Klein Karoo Itinerary: The Best 3-Day Road Trip

Klein Karoo South Africa Pin

A Klein Karoo road trip should be high on your travel wish list.

Exploring the majestic Swartberg Mountains, driving through charming towns with enthralling architecture, meeting friendly people, and devouring delectable wines and traditional dishes will make your vacation truly unforgettable.

To help you plan your journey through the Klein Karoo, South Africa in the best way possible, I’ve put together this 3-day road trip itinerary.

You’ll learn where to start the trip, the best stops along the way, the best things to do in Klein Karoo, the South African animals you’ll meet, and the most delectable South African foods to try.

Ready to explore the Klein Karoo?

Let’s dive right in!

Short on time? Book my recommended road trip from Cape Town, South Africa:

🚐 From Cape Town: Klein Karoo and Garden Route Private Tour 🚐

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Where Is the Klein Karoo, South Africa?

Karoo Vegetation
The vegetation in the Klein Karoo, South Africa is mainly low shrub and grass

The Karoo is the South African semi-desert. The Swartberg Mountain Range divides it into two regions, the Great Karoo and the Little Karoo.

The Great Karoo stretches over the provinces of the Eastern, Northern, and Western Cape on more than 400,000 km2. That’s approximately the size of California and larger than the area of Germany!

The Klein Karoo, South Africa (Little Karoo) is situated between majestic mountains. To the south are the Outeniqua Mountains and the Swartberg Mountain Range is to the north. It also borders the famous Garden Route in the Western Cape.

But you might be wondering, what’s a semi-desert?

The rain, which falls in the semi-desert, is slightly more than the precipitation in the desert, 50 – 250 mm/m2 per year. The air is arid and the temperature amplitudes are extreme.

Red clay soil covers the ground and every blow of the wind shoots clouds of red dust into the air during the dry season. Your shoes will be covered in red dust after only a few steps in the semi-desert.

The fauna of the Klein Karoo consists of low bushes and grass. Aloes, euphorbias, stapelias, and desert ephemerals grow half a meter or more apart. The vegetation is sufficient to support vast herds.

In spring, when a few drops of rain eventually fall in the semi-desert, all the flowers and bushes blossom. For a brief period, the Klein Karoo, South Africa is covered with a carpet of thousands upon thousands of mesmerizing blooms.

3-Day Klein Karoo, South Africa Road Trip Itinerary

Now that you know the most important facts about the Klein Karoo, let’s see what you can do in this amazing part of South Africa.

Below, you’ll find my top recommendations for an unforgettable Klein Karoo road trip.

Day 1: Start from Cape Town and Follow Route 62 to Oudtshoorn

Table Mountain Cape Town Downtown At Sunset
Start your road trip from Cape Town, South Africa

The best and tested itinerary for a perfect adventure in the Klein Karoo starts in Cape Town and finishes at the Garden Route. Most people visit South Africa to explore exactly these two regions anyway. So, add a unique adventure and do a road trip through the Klein Karoo, South Africa as well.

The journey from Cape Town to Oudtshoorn, the largest town in the semi-desert, will take you parallel to the southern coastline, but you will be separated from the sea by the Outeniqua Mountain range.

Shortly after you leave Cape Town, you’ll pass by Paarl. From the highway, you can see the only Language Monument in the world. The longest of its spires rises 57 m (187 ft.) high.

Eleven official languages are spoken in South Africa. The Language Monument in Paarl commemorates the Afrikaans language, which was written down in the city. It’s a blend of Dutch, English, German, French, and African languages, following its own grammar rules.

After you leave the highway, you’ll follow Route 62, known as the Wine Route. You will pass by numerous vineyards and orchards. Stop for a wine tasting and enjoy the world-renowned South African wines. The family-friendly wine farms are a great choice.

Winery on Route 62
When on the Wine Route, a wine tasting is a must-do activity

✔️ My Recommendation: Try the wine pairing with specially crafted hand-made chocolates at Van Loveren Vineyards for an orgasmic experience.

Following Route 62, you’ll pass by herds of ostriches and Karoo sheep. Make a stop for a lunch break and don’t miss to order a Karoo lamb dish. South Africans consider it the tastiest breed of lamb. But don’t just take their word for it and sample it yourself!

✔️ Tip: Check what other South African food classics you should try in the Klein Karoo.

