29 Best Sights in The Northern Cape, South Africa

Augrabies Falls National Park

Fodor's choice

South Africa's largest falls by volume of water, Augrabies plunges 653 feet over terraces and into an 18 km (11 miles) long gorge, which was carved into smooth granite over millions of years. It is strangely otherworldly, mesmerizing to behold. Legend has it that an unplumbed hole beneath the main falls is filled with diamonds washed downriver over millennia and trapped there.

You can hike in the park for an hour or several days, and you don't need a guide. Markers will direct you along routes that range from the short Dassie Nature Trail to the three-day Klipspringer Hiking Trail. You can also drive to the park's beautiful, well-appointed lookout points showcasing the gorge below the falls; scenic stops are highlighted on the maps provided with your entry permit. All are easily accessible and well marked. Unfenced Ararat provides the best views. Oranjekom, which is fenced and has a shaded hut, is particularly welcome in the blistering summer heat. The Swartrante lookout offers a view over rugged, barren areas of the park. Some areas suggest that you've arrived on another planet; others might evoke the Arizona Badlands.

If you have a 4x4, you can spend a good six hours following the 94-km (60-mile) Wilderness Road into some of the reserve's most remote parts. Midway along it is a scenic picnic spot where there are toilets and a braai (barbecue) area.

Depending on how things are with the pandemic, you might have to undergo a quick COVID-19 screening at the main gate. The visitor center, with an information office, shop, and restaurant, is a few miles down the road; this is also where you'll pay entry fees and where boardwalks to the main falls viewing areas and the SANParks rest camp are situated.

Big Hole

Fodor's choice

If you do one thing in Kimberley, visit the Big Hole, which, at 2,690 feet deep, is the world's largest hand-dug hole. Although water now fills most of its depth, it's still impressive, particularly from the observation post. You also get to explore facsimile tunnels for a sense of what it might have been like for miners—there's even a simulated dynamite blast that can take you unawares. At the end of the tunnels, comprehensive museum displays document the history of both the city and the mine. Replicas of the world's most famous diamonds, including the Eureka, a 21-carat yellow diamond that was South Africa's first recorded diamond discovery in 1866, are also on view.

Touring the extensive, open-air Kimberley Mine Museum, on the lip of the mine, is like stepping back in time to wander through a mining town with a host of authentic 19th-century buildings, many of which were moved here from the city center. They include the first house erected in Kimberley (1877), which was originally brought piece by piece from Britain to the diamond fields by ship and ox wagon; Barney Barnato's boxing academy; and the very popular Occidental Bar, which serves pub-style food and is reminiscent of a Wild West saloon. There is also a hotel, The New Rush Guesthouse, whose good-value accommodations are in a variety of the museum site's old buildings and have antique furniture and slipper bathtubs that enhance the time-travel sensation.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Fodor's choice

Called Kalahari Gemsbok National Park when it was first incorporated in 1931, Kgalagadi was combined with Botswana's Gemsbok National Park to create this internationally protected area of nearly 9 million acres. Unlike Kruger, South Africa's other mammoth national park, this is a desert park, with sparse vegetation and sand dunes. The game seen here is mostly concentrated around two roads that follow the park's two (mostly) dry riverbeds. These are dotted with man-made watering holes.

Black-maned Kalahari lions, springbok, oryx, pygmy falcons, and martial eagles are among the star animal attractions. You will not find the broad range of large mammals that you see in Kruger, but because of the sparse vegetation and limited grazing areas, animals are more visible here. Among the noteworthy plant species are plenty of beautiful camel-thorn acacia trees; you will also spot many of the large communal nests of sociable weavers that are something of a visual signature all across the Kalahari.

The park has several lodges and rustic rest camps, and while its isolation means that it's never as crowded as Kruger, the pandemic saw a marked increase in South African visitors. According to SANParks reports, the rest and wilderness camps here are almost always full, so don't delay in making reservations.

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Tswalu Kalahari Reserve

Fodor's choice

This game reserve northeast of Upington is one of the most child friendly in southern Africa, and children are not only welcomed but also well accommodated. The dedication of the rangers and attentiveness of the staff also allows for flexibility and special opportunities, from sleeping under the stars on the "Malori" open deck to enjoying an in-room Champagne breakfast in lieu of going out on a game drive. In addition, every group of guests is guaranteed its own game-viewing vehicle with a dedicated ranger and a tracker who knows the terrain and the animals intimately.

