Situated on the plateau between the Vaal and Orange Rivers, the Free State is farming and gold mining country. Historic Bloemfontein, (also known as Mangaung) is the judicial capital of South Africa. With its wealth of historical and cultural attractions and excellent facilities, Bloemfontein is the ideal place to start a tour of the Free State. Welkom, in the goldfields, is country's youngest town. Pride of the province is the beautiful Golden Gate Highlands National Park in the eastern Free State. North of Winburg, the Willem Pretorius Game Reserve is the Free State's major provincial reserve, offering a wealth of wildlife, excellent fishing conditions, and a wide range of sports facilities. Kroonstad has all you need for a relaxing break, including an excellent holiday resort. Loch Athlone, one of the major attractions of Bethlehem, is a magnet for anglers and those who enjoy pottering around in boats. No visit to the province is complete without following the renowned Highlands Route.
Golden Gate Highlands National Park/Qwaqwa National Park/Basotho Cultural Village
Distinctive mushroom shaped rocks, dark caves and deep shelters all add to the mystery and splendour of Golden Gate Highlands National Park. Prolific birdlife includes raptors like the black eagle. The Qwaqwa National Park, bordering both the Golden Gate National Park and Lesotho, is home to various wildlife species including eland, wildebeest, springbok and zebra. At its heart is the Basotho Cultural Village, where the lifestyle and architecture of the South Sotho people is depicted.
Free State facts in brief
- Capital: Bloemfontein
- Area: 129437 km² (10,6% of South Africa)
- Population: 2 804 600
- Density: 21,1 km² ; 73,7% urban
- Annual Population Growth: 1,5%
- Age Dependency Ratio: 1,4
- Life Expectancy: 53,5 years
- Literacy: 62,1%
- GGP: R15 714 million (6,4% GDP)
- GGP/Capita: R6023
- Human Development Index: 0,66
Willem Pretorius Game Reserve
Home to white rhino, buffalo, black wildebeest, giraffe and many antelope species, this reserve is on the NI north from Bloemfontein, just beyond Winburg. The dam is a popular resort area, particularly for anglers and birders. More than 200 bird species have been recorded.
The capital of the Free State is known as the "City of Roses" after the King's Park Rose Garden, containing over 4,000 bushes. Flower lovers can also visit the Free State Botanical Gardens and the Orchid House. The city boasts a wealth of museums, art galleries and many gracious historical buildings. The modern Sand du Plessis Theatre stages performances ranging from opera to plays. The poignant National Women's Memorial commemorates the 27,000 Boer women and children who died in British concentration camps during the Anglo-Boer War.