Traditionally an agricultural region, this South African province is home to European-style towns, scenic drives and outdoor adventures amid spectacular landscapes.
The Free State, also known as Orange Free State, offers the chance to experience life in a laid-back South African province of great natural beauty. Discover a fusion of European and indigenous history, hike through dramatic mountain passes, spot colorful wildlife and enjoy boundless watersports.
Free State sits in South Africa’s central region and borders six other provinces as well as the Kingdom of Lesotho. Listen to the province’s multicultural residents conversing in around half a dozen languages, including English.
Start in the easygoing provincial capital, Bloemfontein. Admire grand 19th-century buildings. Visit art galleries and museums, such as the Anglo-Boer War Museum. Stroll along picturesque trails to spot local flora at the Free State National Botanic Gardens. Enjoy sweeping views from Naval Hill, a viewpoint in the inner-city Franklin Game Reserve.
Travel north to Winburg, a town founded by Voortrekker pioneers and a gateway to the Willem Pretorius Game Reserve. See a slice of South Africa’s Boer history at towns such as Kroonstad, Frankfort and Heilbron. Join vacationers at resorts spread along the banks of Vaal Dam. One popular destination is Deneysville, where you can enjoy fishing, sailing and other watersports. Hike mountain trails and spot indigenous cave paintings around Vredefort Dome, one of the world’s largest meteorite sites.
The province’s eastern region of Thabo Mofutsanyana epitomizes diversity. Visit Clarens, in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains, for its lively arts scene. Participate in the annual Cherry Festival at Ficksburg or learn about Basotho tribal traditions at the Basotho Cultural Village. Travel along the scenic Highlands Route, which passes spectacular sandstone cliffs in Golden Gate National Park en route from Harrismith to Zastron.
Free State experiences hot, humid summers and cold winters, especially toward the eastern mountains, where snowfall is common. Fly into Bram Fischer International Airport in Bloemfontein and get around via rental car or on overland tours. Take a side trip to Lesotho to hike or ride on horseback in the remote mountain ranges of a country fully contained within South Africa.