The reserve plays a very important conservation role. Backed by funds from the De Beers family, its desert black rhino population represents one-third of South Africa's remaining animals. In addition to rhino sightings, the on-foot experience with a colony of meerkats is a highlight, as are visits to 380,000-year-old rock engravings from the earliest residents of these phenomenal landscapes.

If you wish to see a pangolin, consider prearranging a visit with the reserve's specialist researcher. A few hours with Dr. Wendy Panaino will improve your odds of spotting one of these elusive, shy, adorable creatures. You can also explore parts of the reserve on horseback. Two stables welcome riders of all skill levels to participate in anything from short, gentle outings to adventurous outrides that offer utterly unique views of the reserve and its wild creatures.

Your stay will include a meal at the memorable Klein JAN restaurant, a true original in the culinary universe. Other meals will also be fabulous, too, with breakfast and lunch served whenever you please and, perhaps, a surprise dinner on the dunes.

Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Tourism Centre

Fodor's choice

At the Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Tourism Centre, the half-mile-long San Rock Art Trail takes you on a short walk back through time. Billed as "helping to protect the future of the past," this memorable rock art experience includes engravings made by ancestors of the Khoisan, dating between 1,000 and 2,000 years ago. (Ancestors of the Khoisan are believed to be some of the earliest humans to walk the face of the earth.) Listening to an audio player, you take a boardwalk to the best of more than 400 images––eland, elephant, rhino, wildebeest, hartebeest, ostrich, and dancing human figures—on a low ridge of ancient andesite rock. The center also offers a 20-minute introductory film and display on the subject and a crafts shop run by the !Xun and Khwe San (refugees from the Angolan and Namibian wars), whose land surrounds the site.

Africana Library

Housed in the old Kimberley Public Library (1887) is one of the country's premier reference libraries, where books are shelved from floor to ceiling, an ornate wrought-iron staircase connects the floors, and locally published, limited-edition books are for sale. Included in the 20,000-volume collection are such rarities as the Setswana Bible, the first-ever Bible in an African language, printed by Robert Moffat in the 1850s, as well as four books dating from the 1400s. The library is said to be haunted by the ghost of Bertram Dyer, the country's first qualified librarian. After he was caught defrauding the library of money, he committed suicide. He now purportedly stacks files on the floor and rattles teacups in the kitchen.

63–65 Du Toitspan Rd., Kimberley, 8301, South Africa
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Donations accepted, Closed Sat. and Sun.

Bezalel Estate Cellars

Stop here if you are a fan of cognac and liqueurs or you want to sample some of the region's lesser-known wines. From his pot still, Tinus Bezuidenhout produces and sells really good brandies and high-quality liqueurs. It's a family business, so either Tinus or his son, Martiens, will likely be pouring generous tastings, something all except the designated driver will appreciate. There is also a walk-through of the distillery and maturation cellar, and a restaurant, Le Marché, serving Kalahari biltong and avocado salad, Kalahari venison pie, and beef-and-brandy burgers. It also sells a wonderful range of deli products, from Kalahari salt and barbecue sauce to wild marula jam produced on the farm. Tinus knows everyone in the area, so think of him as a tourism resource, too.

Dyasonsklip, off the N14, Upington, South Africa
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free, Colsed Sun., Tastings between R30 and R120 for 1 or 2 hours

Camel and Rider Statue

About 2 km (1 mile) from the Kalahari-Oranje Museum, in front of the Upington police station, this bronze monument honors the police who used camels as mounts when they patrolled the Kalahari in frontier days. If this rather lonely sight is in any way intriguing, you may want to plan a visit to the Camel Farm ( camelmilksouthafrica.co.za) in a breathtakingly remote Kalahari location about 90 minutes from the Twee Rivieren entrance to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Its dairy farmer will introduce you to his gentle, free-roaming, long-eyelashed camels, and his herd is entirely descended from the first camels brought here for police and military use.

Schröder St., Upington, 8800, South Africa

Canteen Kopje Archaeological Site

Today you can visit the open-air Canteen Kopje Archaeological Site to view both archaeological and geological treasures, ranging from Stone Age artifacts more than a million years old to rock axes, found in a recent excavation, that date from the late 1800s. Walk the 1-km (½-mile) trail to take in the exhibits. Students of history—and South Africa in particular—will really appreciate this off-the-beaten-path stuff.

