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Location: South Africa » Western Cape » Karoo » Swartberg

Swartberg Mountains is a mountain range situated on the edge the Little Karoo

The Swartberg Mountains is a mountain range that runs roughly east-west along the northern edge of the semi-arid area called the Little Karoo  in the Western Cape province of South Africa. To the north of the range lies the other large semi-arid area in South Africa, the Great Karoo.

There are several passes through the Swartberg Range, the most famous of which is possibly the Swartberg Pass that runs between Oudtshoorn in the south and Prince Albert in the north. The pass is not tarred and can be a little treacherous after rain, but offers spectacular views over the Little Karoo and the Great Karoo to the north. The plant life along the pass is particularly interesting, many hundreds of species being found on the Swartberg, as is the drystone work supporting some of its picturesque hairpin bends.

To the east of the Swartberg Pass, the Meiringspoort provides tarred road transit through the Swartberg along a river. The 'poort runs north out of the town of De Rust. The Meiringspoort offers a spectacular drive through incredible rock formations, and is the setting for an annual half marathon that ends in the town of De Rust.

Much of the Swartberg is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


A centre for the local farming community, the Swartberg Farmers’ Association celebrated it’s centenary in 1996. Stock sale days see a flurry of activity, as do sporting get togethers. The old hotel, built in 1922, now serves as supermarket and trading store, and stands at the junction of the Kokstad and Matatiele roads. An annual steam train ride to Creighton is hugely popular. A handful of nearby farms have B&B or self catering accommodation. The East Griqualand information office is located in a former school outside the village on the Underberg road. Watch for the road sign.


Thule Rustler’s Route

Officially opened in October 1997 the Thule Pass was built by the farmers in the Swartberg area over private farmland, to enable a quick reaction to stock theft incidents. Rising to 2537 m over a series of steep cuttings and plateaux, the pass offers a variety of flora and fauna, geographical diversity and spectacular views of the whole of East Griqualand. The pass is 13 km from the first gate to the Thule beacon on the RSA / Lesotho border and will take 1 – 2 hours to ascend. This is not for the amateur – you need to be a proficient 4 x 4 driver to tackle this one. The pass is challenging and affords the four wheel drive enthusiasts (as well as off road motorcycles and mountain bikes) the opportunity to test both themselves and their machines. The revenue collected is used to maintain the pass and to extend the trail, which will eventually offer an alternative return route. Cell phones do not work in this area. To ensure your safety in the event of an emergency, two vehicles per party must travel the pass together at all times.


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