Cederberg is a beautiful desert environment that is absolutely worth making the road trip.
The Cederberg is a mountainous region in the Northern Cape of South Africa home to red rocks, crags, San rock art, caves, natural pools, and more. Cederberg is the ultimate destination for a weekend away from Cape Town!
I spent a weekend in the Cederberg area with some friends and had a fantastic time. Two hours driving from Cape Town, the area could be mistaken for Zion National Park in the United States. The arid desert climate is absolutely breathtaking and has so much to offer to adventure lovers seeking a change in scenery from anywhere else in South Africa. Here is my itinerary for the ultimate Cederberg weekend, taking advantage of all of the wonderful activities the area has to offer.
My friends and I rented a car and drove up on Saturday morning. Since it was a weekend, we stopped at our favorite market, Oranjezicht, for a quick and delicious breakfast and grocery shop to grab food and snacks for the trip. We set off late morning and drove along the North Western border of the Cederberg through Citrusdal. The drive only takes a couple of hours, but there is plenty to do and see along the way. Outside of Cape Town is primarily farmlands, and there are tons of farm stalls along the roads. They’re the perfect place to take a break from driving, stretch your legs, grab a bite to eat or shop for some souvenirs. In Citrusdal, be sure to fill up your petrol, because once inside the Natural Reserve, there is minimal places to buy groceries or fill up gas.
The Cederberg is located in leopard country, and while the animals are incredibly elusive, they are present in the area which was incredibly exciting to me and my fellow travelers. We drove through the whole area, which only has one main road cutting through the whole thing. There are a number of rivers, hikes, natural pools, and wine estates along the way that would all be great stops along the way. Since we had limited time on our weekend getaway, we drove straight through and re-grouped at our accommodation for the night, Cederberg Oasis Backpackers.
The Oasis Backpackers is a unique accommodation experience that should not be overlooked. With only three rooms inside the main building, the rest of the beds are located inside individual safari tents spread out around the grounds. With hammocks, barbecue pits, and a pool, it is a super cool place to stop and get to know other travelers.
The weekend we spent in the Cederberg was a new moon, and the stars were the most beautiful, clear, and stunning display of the Milky Way I have ever seen. We sat on the grass for an hour or so sipping rooibos tea, chatting, and watching the stars, and counted over ten shooting stars. It takes traveling far away from civilization to avoid the light pollution that usually blocks out the full brilliance of the night sky.
We slept in the tents under the stars, which were equipped with beds, pillows, and blankets. In the morning, we were served breakfast for 50 rand, or around $3.50 USD. We woke up early to take advantage of a full day and drove to Cederberg Wine Cellars in Dwarsrivier. There, you can enjoy the beautiful wine estate nestled in a canyon surrounded by red sandstone mountains, do a wine tasting, as well as purchase permits for various activities in the area.
We decided to pack our day full and purchased permits for the crack climb in Wolfberg, the natural pools at the base of the hiking trail that include with cliff jumping, and the Stadsaal Rock Art and caves. In total the cost per person was 170 rand, or $12 USD. Then we drove to our first stop, the Wolfberg Cracks hike.
The hike is 7 kilometers round trip and is incredible. It winds up the face of one of the red rock mountains with gorgeous views of the rest of the Cederberg mountains all around and then tops off with long bright red crack trails that rival the slot canyons in Zion. The hike was the perfect way to really experience all the views in Cederberg, with rocks and mountains of all colors and shapes in every direction.
At the bottom of the trailhead a short five minutes longer of driving was the entrance to the trail to the natural pools. The trail is relatively flat and follows the river to a series of large pools with space to lay out, swim, and jump off surrounding rocks. It was the perfect end to a wonderful hike, and we all got time to relax and enjoy the crystal-clear waters.
Afterwards, we drove to the Stadsaal caves, where there are 500,000-year-old rock art paintings from the San, as well as enormous wind tunnels and caves. We watched the sunset from a beautiful cave and then headed back to spend the night at the Oasis, and the following morning we leisurely made our way back to Cape Town. It was the perfect quick weekend trip out of the city and an amazing change in scenery from the greens and blues of the mountainous and coastal Western cape region.
If you find yourself in the Northern Cape of South Africa, put the Cederberg on your list! It is a beautiful desert environment that is absolutely worth making the road trip to seeing and spending time exploring all it has to offer.
Zoe spent one weekend in the Cederberg.