Barkly West, South Africa
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free

Duggan-Cronin Gallery

This gallery houses early photographs of southern Africa and its inhabitants taken by A. M. Duggan Cronin, an Irishman who arrived in 1897 to work as a night watchman for De Beers. A keen photographer, he traveled widely through southern Africa, capturing his impressions—mostly of African peoples—on film. While the gallery is actually on Egerton Road, access is now via the McGregor Museum.

Atlas St., Herlear, Kimberley, 8301, South Africa
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Donations accepted, Closed Sat. and Sun.


A well-known Kimberley landmark, the family home of merchant John Orr has a colonial wraparound verandah painted a distinctive green and white. Sadly, its upkeep is lacking, and you can only visit it on a tour (pre-booked through the McGregor Museum), during which you'll hear about the swimming pool (the first in Kimberley) and the red dining room, which took a shell through its ceiling during the Anglo-Boer War siege. 

10 Lodge Rd., Kimberley, South Africa
Sight Details
Rate Includes: R35, Admission only by pre-arrangement

George Swanson Enterprises

This is odd and quite unexpected establishment is an interesting find. If you've grown frustrated driving past land you know contains quartz crystals quietly whiling away eternity, stop at George Swanson Enterprises to dig up some treasures without a permit. Swanson's yard is full of raw rock crystals, water sapphires, turquoise, and blue lace agate along with the entire gamut of semiprecious minerals found in Namaqualand (and Namibia, where Swanson apparently found his first 'treasures'). Even if you don't find a piece of rock that speaks to you, Swanson, who "turns rock into bread," will regale you with anecdotes from his "famous past with American presidents' wives," including his ecology award for the discovery of blue lace agate, which had remained hidden for more than 50 million years until he found it in the 1960s. Swanson's is primarily a working yard, and watching the splitting of the rock is fascinating. Having the option to buy something is a bonus.

Goegap Nature Reserve

Each spring, this reserve transforms into a wildflower mosaic, which you can explore on either of two short—4- and 6-km (2½- and 4-mile)—walking trails; mountain biking within the reserve is also permitted. A count has recorded 581 different plant species within the reserve, and there are animals to see, too, including Hartmann’s mountain zebras, oryxes, springbuck, klipspringers, duikers, and steenbuck. There are also some 94 different bird species, including ostriches, Cape eagle-owls, martial eagles, Verreaux's (or black) eagles, Ludwig's bustards, and Damara canaries.

Goegap is also home to the Hester Malan Wildflower Garden, which displays an interesting collection of succulents, including the bizarre halfmen or "half person" (Pachypodium namaquanum), featuring a long, slender trunk topped by a passel of leaves that makes it resemble an armless person—hence the name. There are picnic sites, and, during flower season, there's a small on-site kiosk where you can get a bite to eat. Quaint, simple, gas- and solar-powered, three-bedroom chalets cost as little as R1,000 per night per couple. The nightly rate for smaller, more basic "bush huts," with no electricity and shared ablutions, is R250.

R355, Springbok, 8240, South Africa
Sight Details
Rate Includes: R30

Kalahari Trails Meerkat Sanctuary

About 30 minutes from the Twee Rivieren entry gate to Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, this private nature reserve was established by the late zoology professor Anna Rasa who wanted to focus on the region's smaller creatures. Her son, Richard, now oversees the 9-acre property, where activities include up-close looks at meerkats being nursed back to health; walks to see animals you wouldn't necessarily spot on drives in the Transfrontier Park; sundowner and nighttime drives, where a spotlight makes it easier to see nocturnal creatures such as aardvarks; and nighttime scorpion "hunts" using flashlights to look for these arachnids, which are collected for identification and then later released (except for the few that are fed to the meerkats).

The main treat, though, is the chance to observe the resident meerkat family in its natural environment, walking with them as they move out into the landscape, foraging as they go. There are also some basic rooms (some with en suite bathrooms) and bush-camp accommodations if you don't mind roughing it; overnight guests are able to explore the property on foot.

R360, Bokspits, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Daytime dune game drive R200; nighttime game drive R250; guided walks R150; scorpion hunt R100

Kalahari-Oranje Museum

Conveniently adjacent the Red Ox Steakhouse, the Kalahari-Oranje Museum comprises simple whitewashed buildings that were erected by missionary Christiaan Schröder in the 1870s. It has displays on agriculture and local history and collections of minerals and artifacts used by the area's San. Just outside the complex is the Donkey Monument, a bronze sculpture by Hennie Potgieter that is a testimony to the role played by the animal in developing the Lower Orange River Valley.

