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Swartberg Mountains

The Swartberg mountains, or in Afrikaans Swartberg, is a mountain range in the Western Cape Province that consists of two parts: Klein Swartberg and Great Swartberg. The mountain range is about 230 kilometres from west to east and most of the peaks are higher than 2000 meters. The mountain range separates the Klein Karoo Valley and the arid Great Karoo.

Ironically, the chain located in the west Klein Swartberg Mountains is above the eastern chain Great Swartberg Mountains. With its 2325 meters Seweweekspoortpiek which is the highest in the region. Another notable peak is 2189 meters high Towerkop located in Ladismith, according to legend the split point is due to a spell of an evil witch.

This mountain range has several passes which Swartberg Pass is between Oudtshoorn and Prince Albert and the best known. The road is unpaved and can therefore be impassable when it rains. The pass gives stunning views of both the Klein and Great Karoo. At Oudtshoorn you can also see the mountains from a different perspective in the magnificent rooms of the Cango Caves. What can also be found in the mountains are the San Bushmen petroglyphs, the first inhabitants of the area.

East of the Swartberg pass in the town of De Rust Meiringspoort starts, a paved road through the mountains along a river. The Meiringspas guarantees a spectacular drive through beautiful rock formations. The Seweweekspoortpas at the beginning of the Klein Swartberg Mountains is a 17 kilometre long narrow mountain pass crossing the river that runs through the mountains as much as 23 times.

The area is one of extremes with regard to the climate, during the winter months there can be snow falling in the mountains while it can be over 40 degrees Celsius in summer. In the morning the mountain tops are sometimes shrouded in a dense blanket of clouds, in the course of the day it disappears generally.

The Swartberg region has little big game, but you can see monkeys and several types of antelope. In the mountains live leopards and caracal (large wild cat), but as these animals are very shy, the chance to see them is very small. It is also unlikely that a cobra, tree snake or viper will be seen and whether they are in the area.

The area is very diverse in terms of flora; some plants bloom throughout the year, but most are in bloom in the spring. Most protea species, the national flower of South Africa, flowers early in the autumn. In the middle of the summer (December to February), you can see the higher peaks plants in bloom including the rare Protea venusta.

The mountain range offers opportunities for hiking, 4x4 driving, mountain biking and mountain climbing, but an ordinary drive through the beautiful countryside and impressive landscape is fit with the occasional stop for a picnic with beautiful views and is very rewarding.

Please note: Due to severe floods in April 2017, parts of the Swartberg Pass will be closed for a long time (estimated 18 months). Because this mountain pass is part of the South African National Heritage, the road has to be rebuilt in an original way and this takes a lot of time. Some tour operators can guide you on tours on the pass, but with your own (rental) car, this is not recommended (in connection with insurance). For example, take a look at the half day trip and day trip we offer.