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The Garden Route and the Little Karoo Travel Guide

Places To Explore In The Garden Route and the Little Karoo

This region is a study in contrasts. The Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma mountains, forested ranges that shadow the coastline, trap moist ocean breezes, which then fall as rain on the verdant area known as the Garden Route. Meanwhile, these same mountains rob the interior of water, creating the arid semideserts of the Little and Great Karoo. Even within these areas, however, there is significant variety.


Garden Route, the 208-km (130-mi) stretch of coastline from Mossel Bay to Storms River, encompasses some of South Africa's most spectacular and diverse scenery, ranging from long beaches and gentle lakes and rivers to tangled forests, impressive mountains, and steep, rugged cliffs that plunge into the wild and stormy sea. It's the kind of place where you'll have trouble deciding whether to lie on the beach, lounge in a pretty pastry shop, or go on an invigorating hike. For most people the Garden Route is about beaches, which are among the world's best. Though the ocean may not be as warm as it is in KwaZulu-Natal, the quality of accommodations tends to be far superior, and you can take your pick of water sports.

A trip into the Little Karoo, on the other hand, offers a glimpse of what much of South Africa's vast hinterland looks like. This narrow strip of land wedged between the Swartberg and Outeniqua ranges, stretching from Barrydale in the west to Willowmore in the east, is a sere world of rock and scrub. The area is most famous for its ostrich farms and the subterranean splendors of the Cango Caves, but there is much more for the discerning visitor to see. However, unlike those found on the classic safari destinations, these treasures are not handed to you on a plate. You have to really look. Scour the apparently dry ground to spot tiny and beautiful plants. Or spend time walking in the sun to discover some of the many bird species. A fairly energetic hike into the hills will reward you with fascinating geological formations, numerous fossils, and extensive rock art. You can also just stand still and enjoy the space and the silence. Even if all this leaves you cold, it is still worth the effort to explore spectacular passes that claw through the mountains into the desert interior.

The national parks of Wilderness, Knysna, and Tsitsikamma, once separate entities, are now part of the Garden Route National Park. Each area is a section of the Garden Route National Park by name, but continues to be administered as before.

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Explore The Garden Route and the Little Karoo



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