4 Schröder St., Upington, 8800, South Africa
Sight Details
Rate Includes: R30, Closed Sat. and Sun.

Kuruman Moffat Mission

Established in 1816, the Kuruman Moffat Mission is the most famous mission station in Africa. It was headed by Robert Moffat from 1820 until his retirement in 1870. The site, with stone-and-thatch buildings dating from the 1820s and 1830s and surrounded by huge trees, represents an interface between precolonial history and the present. A complete Setswana Bible was printed here in 1857—the first time the Bible was printed in its entirety in a previously unwritten African language. The mission served as a springboard for many early adventures into the interior, including David Livingstone's expeditions. It's a lovely and gentle place full of memories, though it's in need of some TLC. It still functions as a mission and community center, and has a small curio shop.

Moffat La., South Africa
Sight Details
Rate Includes: R10, Daily 8–5


A 29-km (18-mile) detour from Kamieskroon brings you to this old Methodist mission station at the top of the Kamiesberg, which has spectacular views across the desert to the sea. The church, a national monument, was finished in 1855, but the adjacent parsonage is much older. The wildflowers in Leliefontein bloom much later than those on the coast, often lasting as late as the end of October. Even if there are no flowers, it's a beautiful drive back down the Kamiesberg to Garies, 72 km (45 miles) away.

Magersfontein Battlefield Museum

Where this evocative, barren national monument now stands, the Boers resoundingly defeated British forces marching to relieve besieged Kimberley in December 1899. An excellent museum screens an 11-minute multimedia display that does such a good job of recalling the battle in pictures and sound that it will give you goose bumps. You can also visit several monuments dotted around the battlefield. A pleasant tearoom and the on-site Bagpipe Lodge (bagpipes not included) offer a place to refuel and recline. This was the site of a major battle in the South African War, and is must for anyone with a sense of military, or South African history.

Mary Moffat Museum

In 1803 the London Missionary Society established a mission here, and Mary Moffat, wife of explorer David Livingstone, was born here. The old mission house is now home to the Mary Moffat Museum, which has interesting displays and literature on the history of the Griquas, the missionaries, and the area. The phone number may not work, but it's definitely open.

Main St., Griquatown, South Africa
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Donations accepted

McGregor Museum

This graceful Kimberley landmark, built at Rhodes's instigation, was first used as a sanatorium, then an upscale hotel, and later as a girls' convent school. Rhodes (now a much-maligned figure who occupies a shady realm within the South African colonial discourse) himself stayed here during the siege, and you can see rooms he once occupied.

Today the building houses a museum that focuses on Northern Cape history (prehistoric to early 20th century) within a global context. It contains quite a good display on the Anglo-Boer War and the even more impressive Hall of Ancestors—an extensive exhibition on the history of humanity that includes prehistoric human skulls dating back some 3 million years. The natural history of the area can be seen in the EnviroZone, and a chapel once stood on what is today the Hall of Religion. Note, though, that much of this museum is in need of a refresh, and some of its displays are akin to high-school projects.

Namaqua National Park

During its flower season (early-August through September), Namaqua National Park can usually be counted on for superb wildflower displays, even when there are no flowers anywhere else. Covering an area of almost 200,000 acres and located 21 km (11 miles) west of Kamieskroon, the park is the world's only arid biodiversity hot spot. Look for Namaqua daisies in oranges and yellows as well as succulents, such as the many-colored vygies in hues of purple, magenta, and orange.

Park roads are good, though the nearest gas station is in Springbok, 87 km (54 miles) away. Driving from Soebatsfontein toward Springbok yields spectacular views over the coast from the top of the Wildeperdehoek Pass. Two short hiking trails take a few hours each, and you can ride bikes and make use of various picnic sites throughout the park. Recent upgrades include new routes and rest camps, and the reintroduction of game (tsessebe, oryx, springbok, and eland). There's a seasonal visitor center at the Skilpad entrance. 

Namaqualand Museum

Displays here tell the history of Namaqualand, the town of Springbok, and the people who've lived here. Items range from some 17th-century pieces to an old fridge and washing machine made of kokerboom (wood from the distinctive "half-man" tree). The museum is housed in an old synagogue. The earliest Jewish traders had a significant impact on the growth of business not only in the area, but in the country as a whole, and, up until the early 1970s, Springbok had a small Jewish community.

