Graaff Reinet Camdeboo National Park


Historic Graaff Reinet and Camdeboo In the Great Karoo lies the beautiful town of Graaff-Reinet. It is also called the pearl of the Karoo. With over 200 national monuments it is worth visiting. These monuments mainly date back to the Cape Dutch era. The town of Graaff-Reinet was founded in 1786 by the 1786 East India Company and is about 600 kilometres from Cape Town.

Graaff-Reinet is surrounded by the Camdeboo National Park with the Valley of Desolence.


Historic Graaff-Reinet is best known for the more than 200 national monuments you can find in this town. Nowhere else can you find so many. This makes Graaff-Reinet actually a large open-air museum and interesting to visit if you are interested in it. It is best to ask your accommodation for a map to know which buildings are interesting. Sometimes city walks are also organised. This is highly recommended, so you understand the history of the different buildings even better.

Graaff Reinet Drostdy Hotel

A well-known building is the contemporary hotel Drostdy, located on Church street. A drostdy used to be a residence of the civil servant who controlled a certain area in the Dutch Cape Colony (later also in the Boer Republics). Not only did he live here, it was his office and there was a courtroom. The drostdy in Graaff-Reinet was built in 1806. Today, the old residence, together with the former freed slave quarters behind the building, has been converted into a 5-star hotel.

Hester Rupert Art Museum

Opposite the hotel Drostdy are two museums. The first museum is the Hester Rupert Art Museum. This is located in one of the oldest churches in South Africa. Around 1821, the Lower-Dutch Reformed Mission Church became here. In the 1960s, the building threatened to be demolished. In the end, it was Dr. Anton Rupert who decided to turn it into a museum. You can especially admire African art here.

For opening hours, please refer to the website. Next door is the Old Library. This public library was opened in 1847. Until 1981 this was the library of Graaff-Reinet. In the meantime, the building is used for various exhibitions including fossils from the Karoo, an exhibition about Robert Sobukwe (founder of the Pan African Congress) and rock paintings of the Khoi-San.

Museums of Graaff-Reinet

If you walk via the Parsonagestraat towards the Murraystraat, you will come across the other museums of Graaff-Reinet. On the corner of the Character Street and Murraystraat is the Old Residency. This is – together with the Reinethuis – a good example of early 19th century Cape Dutch architecture. This was a former h-shaped house. You’ll see a weapons collection and a music room. The Reinethuis dates back to the same time and was the house of the reverend. Since 1956 this is a museum.

In the courtyard is a vine that is planned in 1870 and is one of the largest in the world. Next to the Reinethuis is the Urquhart house. Here you can see how people lived in the 19th century and what furniture one had at that time. In the same building is also the Military History museum where you can find an exhibition on the military history of Graaff-Reinet between 1800 and 2007.

Look for opening hours and more information about the museums at Graaff-Reinet Museums. Please note that the museums are closed on Saturday afternoons and Sunday afternoons. Anyway, on Sunday afternoon the city is extinct and that makes it less safe to visit. We have been warned several times by the locals that it would not be safe because there are few to no people walking on the street.

There are several accommodations in Graaff-Reinet. Both guesthouses and apartments as well as hotels. Apartments can be found at Camdeboo Cottages, for example.


Graaff-Reinet is surrounded by camdeboo National Park. This nature reserve is not very large. Although there are some wildlife, this is not the main reason to visit this park. One comes here mainly to see the Valley of Desolence. The Valley of Desolence consists of special rock pillars and you have a fantastic view over the landscape of the Karoo. Especially during the sunset.

Valley of Desolence

The rock formation will get very nice colors. It’s only a small walk of 2 kilometers to get there from the point where you have to park your car. It means mostly clambering over pebbles, but you get something nice in return. You can also see from a vantage point in the Graaff-Reinet valley. There are several hiking trails in the park. A map is available at the reception at Lake View Gate.

The animals are in another part of the park. You will mainly see kudus, moose, springbok and the red hartebeests. If you’re lucky, you’ll see the rare mountain zebra. It sometimes shows itself, although above all – the name says it all – he has a preference for the mountains.

We were lucky enough to spot this particular animal in the distance right after the entrance! Through gravel roads (about 19 kilometers) you can search for these animals. You are not allowed to leave the car except at the designated picnic areas.

Camdeboo fees

The fee for the park is 100 rand. You will also have to fill out a form with some details. To get to the Valley of Desolence and the wildlife area, drive from Graaff-Reinet via the R63 to Murraysbur. It’s about 5 kilometers from Graaff-Reinet.

It is also possible to camp in the park. The reception, Nqweba Campsite and Lakeview Tented Camp are located at the Lake View Gate and can be reached via the N9 to Middelburg. The gate is about 4 kilometers from Graaff-Reinet.

The park is open from sunrise to sunset. The opening hours vary by gate and the wildlife area closes rather than the Valley of Desolence. The exact times as well as directions can be found on the website Camdeboo National Park. You can also book the accommodation in the park yourself.

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