The Plains of South Africa’s Interior Plateau Between the Vaal and Orange Rivers in the Free State

The Plains of South Africa’s Interior Plateau Between the Vaal and Orange Rivers in the Free State

Welcome to South Africa.

The Free State South Africa. The plains of South Africa’s interior plateau between the Vaal and Orange Rivers form the Free State Province.

This tranquil land of the ever-present windmill is the geographic and agricultural centre of South Africa. Of all the provinces, this one presents the classic scene of the sunny veld, the high-lying, spacious grass-covered prairie land with deep-blue African skies, majestic cloud formations in summer and a skyline broken by the occasional flat-topped koppie (hill-like mountain).

The Free State is fast becoming a tourist destination in its own right. Famous for its warm South African hospitality, `boerekos (traditional Afrikaner farm-style cuisine) and decidedly slower-paced lifestyle, this province has become a Mecca for holiday-makers intent on exploring small-town South Africa.

Known, locally, as South Africa’s ‘bread basket’, the Free State is cultivated by more than 30 000 farms to produce over 70% of South Africa’s grain consumption. It is also home to the most productive gold and diamond mines in the world.

The Free State lies in the heart of South Africa, with the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho nestling in the hollow of its bean-like shape. Between the Vaal River, in the north, and the Orange River, in the south, this immense rolling prairie stretches as far as the eye can see. Formerly known as the Orange Free State, this province has had its share of battles most importantly, perhaps, the Anglo Boer War. This was the last full-scale war to be fought on South African soil and was not only a turning point in the history of the modern wars of our time, but also the last of the gentlemens wars.

The Free State is the third-largest province in South Africa. However, it has the second-smallest population and the second-lowest population density, housing some 2,8 million people on about 129 480 km2 of land. Many of the towns display a mix of culture clearly evident in street names, public buildings, monuments and museums. Dressed sandstone buildings abound on the Eastern Highlands, while beautifully decorated Sotho houses dot the grasslands. Some of South Africa’s most valued San (Bushman) rock art is found in the Free State.

The Free State climate in the summer-rainfall region is warm and temperate in the summer but can be relatively cold during the winter months, especially towards the eastern mountainous regions where temperatures can drop as low as 9 :C. The western and southern areas are semi-desert.

The southern Free State shares the true Karoo semi-desert and its barren landscapes, while the north is blessed by the liquid gold of the Vaal River. The western Free State traverses savannah and substantial mineral wealth, whilst the Eastern highlands offer a wealth of scenic splendor.

City Centre

The provinces capital, Bloemfontein, has a well-established institutional, educational and administrative infrastructure, and houses the Supreme Court of Appeal. The province has a well-known university and many other training institutions.


The Free State Province boasts an extensive system of parks and reserves, including one national park (Golden Gate) and more than 80 provincial, municipal, and privately owned nature parks, nature reserves, game reserves, and game farms. Activities include bird and game viewing, trophy and biltong hunting, hiking, horse-riding, biking, 4×4 off-road driving, camping and climbing.

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