Continue on Route 62 and deeper into the Klein Karoo. Stop at Ronnie’s Sex Shop in the middle of nowhere and leave a piece of underwear writing on the walls or on the ceiling.

Check into your accommodation in or around Oudtshoorn. Spend the night at one of the ostrich farms or at a charming guesthouse.

Time needed: The drive from Cape Town to Oudtshoorn takes around 5 hours. Depending on the number of stops and the length of the breaks you make, plan to be on the road for at least seven hours or, in other words, a whole day of epic road-tripping.

Day 2 (Morning): A Klein Karoo Sunrise with the Unpredictable Meerkats

Good Morning, Meerkats
Not everyone gets lucky to greet a new day in the Klein Karoo, South Africa with the meerkats

You can’t find Big Five safaris in the Klein Karoo, South Africa. However, the semi-desert is one of the few places in South Africa where you can say “Good morning!” to one of the Shy Five. The meerkats are the only South African animals in the group, which are active during the day.

For this incredible activity, you need to wake up hours before sunrise. I know, I hate getting up early too, but it is all worth it!

Go to the meeting point. Have a cup of coffee while listening to the guides’ instructions. Cross your fingers that the meerkats will be in a good mood this morning and will not keep you waiting for hours.

The little creatures’ peculiar habits are still not fully studied.

They might come out a moment after you’ve set your folding chair on the ground or they might keep you waiting for hours. They might come out all at once, only to disappear in the distance a few moments later, leaving you with one blurry shot and a lot of disappointment.

But if you are as lucky as we were, you’ll only wait for a couple of minutes, just long enough for the guide to give you instructions on how to behave in the presence of meerkats.

Then, the cute little rodents will come out and gaze at the sun, enjoy the incredible pink color of the first daylight, and completely ignore you. Afterwards, they’ll play with their mates long enough for you to take hundreds of pictures and even come within 2 m (6.5 ft.) of your group!

✔️ Tip: If you want to experience more stunning wildlife, check out these top African safari destinations.

Time needed: Between two and six hours depending on the meerkats’ mood.

Day 2 (Midday): Visit Cango Caves, the Biggest Cave System in Africa

Formations Cango Caves
Photos can’t capture the beauty and magnificence of the Cango Caves, South Africa

The Cango Caves at the foot of the Swartberg Mountain Range are the third most visited tourist attraction in South Africa (number one is the Kruger National Park and number two is Table Mountain).

The caves are aged at about 20 million years. They comprise the biggest cave system in Africa. It consists of four caves but visitors can only enter the first one, called Cango I.

The Heritage Tour takes you through six out of all twenty-six chambers and lasts about an hour. Visitors, who take the Adventure Tour, see the same area but their experience continues through further passages for another 30 min.

In the information center of the Cango Caves, you can see what tunnels and holes you’ll have to crawl through if you wish to join the Adventure Tour. The lowest passage is only 15 cm (6 in) high!

You can’t help but wonder how a limestone cave system formed under a semi-desert area. Of course, 20 million years ago this wasn’t a dry area but rather the bottom of the ocean. There’s no more water in the cave or the area. Since it rarely rains, the Cango Caves are dry and growing at an extremely slow pace.

Still, nature had enough time to sculpt impressive stalactites and stalagmites and even connect some of those into magnificent columns, rising tens of meters high. It also formed striking flowstones and drapes that will leave you gazing in awe.

The first explorers found that the Cango Caves were inhabited during the Stone Ages. Bushmen lived in the entrance hall. They never ventured deeper than a few steps inwards because they believed the spirits of their dead ancestors lived inside the cave and didn’t want to disturb them.

Time needed: Two to three hours, depending on the chosen tour.

Day 2 (Afternoon): Learn About Ostrich Farming in the Klein Karoo

Visiting an ostrich farm is a must in the Klein Karoo, South Africa

The largest town in the Klein Karoo, Oudtshoorn, is known as The Ostrich Capital of the World.

The ostriches from the Little Karoo are believed to be the prettiest members of their species. In the 1860s, a farmer successfully started domesticating, breeding, and hatching ostriches in incubators without decreasing the beauty and quality of the feathers.

The feather industry boomed and ostrich farmers quickly became tremendously wealthy.

Nowadays, a visit to an ostrich farm is a must in Klein Karoo, South Africa.

Cuddle with the cute little ostrich chicks, covered in weirdly prickly feathers. Feed the always-hungry adult ostriches. Learn what type of ostrich feathers are used in the production of some of the best travel souvenirs I’ve ever seen.

