Accommodation in Weekend Getaways - Cape

Clanwilliam: a palette of landscapes

Rebecca Solomon

If you want to get away from it all, but don’t have time to travel too far, Clanwilliam is your town. At just 212km from Cape Town, the drive takes you through some of the Western Cape’s most scenic countryside. Pass through Malmesbury and its canola fields, succulent citrus orchards in Citrusdal and Piketberg and arrive in the valley of the Cederberg mountains, Clanwilliam.

Today, Clanwilliam is a hotspot for outdoor adventurers and days are spent waterskiing at the famous Dam or mountain-climbing among the craggy Cederberg peaks. As one of the tenth oldest towns in South Africa, it’s rich in history. Officially founded by Sir John Cradock in 1814, Clanwilliam was a haven for Cape Dutch settlers. However, despite giving the town its name, they weren’t the first to call the area home – clans of ancient Bushman inhabited the surrounding mountains long before the settlers set foot in Africa in 1652. Living in the Cederberg caves, their ancestry is still visible today. And, with 2,500 known sites, is one of the best areas in the world to view rock-art.

Back to modern day, visitors to ‘Clan’ can visit the old Skoen fabrike (shoe factory) where the famous Veldskoene - as fashioned by David Kramer - are made; take a tour through Rooibos Limited – producers of the internationally popular tea - or, if you visit in August, delight in the carpets of wild flowers that light up the landscape with their vibrant orange, yellow and white petals signalling the end of Winter.

In fact, so famous are the flowers, a Wild Flower Festival happens every year between the end of August and first week in September and turns the town into a teeming florist. Visit the ‘Bloem Kerk’ (Flower Church) on Main Road or take a drive into the countryside to absorb the palette of colour – just make sure the sun is behind you as, like sunflowers, the wild flowers reveal their blooms by following the sun throughout the day.

Outside of flower season, a hike through the Cederberg landscape shouldn’t be overlooked. Craggy slabs of sandstone give the landscape the impression of Jurassic Park. And, famous for it’s hiking routes and camping spots, outdoor types will be spoilt for choice. For the not so fit, simply drive along the dusty roads and enjoy the scenery – just remember to pack some Padkos or a picnic basket: there are no restaurants or garage quick-shops for miles and miles. The same goes for petrol….having seen only one other car for five hours, having an empty tank isn’t ideal.

While exploring the outdoors fills the day, during the evenings, Clanwilliam offers plenty of accommodation options from quaint guest houses to more contemporary Lodges and Hotels. Among them is the popular Clanwilliam Lodge, an oasis-like four-star haven set on the periphery of town. An old 1920’s girl’s hostel, the hotel was refurbished in the sixties and today offers 32 luxury rooms and suites, a welcome swimming pool with water-bar, poolside restaurant and treatment room. Reflecting the palette of the landscape, the interiors are rooibos red, desert-muted sandstone and wild flower orange. In winter guests can relax by the bar and enjoy the game on the flatscreen TV and during balmy summer days, linger by the pool on Beduion daybeds.

Most importantly, don’t be fooled by weather: in February temperatures soar into the mid-40s, making the dam a welcome relief. During winter, days are crisp and clear – perfect for sightseeing or hiking – but drop below 0 after dark. So, along with the padkos, make sure you pack properly and are prepared for wintry chills or desert scorchers.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the Sneaky Weekender articles on this website, do not necessarily reflect the views of Finding Africa.

The famous wild flowers of Clanwilliam
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