Escape to the Cederberg

April 16, 2019

The Cederberg Wilderness Area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the Cape Floral Region, and a national treasure. The protected park of about 71 000 hectares comprises rugged, mountainous terrain and famous sandstone rock formations, and offers beautiful vistas and incredible stargazing.

The reserve is only three hours’ drive from Cape Town, but feels like a different world. The mountains are burnt orange by iron oxide, sandstone formations such as the Maltese Cross and the Wolfberg Arch tower above rocky plains and ancient San and Khoi rock art hide among the caves.

It is a truly spectacular place to visit and the perfect escape from the hustle of busy city life. Here’s how:

What to know


A post shared by Lennard Sims (@lennardsims) on

The Cederberg area is covered in indigenous fynbos, including the laurel protea, red disa, rooibos and the rare endemic snow protea. Clanwilliam cedars dot the higher mountain cliffs. Interestingly, it is also the cedars led to the proclamation of the park.

In 1987, authorities established about 5 250 hectares as a reserve to protect the Clanwilliam cedar tree from extinction. Each year, volunteers help plant about 8 000 nursery-grown young trees in the reserve as part of the conservation effort.

The area is also rich in wildlife. You may spot a porcupine, honey badger, the Cape clawless otter or an aardvark, if you’re lucky – or  even catch a glimpse of the elusive Cape leopard. There are also smaller predators, such as the African wild cat, lynx, bat-eared fox, aardwolf and Cape fox.

The rocky mountainous outcrops and sandstone formations is a haven for rock climbers, hikers and nature enthusiasts.

Where to stay


A post shared by Cornelius van Niekerk (@chasing_corrie) on

The well-maintained and restful Algeria rest camp is famous for its riverside camping. The camp also offers six new self-catering cottages, each boasting all the comforts of home and glorious views of the surrounding landscapes from their spacious barbecue areas.

For another experience close to nature, head to the Kliphuis campsite in the northern section of the reserve, in the Pakhuis Pass, a well-known area for climbing and bouldering. Kliphuis also has a few well-equipped chalets for hire.

You don’t have to worry about being crowded in the campsite – there are only 14 sites available, with no radio, television or music allowed.

If you’re looking for something a little bit more luxurious, book yourself into a bed and breakfast at the nearby town of Clanwilliam. One of South Africa’s 10 oldest settlements, with a colonial history dating back to 1660, the town is home to a number of museums and historic sites worth a visit.

What to do


A post shared by Teodor (@teodor__iliev) on

Looking for an adventure? You’ve come to the right place! Rock climbing, bouldering, mountain biking, short hikes and walks, multiday hikes, rock art trails and even donkey cart rides – Cederberg Nature Reserve has this and more.

To minimise the impact of visitors, the park is divided into three “utilisation zones” and is limited to 50 hikers per zone a day. If you’re hoping to embark on a hike to the Maltese Cross and Wolfberg Arch or refreshing rock pools and waterfalls, best book in advance.

Keep in mind that for activities such as bouldering, rock climbing, hiking and visiting the famous elephant rock art site, as well as the Stadsaal Cave, you’ll need to buy a permit, which can be done at any of the park’s offices.

Learn more about Cederberg Wilderness Area activities here.

Getting there

The Cederberg lies 250km north of Cape Town, stretching from the Middelberg Pass in Citrusdal to north of the Pakhuis Pass at Clanwilliam. The drive from Cape Town takes about three hours, depending on your final destination.

Get our newsletter