesthouse
The Don Guesthouse, known as the gem of Noupoort, is known as preferred lodging in the Upper Karoo. With Noupoort recent...

KaiKai Guesthouse
KaiKai Guesthouse is situated in the heart of Steynsburg. The guesthouse opened its doors in September 2003 and has buil...

Black Eagle Ridge
Black Eagle Ridge is situated 4km from Steynsburg on the Molteno Road, with another 4km to the lodge that can only be tr...

Mautanrho Homestay
Mautanrho Homestay is an old Karoo style home that offers accommodation in four comfortable bedrooms. Two of these rooms...

House No.1
Nestled in the heart of the quaint little village of Nieu-Bethesda, in the fertile foothills of the Sneeuberg Mountains,...


Below is a list of arts and crafts outlets and projects on this route. Booking and enquiries can be made directly with the business.

Jakob's Guided Donkey Cart Tours
Jakob offers donkey cart tours with comfortable seats and spectacular views of the village. He has lived in Nieu-Bethesd...

Karoo River Rafting and Cabins
Set in the stunning surrounds of the Schoombee Karoo, this perfect farm get-away combines the breathtaking beauty of the...

Transkaroo Adventures
This 10 500ha farm consists of flat and mountain terrain, making it the perfect location for hiking trails.On offer are...

   Arts & Crafts

Below is a list of arts and crafts outlets and projects on this route. Enquiries can be made directly with the business.

Sibuyisubuntu Project
Sibuyisubuntu is a project that specializes in beading, traditional garments, handbags and beanies. The traditional bean...

GDE Leather
It is easy to find the premises of GDE Leather in Middelburg, for there, on the sidewalk in the main street, stands an A...

Goggahuis Art & Craft
Freddie Jacobs has always been a self-employed, self taught artist. His complex and charming wire sculptures have found...

Sonnett Olls Art Gallery
Sonnett Olls Art Gallery exhibits all arts and crafts from Middelburg and the surrounding areas. The production of uniqu...

Umsobomvu Development
Umsobomvu Development Cooperation was established in 2001 by three unemployed women who had some skills in spinning, wea...

Community Correctional Shop
Middelburg Correctional Services opened this shop to serve as an outlet for handcraft created by convicts and ex-convict...

Sneeuberg started as a home based business 20 years ago manufacturing woollen products, such as duvets, pillows and unde...


Below is a list of environmental attractions on this route. Booking and enquiries can be made directly with the business.

Kitching Fossil Exploration Centre
The Karoo is one of the world's richest locations for fossils and records how the environment on earth changed between 3...

Amafelandawonye Poultry Project
The Amafeladawonye Poultry Project is situated close to the Midros sewerage plant in Middelburg, and started in June 200...

Crane Working Group (EWT)
Bradley Gibbons is employed by the Endangered Wildlife Trust, where he forms part of the Crane Working Group that specia...

Lisolomzi Gardening Project
The Lisolomzi Gardening Project is situated on a piece of farmland just outside Middelburg on the Richmond Road. This pr...

Siyavuya Agric
The Siyavuya Agricultural project is located outside Middelburg on a piece of farmland bought by government for previous...

   Food & Drink

Below is a list of restaurants and other food and beverage outlets on this route. Bookings and enquiries can be made directly with the establishment.

Nicky and Co Coffee Shop, Gift Shop, Art Gallery and Picture Framing
Nicky developed a passion for Middelburg and the greater Karoo in his travels, so he decided to leave the bright lights...

Africa's Igloo
Africa's Igloo is owned and run by Johan Fleischer, an Austrian born master pastry chef, who recently moved to Steynsbur...

Georg Restaurant
Open since 1 December 2017, Georg Restaurant is the new place to be in the Karoo. Located 54km from Graaff-Reinet it is...


Below is a list of services on this route. Enquiries can be made directly with the business.

Middelburg Karoo Tourism
This building used to be the prison wardens home, with Middelburg's first prison alongside. The building is restore...

The Gospel Friends
Piet Uithaler's group of singers and dancers are ideal entertainment for any function or gathering. They are regulars at...

Ian van Straaten Photography Tours
Ian van Straaten is a professional photographer and has been involved in photography for more than 20 years. He is regis...

Grootfontein Agricultural College
Grootfontein's history goes back to 1903 when the British department of War purchased certain portions of the farms Groo...


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The Mid-Karoo Route meanders through the towns of Middelburg, Noupoort, Rosmead, Steynsburg and Nieu-Bethesda, highlighting a range of attractions along the way. Once a bustling centre at the heart of South Africa's transport industry, the towns are now much quieter but still show remnants of this bygone era. Nature has now started to claim back the land, uncovering a historically rich and magnificent landscape.

