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There is no better place in the world to have a holiday than South Africa. For independent information, advice and facts about going on holiday to South Africa visit southafricaholiday.org.uk

South Africa Holiday: Bethlehem & Harrismith

The highlands of the Thabo Mofutsanyana district make the eastern Free State the most popular tourist region in the province. It undoubtedly boasts a plethora of scenic beauty, with the Maluti mountains and Drakensberg as backdrop. 

When the Basotho people, inhabitants of this part of the province and adjacent areas, including the Kingdom of Lesotho, first came into contact with the European settlers in the 19th century, the Basotho Wars broke out.
Today Phuthaditjhaba, the place of the 'meeting of the nations', is the focal point of the arts & crafts of the local African communities, depicting Basotho culture at its best.


The small town of Clarens lies just west of the Maluti mountain range between Bethlehem an Golden Gate NP, and is the perfect country retreat. Known as the `jewel of the Free State’, Clarens is very popular with the artistic community.
The Golden Gate Highlands National Park and the Qwa-Qwa National Park, with their formidable red sandstone buttresses and impressive mountain vistas, ensure a memorable scenic impression.
In the Qwa-Qwa Park lies the Basotho Cultural Village, an absolute must for an authentic African cultural experience.


The fertile valley of the Maluti mountains inspired white settlers in 1864 to name the new town Bethlehem (Hebrew for 'house of bread').
Appropriately named, it has grown from strength to strength and today, with a population of 60-70,000, it is the commercial centre of the eastern Free State.
The Voortrekkers built their town using sandstone hewn from the surrounding cliffs, creating a legacy of outstanding craftsmanship.
These early conservationists had the foresight to leave the land along the banks of the Jordaan River untouched and today, Bethlehem encompasses two unspoilt nature reserves: Pretoriuskloof Nature Reserve & Bird Sanctuary in the town, and Wolhuterskop Game and Nature Reserve on the outskirts.
Other things to see in  Bethlehem include:
Baartman House; an impressive collection of antiquated farming implements, kitchen utensils, wood carvings and old leather.
Bethlehem Museum; the history of the town is well documented by wagons, furniture, horse carriage, farming implements and an old steam locomotive.


Harrismith is a small, charming country town, founded in 1849. The town is well known for its factory shops, gardens, golf course (the oldest in South Africa) and links with the South African War (second Anglo-Boer war of 1899-1902). Close by are battle sites, blockhouses and a military cemetery.
The Swinburne bridge, spanning the Wildge River, is the second oldest bridge in the Free State. Opened in 1884, now it looks less impressive compared to larger brothers. It is a National Monument.
At Kerkenberg the Voortrekkers camped whilst their leader, Piet Retief, negotiated with the Zulu leader Dingane. After receiving reports of what the Voortrekkers interpreted as successful negotiations, Retief's daughter wrote his name and date, (which was also his birthday), on the rock where they held a church service. 
The 2,394m Platberg or 'flat mountain' is Harrismith's landmark. A famous race, claimed by some to be the toughest in South Africa.
Day visits from Bethlehem or Harrismith include: Royal Natal Park, the base of the Drankensberg Sentinel, Golden Gate Highlands National Park, Basotho Cultural Village, Boer War battlefields and hiking trails.
The massive Sterkfontein Dam just south of Harrismith is ideal for water sports.
The Salpeterkrans sandstone overhang near Fouriesburg is a bizarre example of wind erosion.
The bird-watching Mecca of the Seekoevlei Nature Reserve near Memel is a wetland with RAMSAR status and is surrounded by private game and holiday farms.
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