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TThe Free State’s appeal lies in its scenic beauty and natural attractions. This province is in the heart of South Africa – it borders six of the nine South African provinces, as well as the kingdom of Lesotho.
The Free State is South Africa’s breadbasket. Because of its good soil and climate, much of the land is taken up by agriculture – the area produces over 70% of the country’s grain.
BBut it also boasts astounding scenic beauty: wide, open plains and majestic mountains characterise this province.
The spectacular Drakensberg and Maluti mountain ranges are popular for adventure tourists, and the province boasts some of the best rock features in the world and is rich in San rock art.
A popular attraction is the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, which gets its name from the surrounding gold sandstone cliffs. Great for exploring on foot and home to hundreds of bird species, it’s an excellent site for birders.
The Free State is known for its great hospitality and sedate lifestyle, and is particularly appealing for those interested in exploring small-town South Africa.
But it is not all about sedate strolls and birdwatching; there’s more than enough to keep the adrenaline junkie occupied. There are plenty of opportunities for hiking, abseiling and canoeing (among others), while the Ash River – the only river in the country that has year-round high water levels – makes for excellent white-water rafting.
The Free State has an excellent road infrastructure and a variety of accommodation options. Bloemfontein’s airport, Bram Fischer International Airport, links to South Africa’s other major centres.
Vredefort Dome and the eastern Free State
The Vredefort Dome is the impact site of a meteor that struck the Earth about two billion years ago, leaving a crater 300km in diameter. The Vredefort hills and crater are ideal for adventure seekers: climb and abseil its rock faces, or go rafting on the rapids of the Vaal River, which flows through it. In the eastern part of the province is an area of exceptional natural beauty with the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, where sandstone cliffs and waving grasslands greet visitors.
The name means ‘fountain of flowers ’, and Bloemfontein is popularly known as the City of Roses because they grow so well here. Bloemfontein, the capital of the Free State province, was officially founded as a fort in 1846 by the British army. It is the birthplace of Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien.