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Your guide to Graaff-Reinet
All About Graaff-Reinet
Set along the banks of the Sundays River in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province, Graaff-Reinet is one of the oldest towns in the country. Among the 200 or so heritage sites and monuments, you’ll find many fine examples of 19th-century Cape Dutch buildings, an Afrikaner architectural style known for its curvy facades and ornate curlicues, rarely found outside the country. Visit the town’s many museums, or peruse local arts and crafts in the town’s boutiques and galleries. Graaff-Reinet has cultivated an exciting culinary scene, and alongside creative bistro fare you’ll be able to taste local specialities such as milk tarts, rusks, and the braided, fried cookies called koeksisters.
The stunning Camdeboo National Park that surrounds Graaff-Reinet is home to wildlife such as springboks, hartebeests, and buffalo. A plethora of hiking trails snake through the park, including the Valley of Desolation Trail, which offers marvelous views of the area’s dramatic rock formations.
When is the best time to stay in a vacation rental in Graaff-Reinet?
Thanks to the Eastern Cape’s mild weather, there is no bad time to secure your Graaff-Reinet accommodation. The region doesn‘t receive much rain in general, but the driest months of the year in the Eastern Cape generally tend to be in the winter, from June until September, which is great if you are planning on visiting Graaff-Reinet in conjunction with a longer safari trip. While freezing temperatures are rare, it can be a bit chilly during those winter months, so make sure to bring extra layers with you. In the summer months of November through February, the temperature rises into the comfortably warm ranges, but so do precipitation levels, so make sure to bring a waterproof jacket if you plan on spending much time outside. The spring and fall are excellent times to visit Graaff-Reinet, as the weather is very pleasant with fewer crowds.
What are the top things to do in Graaff-Reinet?
Hester Rupert Art Museum
Housed in one of the oldest churches in the country, this neo-Gothic museum showcases more than 100 pieces by South African artists. The works on display under the church’s dramatic wooden ceiling range from landscapes to abstract portrayals of wildlife. After admiring the main collection, wander down Middel Street to the connected Jan Rupert Art Centre, which displays temporary exhibitions.
Valley of Desolation
This beautiful valley, located just to the west of town, features sheer cliffs and 400-feet-tall dolerite columns that stand in sharp contrast to the vast plains of the surrounding Camdeboo National Park. Three different hiking trails trace their way through the valley, ranging from a short hour-long walk to an overnight trek. If you are lucky, you may even be able to spot wildlife as the valley is home to mountain zebras and more than 220 different species of bird — including black eagles and kori bustards, the heaviest flying bird in the world.
This museum disperses its collections on the region’s natural and cultural history across several historic buildings, such as the Reinet House, the Old Residency, and the Old Library. You’ll have the chance to check out how 19th century residents furnished their buildings and browse an extensive fossil and rock collection.