This Eastern Cape town is known vicariously as the 'Settler City', the 'City of Saints', 'Sleepy Hollow' or 'Rini' – and being at the centre of a malaria-free game and wildlife area only adds to its appeal to overseas visitors in particular. The four major weather systems of South Africa come together here, giving it its ‘four seasons in one day’ reputation – students will recall being incredibly hot in summer and freezing in winter!
The Great Fish River Reserve is located nearby, as are Open Africa’s partner safari lodges and other private reserves in the area – Shamwari and Kariega Game Reserve. The species diversity here is the largest and most impressive in the country. Birding is popular too, with so many endemics and special bird species to attract all types of bird-watchers.
But mostly, Grahamstown is the area’s 'Student City' - Rhodes University is world famous for the inventors, thinkers, writers and academics it has produced over the generations, and when it is open for learning, the town buzzes.
Apart from being home to Rhodes University, Grahamstown is renowned for its annual Grahamstown Arts Festival, one of the oldest and largest festivals in the world. This also kicks off when the mid-year university vacation arrives and the students leave for home – be warned and get ready for the party of the year!
The festival really kicks off on a Sunday afternoon in July at the Settlers' Monument when residents and visitors alike alight on ten days of amazing theatre, art and song.
The National Science Festival is also held annually in the same venue.
Nearby, the Groendal Nature Reserve forms part of the Groot Winterhoek Mountain range, a wilderness area characterised by rugged terrain cut up by picturesque streams and ravines.
Fynbos is prolific and is home to a diversity of individual species. Small areas of indigenous forest occur in the ravines, interspersed with thorny, semi-succulent Valley Bushveld scrub.
You won’t find all that many mammals in this area but it is still good hiking country. However, twitchers will thrive here - there have been about 180 species recorded so far.
- A visit to the Camera Obscura at The Observatory Museum.
- Great Fish River reserve.
- Variety of private safari lodges and game reserves.
- Grahamstown Arts Festival held annually in July.
- National Science Festival.
- Groendal Nature Reserve.
- Hiking trails.
- Birding opportunity.
- Sky diving, hang gliding.
- 1820 Settler's Monument.
- Albany Museum Complex.
- Makana Botanical Gardens.
- Benedictine Monastery.
Grahamstown is where the early British settlers – craftspeople and builders – produced some of the most incredible architecture in South Africa. If you simply spend a day walking the streets, you will be transported back to the mid-1800s: follies, fancies and Victorian styles reminiscent of the London of old.