The route is surrounded by dramatic mountains in the heart of the great Karoo region and is recognised for its herbal plant life, exceptional variety of scarce birdlife, the famous Teebus and Koffiebus Koppies and the Orange River Water Scheme. It is also one of few places left in the world where fossils can be found in their natural environment and numerous examples of San rock art can be viewed in nearby caves.

Reasons to visit:

The Mid-Karoo Route is home to open spaces, Karoo sunsets, star gazing, fresh air and snow-capped mountains. Author Eve Palmer's words in 'The Plains of Camdeboo' best describe the Great Karoo, its people and this Mid-Karoo Route:

"Few people have the good fortune to be born in a desert. I was. All my life I have been conscious of my luck. Not, indeed, that we of the Karoo often think of our land as desert. It is the travellers who have crossed our plateau for two hundred years, and our visitors of today, who have called it this - and still do."

Fugard Festival
When: 2015 dates TBC    
Where:  Nieu-Bethesda    
Tel:  +27 49 841 1635

Darryl David, co-founder of Booktown Richmond, has announced the relaunch of the Athol Fugard Festival in the first quarter of next year. The festival for the famous playwright was held in Nieu-Bethesda in 2009, but did not continue annually due to a lack of funds.
Please note:  Users are kindly advised to check with the listed contacts for any late amendment(s) to the event information.

New Year's Festival of Lights
 31 December 2014
Where:  Bethesda Arts Centre, Muller Street, Nieu-Bethesda
Tel:  +27 49 841 1729

Come make your own lantern as part of the  parade of lanterns staged on Old Year's Eve in this small Karoo town that is home to the legacy of the artist Helen Martins.

A brief history of the regional towns:


Middelburg was founded in 1852 as a halfway point between the towns of Cradock, Colesberg, Richmond and Hofmeyr. Graaff-Reinet was founded in 1786 and the Cape Government proclaimed the district of Colesberg in 1837 and with the distance of 130 miles (nearly 200km) between Colesberg and Graaff-Reinet, it was decided that a town must be formed between the two towns. The Dutch Reformed Church then gave permission for the establishment of a new congregation and the Middelburg Dutch Reformed Church started on 19 May 1852. The town was established after the church and consisted of the three farms that were purchased for the town – Grootfontein, Driefontein and Kleinfontein. The first school started in 1880.

Middelburg and surrounding areas are rich in history from the Anglo Boer War. A pump station was built in 1904 (located in Grootfontein grounds) where water was pumped for British soldiers. Grootfontein started in 1913 and one of the oldest buildings in Middelburg (now the PW Vorster museum) is also on the grounds.

A flood occurred during March 1974, and many houses were damaged. Many talented people, such as Athol Fugard, who became a drama and playwright, were born in Middelburg (Athol was born in 1932).


First known as the Middelburg Road, this settlement was built around the railway line in 1879-1880. Chinese labourers were brought into the area in order to build the line. Rosmead is named after Sir Hercules Robinson Rosmead, a former governor of the Cape Colony.


The remains of blockhouses from the Anglo Boer War can be found between the two areas (Rosmead and Steynsburg), and an Anglo Boer War camp can be seen at the Hillston farm.

Thirty kilometres beyond Schoombee towards Steynsburg on the R56 road, stand two classic shaped South African flat-topped koppies, known as teebus and koffiebus (tea caddy and coffee caddy). Its here that the 82.8km long tunnel from the Gariep Dam, part of the Orange River Water Scheme, has its outlet and pours water into the Teebus River, which carries it southwards to irrigate the Fish and Sundays river valleys.

Orange River Water Scheme:

The Orange River (Now called the Gariep) and its major tributary, the Vaal River, convey nearly 23% of the total surface water of South Africa. Considering the generally dry climatic conditions characterizing the sub-continent, it is essential for this fresh water resource to be utilized to the greatest benefit of the country and its people, including those of Namibia.

The pioneer in the development of the water resources of the Orange River was Dr AD Lewis, one of the first administrative heads of the then Department of Irrigation (now the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry). As a result of recurring droughts in the Eastern Cape, Lewis, as early as 1928, broached the idea of building a tunnel from a point near Bethulie underneath the Suurberg Plateau to convey Orange River water via the Teebusspruit and the Brak River to eventually reach the Great Fish River valley.

This concept was followed up in 1944 when field surveys and drilling were initiated. This resulted in a report to the Government in 1948 which proposed a project comprising amongst others, a diversion dam on the Orange River as well as a diversion canal and tunnel underneath the divide to the Great Fish River valley, with a branch canal to the Sundays River valley. The first White Paper on the project was tabled in Parliament in 1951 and the actual development was started soon thereafter.

This was done as a result of the population explosion and accompanying development, which are continually increasing.

A project initially referred to as the Orange River Project was developed to utilize the water of the Orange River for extensive irrigation schemes, for the generation of hydro-electric power and for urban supply, thus providing for the increasing demand for water and food. The developments that have taken place in the Orange River basin are now so complex and inter-dependent that the term Orange River Project is no longer used, although much of the earlier documentation and White Papers still refer to it.