Monument St., Springbok, South Africa
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Donations accepted, Closed Sat. and Sun.

Orange River Wine Cellars

In Upington's industrial area is Orange River Wine Cellars, the second-largest wine cooperative in the world (the largest is also in South Africa). Tastings of a variety of white wines—from the sweet and rich dessert wine Hanepoort to the lighter Steens and Chenin Blancs—as well as grape juice are offered. Between January and March you can also take a tour of the cellars.

32 Industrial Rd., Upington, South Africa
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Tastings R25 for 5 wines; R35 for 7, Closed Sun., Mon.–Fri. 9–4:30, Sat. 9–11:30

Rudd House

In the leafy suburb of Belgravia, Rudd House is the rambling home of Cecil John Rhodes's first business partner, the early diamond magnate Charles Dunnell Rudd. The house has been restored in the art-deco style of the 1920s, when the Bungalow, as the house was then known, was in its heyday. Look for the croquet ground made out of kimberlite, and the massive snooker table surrounded by a multitude of animal heads from Rudd's trips north to Matabeleland. Like Dunluce, Rudd House can be seen only on a tour operated by the McGregor Museum (see).

Sakkie se Arkie

If you're missing the sea, a sedate sunset cruise on the Orange River could be just the thing. Sakkie se Arkie (literally "Sakkie's Little Ark") is a little family operation offering a 90-minute trip on a double-decker raft complete with a cash bar. You might see catfish, monkeys, and eagles and other birds. But the main ingredients for the fun are the lively crowd, the gentle sensation of the cruise, and the wonderful cocktails made by Sakkie's wife. It generally only operates on weekends, but it might head out during the week if there are enough people interested.

Park St., Upington, 8800, South Africa
Sight Details
Rate Includes: R150 per person, Closed weekdays unless there\'s demand

Sol Plaatje's House

Activist, author, and journalist Sol Plaatje (1876–1932) lived most of his multitalented life in this house. In addition to being the first general secretary of the African National Congress, he was the first black South African to publish a novel in English, an influential early black newspaper editor, and an energetic campaigner for human rights. His house is now a small reference library, publishing house, and museum with displays on his life and extracts from his diary. The reference library contains the works of previously exiled South Africans (in English) and a collection of Tsetswana literature; books are also for sale.

Spitskop Nature Reserve

This 12,000-plus-acre private reserve is about 14 km (9 miles) from Upington, and it's a good fallback if you don't have time to make it all the way to Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. You'll get to see some wildlife, especially the iconic oryx (or gemsbok, as it is called in South Africa), eland, mountain zebra, and decent herds of springbok. Apart from such typical Kalahari game species, other predators to be seen are the jackal and caracal; resident bird species include the kori bustard, ostrich, and Namaqua sandgrouse. Whether you are a day visitor or staying over in one of the chalets (or in an RV), you should make a point of climbing to the top of the Spitskop at dawn or dusk, where you're likely to see a beautiful Kahalari sunrise or sunset. The cooler hours are also advised because day temperatures in summer in this desert reserve can hit 40°C–45°C (104°F–113°F).

William Humphreys Art Gallery

This renowned art museum in Kimberley's Civic Centre is at once sedate and lively. It's an air-conditioned haven of tranquility on a hot summer day, and its impressive collection features South African works as well as those by Dutch, Flemish, British, and French masters. One area is devoted to local work, and a very popular exhibit highlights the rock art of the Northern Cape. Free guided tours (preferably booked in advance) cater to specific interests on request. Be mindful of parking your car outside the museum; it may be worth asking someone to keep an eye on it, or catching a taxi here.

Cullinan Crescent, Kimberley, 8300, South Africa
Sight Details
Rate Includes: R5; R100 for guided tour, Closed Sat. and Sun.

Wonderwerk Cave

This fascinating heritage site contains a spectacular 460-foot-long cave that shows evidence of 800,000 years of Stone Age occupation and early fire use. Some 10,000-year-old engravings were found in the deposit, and the cave has unusual rock paintings on its walls. A good museum adjacent to the cave provides detailed interpretation, and a resident guide will show you around. The cave is administered by Kimberley's McGregor Museum, which can provide additional information, and advance reservations are advised.

South Africa
Sight Details
Rate Includes: R30, Closed weekends except by special arrangement, Daily 9–5