What does it mean to be free? To unshackle yourself from the daily pressures of life and to completely absorb yourself in something truly breathtaking? Or is it the ability to explore the cultural nuances of a small town and the ancient lands that surround it? Perhaps it is to feel your heart beating beneath your chest as you embark on an adventure? The answer is all of the above! All of which can be found at the Golden Gate Highlands National Park in the beautiful Free State (where freedom is even in the name).

Read on and discover 6 reasons why you absolutely have to take a Sho’t Left and explore this incredible national park:

Breathtaking Scenery

When you finally get to take that much needed holiday, chances are you want to go somewhere that’s going to inspire you. At the foot of Lesotho’s Maluti Mountains – the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, will literally leave you high with inspiration with endless horizons, overlooking the vast beauty that is South Africa.

Loved for its unusual scenery and renowned for its golden aura as the sun lights up the sandstone cliffs and outcrops, the Golden Gate Highlands National Park is central to Johannesburg, Durban and Bloemfontein, making it the ideal escape if you long to stretch their legs, breathe fresh mountain air and let nature lift up your soul.

Wildlife

Since this is a national park, you won’t be starved for wildlife. Today Black Wildebeest, Eland, Blesbok, Oribi, Springbok and Burchell’s zebra graze its wild, grassy pastures, while rare bearded vultures circle the skies above the lost pathways of the San hunter-gathers, who once dwelt in the park’s caves.

Clarens

Right next door to the park, you’ll find one of the most charming little towns the Free State has to offer. No sooner do you arrive in Clarens than you find yourself in a frenzy of art-buying, restaurant-hopping, cycling, game driving, trout fishing, birding and late-night partying. You’ll ask yourself where exactly did that quiet weekend or couple of days go? To heaven, that’s where!

That’s the point! Clarens is so rich with experiences that you need to make sure you set aside enough time in the area because it passes all too quickly.

Adventure

Sometimes it’s not enough to just soak up awesome scenery, you need to immerse yourself in it, to be able to feel a part of it. In the Free State province, in and around the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, you can do exactly this. Whether it’s feeling the rush of the rapids with some white-river rafting or hiking up incredible mountains, there are plenty of adventures to have in this scenic corner of South Africa.

Fossils/dinosaurs

Around 200-million-years ago, large Jurassic dinosaurs roamed the plains of the eastern Free State back when the South America and Africa formed one giant continent called Gondwana.

The first time you visit the Clarens area in the Eastern Free State and someone offers you a brace of South African dinosaur droppings for inspection, who can blame you for laughing in disbelief?

But later, when they show you a 190-million-year-old fossilised egg of a Massospondylus dinosaur that lived in the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic era, a period from about 230-million years ago to about 185-million years ago, your jaw might drop in amazement.

Become a real-life fossil hunter on the ancient Drakensberg mountain range in the Golden Gate National Park.

Culture

If you’re looking for that raw mix of South African culture and breathtaking scenery, then you have to visit the Basotho Cultural Village in the Free State province.

The Basotho Cultural Village in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park is a unique South African cultural village where visitors are invited to experience authentic hospitality and learn about the traditional arts, crafts and ways of life of the Basotho people.

It is a completely immersive experience you’re likely to remember forever. The village is exactly that. It’s a rest camp that resembles an 18th century Basotho Village combined with replica homesteads dating from the 16th century to the modern day. In it you’ll find beautiful displays of the mural art of the Basotho, known as Litema.

If you’re on a cultural adventure through South Africa, or even just in the area, get inspired by tradition by filling your life with culture at the Basotho Cultural Village.

So go ahead, explore the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. You won’t regret it. It may be just what you needed! Take a Sho’t Left today and discover all the Free State has to offer.

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