Then, try to stand on an ostrich egg. Don’t worry, you won’t break it. The 2 mm (0.08 in) thick shell is extremely strong and will hold your weight. Finally, ride on an ostrich, or watch the professionals do it (watch the video above).

Time needed: About two hours.

Day 2 (Evening): Explore Oudtshoorn, the Ostrich Capital of the World

Museum Oudtshoorn
The impressive building of the C.P Nel Museum in Oudtshoorn, Klein Karoo

In the 1880s, the Klein Karoo, and especially the town of Oudtshoorn, became the center of the booming ostrich feather industry.

The wealthy farmers soon became known as “feather millionaires”. They built their grand “feather palaces” in Art Nouveau, Victorian, and Neo-Renaissance Revival styles using red rocks and sandstone.

Today, visitors can still admire the imposing mansions in Oudtshoorn. Stroll along Baron van Rheede Street to view some of the palaces. Don’t miss a visit to the C.P Nel Museum for a glimpse into the life of the Klein Karoo and especially the lifestyle of the pioneers of the ostrich industry.

Many old houses turned into charming guesthouses, featuring cozy gardens and unique rooms, or restaurants offering an exquisite gourmet experience. Don’t leave Oudtshoorn without devouring an assortment of scrumptious ostrich specialties.

✔️ Tip: If you visit the lovely Oudtshoorn at the end of March, don’t miss the Klein Karoo National Arts Festival, one of the best festivals in South Africa. 

Time needed: Two to four hours.

Day 3 (Morning): Drive Through the Breathtaking Swartberg Pass

Swartberg Pass
Breathtaking, jaw-dropping, and awe-inspiring views on each turn of the road through the Swartberg Pass

The Swartberg Mountain Range separates the Great Karoo from the Little Karoo. Thomas Bain built the pass through the mountains in the 1880s using the labor of convicts.

The main reason to build the Swartberg Pass was the need to provide a road connection between the town of Prince Albert in the Great Karoo and Oudtshoorn in the Klein Karoo, and from there to George on the Garden Route by the ocean.

The stunning views on each turn, the spectacular mountaintops on both sides of the road, and the winding gravel road make crossing the Swartberg Pass an incredible adventure even nowadays.

The pass closes several times a year due to poor weather conditions. The unpaved road can be treacherously slippery during rain. Snowfalls are not rare in winter.

Still, if you are lucky enough to cross it once, mark my word that it’s so bewildering, that you’ll want to drive it backward immediately just to get another chance to admire the awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping, magnificent views.

Time needed: Between two and four hours depending on the number of stops you make to photograph your stunning surroundings.

Day 3 (Afternoon): Leave the Klein Karoo with a Promise to Come Back

Leaving The Semi-desert
Even a perfect adventure like a road trip through the Little Karoo has to finish

After a tasty lunch in Prince Albert, it’s time to say goodbye to the Klein Karoo.

A great way to end your perfect Klein Karoo road trip is by driving through the Outeniqua Pass to reach the Garden Route. In its heart lies to gorgeous town of Knysna, which you should explore next.

You will notice that the moment you reach the mountain, the weather, the vegetation, and the views will change suddenly and dramatically.

The semi-desert will disappear and the cooler, more humid air of the Garden Route will fill your lungs. Tall green trees will take the place of the low shrubs, and the ostrich and sheep herds along the road will disappear.

Now You Have the Perfect Klein Karoo Itinerary for Your Next South African Road Trip

Sunrise In The Little Karoo
A sunrise in the semi-desert is one of the most unforgettable experiences in the Klein Karoo, South Africa

An adventure through the South African semi-desert is an unforgettable experience.

The delectable wines and the tender Karoo lamb, the ostriches everywhere you turn, the morning with the unpredictable meerkats, the enormous chambers of the Cango Caves, the charming houses of Oudtshoorn, and the stunning views along the Swartberg Pass will remain in your memories forever.

If you follow this 3-day Klein Karoo itinerary, I’m sure you’ll have a blast in this amazing region of South Africa.

✔️ Tip: The greatest way to experience the striking South Africa is by taking a road trip. You can book this amazing Klein Karoo road trip or any other tailor-made trip in South Africa with Gecko Tours. We had a fantastic time with them and I’m sure you will too!

Now, tell me:

Are you ready to road trip through the Klein Karoo, South Africa?

Let me know in the comments below.

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