The town was founded in 1872, on the farm Bulhoek. It was owned by Douw Steyn, the grandfather of President Paul Kruger of the Zuid-Afrikaanse Republiek. The municipality was formed in 1892. The original farmhouse, where Paul Kruger was born, has been renovated and preserved as a national monument


The attractive and interesting little town of Nieu-Bethesda lies in the Southern Foothills of the Sneeuberge and is dominated by the highest peak of the range, the 2 502m high Kompasberg, so named in 1778 when Governor Joachim van Plettenberg and Colonel Jacob Gordon examined the area and considered that from the summit of this mountain they could encompass a panoramic view of the whole countryside.

In the arid setting of the Karoo, the site of the future town was generously watered by perennial streams flowing down the mountains. On the inspiration of Andrew Murray, the renowned parson of Graaff-Reinet, the Dutch Reformed Church founded a village there in 1875. On giving the place the biblical name of Bethesda (place of flowing waters) from John 5: verse 2-4, he used the words in Dutch "Laten sy dese plaats nu Bethesda noemen" (Let us now name the place Bethesda). In later years a mistake in translation turned the nu (now) into nieu (new) and this incorrect form is still used today.

Nieu-Bethesda is a delightful place to visit. The atmosphere is amiable and it is a pleasure to walk through the streets and find a place so unspoilt by modern development. Maybe the most extraordinary feature of Nieu-Bethesda is the Owl House of the late Helen Martins.


Noupoort was founded in 1884 when the railway reached the area. It then became the central place between many other towns, with its existence entirely dominated by the continual passage of trains. Originally spelt and pronounced as Nauwpoort, which was too much of a tongue twister for the English, its name had to change to Noupoort.

As railway activities dwindled over time, the town became quieter and more dilapidated. Today it presents a quaint up and coming tourist destination, with relatively cheap property prices.

Natural history:

The Nama Karoo Biome occurs on the central plateau of the western half of South Africa, at altitudes between 500 and 2000m, with most of the biome failing between 1000 and 1400m. It is the second-largest biome in the region.

The geology underlying the biome is varied, as the distribution of this biome is determined primarily by rainfall. The rain falls in summer, and varies between 100 and 520mm per year. This also determines the predominant soil type - over 80% of the area is covered by a lime-rich, weakly developed soil over rock. Although less than 5% of rain reaches the rivers, the high erodibility of soils poses a major problem where overgrazing occurs.

The dominant vegetation is a grassy, dwarf shrubland. Grasses tend to be more common in depressions and on sandy soils, and less abundant on clayey soils. Grazing rapidly increases the relative abundance of shrubs. Most of the grasses are of the C4 type and, like the shrubs, are deciduous in response to rainfall events.

The amount and nature of the fuel load is insufficient to carry fires and fires are rare within the biome. The large historical herds of Springbok and other game no longer exist. Like the many bird species in the area - mainly larks - the game was probably nomadic between patches of rainfall events within the biome. The Brown Locust and Karoo Caterpillar exhibit eruptions under similarly favourable, local rainfall events, and attract large numbers of bird and mammal predators.

Less than 1% of the biome is conserved in formal areas. The Prickly Pear Opuntia aurantiaca and Mesquite Prosopis glandulosa are the major alien invader species. Urbanization and agriculture are minimal, and irrigation is confined to the Orange River valley and some pans. Most of the land is used for grazing, by sheep (for mutton, wool and pelts) and goats, which can be commensurate with conservation. However, under conditions of overgrazing, many indigenous species may proliferate, including Threethorn Rhigozum trichotomum, Bitterbos chrysocoma ciliata and Sweet Thorn Acacia karoo, and many grasses and other palatable species may be lost. There are very few rare or Red Data Book plant species in the Nama Karoo Biome.

Most of the research into the dynamics of the biome has been done in the east of the region, with the Grootfontein Agricultural Station at Middelburg featuring prominently.

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Open Africa Routes

A route is a cluster of travel attractions, accommodation, tour operators, local artisans, guides and restaurants. It brings people together from all levels of community to promote travel to their area. You select what interests you on a route and create your own itinerary.

South Africa - Eastern Cape

South Africa - Eastern Cape

This route is surrounded by dramatic mountains in the heart of the great Karoo and falls within the Nama Karoo Biome. This region is recognised for its herbal plant life, an exceptional variety of scarce birdlife and rock art from the San Bushmen. It is also one of the few, and best, places in the world where fossils are found.

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Key Contacts

Rialize Hayes

Telephone: Click here
Mobile: Click here
Website: Click here


heritage eastern-cape koffiebus-koppies arts-and-craft middelburg teebus-koppies escape noupoort schoombee nieu-bethesda steynsburg orange-river-water-scheme karoo rosmead


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