Almost out of place against the gentle topography of the Free State, the better part of the eastern section of the province is starkly rugged and mountainous. The Drakensberg and Maluti Ranges peer over the Free State to the left and Lesotho to the right like schoolmasters and form a rugged sandstone barrier. Formally known as the Eastern Free State, this region is one of great contrasts. The Thabo Mofutsanyana region is renowned for the rustic charm of its towns and the spectacular backdrop of vistas.

Golden Gate Highlands National Park

Nestled in the rolling foothills of the Maluti Mountains in the north-eastern Free State lies the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. The park derives its name from the shades of gold cast by the sun on the park’s sandstone cliffs, especially the imposing Brandwag rock, keeping vigil over the main rest camp. Renowned for its scenery, invigorating climate and excellent accommodation in either hotel rooms or self-catering chalets and rondavels, the Golden Gate Highlands National Park has become a holiday draw card in its own right. This 11 600ha of unique environment is true highland habitat, providing home to a splendid animal habitat.

The Sentinel is a must-see for all visitors. This is a full day hike up the back of the Drakensberg amphitheatre and is highly recommended. Other sites to visit in the Park include the Van Reenen family graveyard, the impressive Brandwag buttress rock formation and a bird hide at the Langtoon Dam. Interesting lookout points and viewpoints include Zuluhoek lookout point, Generaalskop viewpoint, Oribi basin and Drakensberg view.

Other activities include short nature trails varying from 1 hour to 5 hours (no bookings required), Game viewing at leisure in own vehicles, Guided excursions, night drives, video shows and lectures during school holiday periods. Environmental education courses (varying from 1 to 5 days) are offered. Facilities such as bowls, tennis, table tennis and snooker are available. Horse-riding during peak periods and swimming in the natural pool at Glen Reenen can also be explored.

Basotho Cultural Village

The Basotho Cultural Village lies next to the R712 from QwaQwa to Golden Gate National Park and is close to the popular Amphitheatre of the Drakensberg mountain range and forms part of the scenic highlands route. A visit to the Basotho Cultural Village which nestles at the foot of huge sandstone mountains, will give you a deeper insight into the lifestyle of the South Sotho from the 16th century to the picturesque present.

A tour of the village starts with an introductory video which illustrates the building process of the museum. Demonstrations of the decorations of huts, making of basketware, crushing of maize and traditional dances are shown.  A tour then commences at the Khatloa under the expert guidance of a tour guide as the chief’s village and exploring the way of life of his people cannot start without first receiving his permission. The chief will offer the visitor a sip of Sotho beer as a token of hospitality and visitors may engage in a traditional game of maraba-raba. At the Ngaka (the chief’s bone thrower) the throw of his which bones will give the visitors a peep into the future. At the dwellings of the first and second wives, visitors will enjoy some motoho and dipabi. The interesting utensils and colourful decorations are discussed and explained.