Welcome to South Africa.
The Free State of South Africa. The plains of South Africa’s interior plateau between the Vaal and Orange rivers form the Free State Province.
This quiet land of the ubiquitous windmill is the geographical and agricultural center of South Africa. Of all the provinces, this presents the classic scene of sunny savannah, tall, spacious grassy prairie with deep blue African skies, majestic summer cloud formations, and a horizon broken by the occasional flat-topped koppie. (mountain shaped like a hill).
The Free State is fast becoming a tourist destination in its own right. Famous for its warm South African hospitality, `boerekos (traditional farmhouse-style Afrikaner cuisine) and decidedly slower lifestyle, this province has become a Mecca for tourists wanting to explore small-town South Africa.
Known locally as the “bread basket” of South Africa, the Free State is cultivated by more than 30,000 farms to produce more than 70% of South Africa’s grain consumption. It is also home to the most productive gold and diamond mines in the world.
The Free State lies at the heart of South Africa, with the mountainous Kingdom of Lesotho nestled in the hollow of its bean shape. Between the Vaal River in the north and the Orange River in the south, this vast rolling meadow stretches as far as the eye can see. Formerly known as the Orange Free State, this province has seen its share of battles, most notably, perhaps, the Anglo Boer War. This was the last large-scale war to be fought on South African soil and was not only a turning point in the history of modern warfare in our time, but also the last of the gentleman’s wars.
The Free State is the third largest province in South Africa. However, it has the second smallest population and the second lowest population density, housing some 2.8 million people on some 129,480 km2 of land. Many of the towns show a mix of cultures clearly evident in the names of the streets, public buildings, monuments and museums. The Eastern Highlands abound with sandstone buildings, while the meadows are dotted with beautifully decorated Sotho houses. Some of South Africa’s most valuable San (Bushman) rock art is found in the Free State.
The Free State climate in the summer rains region is warm and temperate in the summer, but can be relatively cold during the winter months, especially in the eastern mountainous regions where temperatures can drop as low as 9:C. The western and southern areas are semi-desert.
The Free State in the south shares the true Karoo semi-desert and arid landscapes, while the north is blessed by the liquid gold of the Vaal River. The western Free State traverses substantial savannah and mineral wealth, while the eastern highlands offer a wealth of scenic splendor.
The capital of the province, Bloemfontein, has a well-established institutional, educational and administrative infrastructure, and is home to the Supreme Court of Appeals. The province has a well-known university and many other training institutions.
The Free State Province has an extensive system of parks and reserves, including a national park (Golden Gate) and more than 80 provincial, municipal and privately owned game farms, game reserves, game reserves and parks. Activities include bird and game watching, trophy and biltong hunting, hiking, horse riding, biking, 4×4 driving, camping and climbing.