Experience the Northern Cape, South Africa

If getting away from it all is what you’re after, the Northern Cape is the place for you. There are many places in this largest of South Africa’s provinces where you can, quite literally, step right off the grid.

Here’s a list of some of the most remote spots:

Riemvasmaak

Riemvasmaak Hot Springs
Riemvasmaak is 75 000ha of sheer mountain desert wilderness. (Image: Northern Cape Tourism Authority)

If there ever was a place to lie back and contemplate the meaning of life, this is it. As there are hot springs, you can do that in style.

Riemvasmaak lies on the banks of the usually-dry Molopo River near the Namibian border. Towering above the hot springs are 80m-high cliffs.

Legend has it that the name, which means “tie the thongs”, has its origin in an incident when stock thieves were caught in the area in the early 1900s and tied to a large rock in the Molopo River with thongs (riem is Afrikaans for thong). The next morning when community members came to fetch the thieves, all they found were the thongs.

If you do manage to get tired of relaxing in the hot springs, there are hiking and 4x4 trails to explore. Accommodation is available at the springs in four- and eight-bed chalets, but there is no electricity.

Noup

Noup, NC
Noup is the departure point for the West Coast shipwreck tour. (Image: Northern Cape Tourism Authority)

Wind-scoured and sun-bleached Noup on the West Coast is a perfect place to drop off the map.

Sit on wave-rounded rocks and watch the notorious West Coast seas pound the shore. 

Once a camp for diamond miners, Noup’s nine chalets are comfortable without being ostentatious – fitting on this coast, with its austere beauty. They are equipped with fireplaces – definitely needed in winter – and a generator provides electricity for the earlier part of the evening. Take board games, or that Russian novel you always meant to read.

Noup is the departure point for the West Coast shipwreck tour.

Loeriesfontein

Louriesfontein
Loeriesfontein forms part of the wider Namaqualand - an area which is well known for its beautiful spring flowers. (Image: Northern Cape Tourism Authority)

Come to this Hantam town to see South Africa’s largest collection of windmills. They are, after all, an iconic emblem of the Karoo. (The Hantam Karoo is the Northern Cape’s south-western semi-arid region which, like Namaqualand, breaks into a profusion of flowers after the spring rains.) 

Visitors can also explore the Rheboksfontein farm museum and a working horse mill. 

If you drive towards Loeriesfontein down the dirt road from Nieuwoudtville, stop off to see the largest quiver tree forest in the world. The forest is on a private farm and, although it is best seen (and most Instagram-worthy) at sunset, viewing time ends at 6pm.

In 1894, travelling Bible salesman Frederick Turner set up a general store, sparking the growth of the village that is Loeriesfontein. The store is still there (now a Spar) and is owned by Turner’s grandson. 

Pella

N Cape Klein PellaCamping 8412
Pella was founded by the London Missionary Society in 1814. (Image: Northern Cape Tourism Authority)

Pella might just be the winner on the list of isolated Northern Cape places. Its remoteness and intense heat saw off missionary after missionary in the 19th century.

Pella was first used by the San as a water source – there’s a spring. In 1814, it got its modern name when the missionary Christian Albrecht named it after an ancient town in modern-day Jordan that had been used as a refuge by Christians fleeing Roman persecution.

Albrecht was the first of at least five missionaries who occupied Pella between 1814 and 1885. Each, in turn, abandoned the mission station due to the loneliness and heat. Its Immaculate Conception Cathedral was built by French missionaries in the 1880s. The Roman Catholic fathers had no architectural training, and used a copy of the Encyclopedie des Arts et Metiers to erect the golden-walled place of worship.

There’s a coffee shop in Pella, and you can stay on one of the original domed Nama matjieshuis huts.