Life in Nieu-Bethesda potters along much as it did 130 years ago, when the village was founded. Stone water furrows still line the wide, dusty streets. Night skyscapes are unpolluted by streetlights, and the air is still fresh and clean. Compassberg watches over the village, as always, and Nieu Bethesdans still while away the hours on their stoeps, watching village life go by.


All around stretches the arid expanse of the Great Karoo, "where the land meets the sky". This is a nature-lover's paradise, a high altitude semi-desert that is home to the largest variety of succulents in the world - as well as eagles, hadehas, sacred ibises, secretary birds, blue cranes, flamingoes, otters, lizards, snakes, tortoises, bat-eared foxes, kudu, springbok, reedbuck, wildebeast, wild cats, ground squirrels and aardvarks.


In times gone by, agriculture was the driving force of Nieu-Bethesda's economy; the region's Angora goats and Karoo lamb are famous. Nowadays much of the industry is based around art. There are craft shops and galleries, potteries and sculpture gardens - most famously, the late Helen Martins' extraordinary "Owl House".


Whether your interest lies in art, bushman paintings, fossils, climbing, hiking, bird-watching, mountain-biking, horse-riding, game-viewing, star-gazing or stoep-sitting, you'll never be at a loss for things to do in Nieu Bethesda.


Helen Martins' Owl House

Helen Martins' Owl House, often cited as South Africa's finest example of outsider art, is an extraordinary, other-worldly home of concrete and ground glass sculptures.

Ganora Farm

At Ganora Farm there are fossil beds dating 240 million years, Bushman etchings and Boer artifacts. Horse-riding, mountain-biking and bird-watching are all possible.


Compassberg (2502m) is the highest peak in the Sneeuberg range and takes a morning to climb. It offers different degrees of difficulty and phenomenal Karoo views.

The Valley of Desolation

The Valley of Desolation, one of South Africa's most dramatic sights, has a 19 kilometre game-viewing drive and several hiking trails.

The Canyon

A half-day hike along the canyon will take you from Ganora Farm to De Toren, offering the opportunity to experience the Karoo's wildlife at close quarters.

Mountain Zebra National Park

A hike in the Mountain Zebra National Park, home to a large herd of these rarest of zebra (and other game), will reward you with exceptional views and close contact with the zebras.


Graaff-Reinet is known as the gem of the Karoo. With scores of museums and monuments, it has plenty to offer those interested in the history of the region and its settlers.



When you're in the Great Karoo, stay at the Owlhouse Backpackers or find accommodation in Nieu-Bethesda.