The pretty, historic village of Leliefontein is located in the Kamiesberg mountain range, just off the road between Kamieskroon and Garies in the Namakwa District Municipality.
It’s regarded as one of the hidden treasures of the Namaqualand area, particularly during the spring wildflower season when the hills around the hamlet are awash with colour.
Leliefontein was established in 1816 by a Wesleyan missionary, the Reverend Barnabas Shaw. It may have been named after the many white lilies found in the area, as well as the natural spring (literally translated from Afrikaans, Leliefontein means “lily fountain”).
The village is steeped in wartime history. During the South African War (also known as the Anglo-Boer War), it was the site of the devastating 1902 Leliefontein massacre. Arriving there on New Year’s Eve, Boer commander Deneys Reitz was shocked to find the settlement gutted and sacked – a scene of extreme bloodshed. Several dozen Nama fighters suspected of being British sympathisers had been brutally killed by another Boer commander, Manie Maritz.
Later, from the 1960s until 2016, Leliefontein was a major helicopter base for the South African Defence Force.
Today, it is a quaint tourist spot where you can stay in a traditional matjieshuis (reed hut) at Leliefontein Lodge, eat traditional cuisine and witness a Nama riel dance. You can also visit national monuments such as the Methodist Church and parsonage.
Two Leliefontein routes are among the four mountain bike routes across the Kamiesberg mountains that form part of this trail, which is headquartered in Kamieskroon, near Springbok.
The best times to attempt this trail are during spring (when the flowers are in bloom) and autumn (when the succulents have their own kind of beauty).
While in the area, check out the scenic Namaqua Caracal 4×4 Trail and Caracal Ecoroute, visit the Skilpad Wildflower Reserve, and try out the mountain bike trails in the Goegap Nature Reserve.
In spring, hordes of tourists flock to what is colloquially known as Namaqualand. The reason is the spectacular fields of wildflowers that bloom throughout this area at this time of year.