The Free State is situated right in the heart of South Africa between the mighty Vaal and Orange Rivers. The province is largely a massive open plain, and its wide horizons and barren beauty is only recently regaining popularity with tourists.
Being the third-largest province in South Africa, the Free State is home to many large and industrialized towns, with the majority of the people speaking Sesotho and Afrikaans. These different traditions have created an interesting cultural mix, and visitors can enjoy monuments and museums, expansive farms in rural settings and fabulous San rock art in the mountains that border Lesotho. The Free State holds many annual festivals and one of the most popular is the Ficksburg Cherry Festival (November), where everything to do with cherries is celebrated, eaten or sold.
The Free State has wonderful panoramic landscapes and vistas that change dramatically from the flat corn and sunflower fields to the magnificent sandstone canyons and peaks of Golden Gate National Park, located at the Lesotho border. It has a wonderful climate, with 340 days of sunshine a year, and is a fabulous destination for those visitors wishing to get involved in a little bit of outdoor activity, such as hiking, horse-riding, fishing, and mountain biking. The eastern section of the province, bordering the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho, has wonderful scenery and magnificent mountain ranges, and is a photographer’s dream destination, as the orange and purple hues of the sandstone are ideal subjects for perfect images. The stunning little village of Clarens, as well as the Golden Gate National Park, are located in this region.
The Free State has always been regarded as a huge granary, as it is here where South Africa’s largest crops of maize and sunflower seeds are grown. Farming plays a major role in the economy of the Free State, and some important crops include soya, sorghum, cherries, potatoes, asparagus and wheat – all of which make up a large percentage of South Africa’s total agricultural output. Another huge industry in the Free State is mining, and the long stretch of gold-rich land known as the Goldfields is responsible for about 30% of South Africa’s total gold production, making the region the fifth biggest producer of the precious metal in the world. Other mining operations include platinum, uranium, silver and coal.
The Free State is big sky country, and makes for a wonderful retreat. Perfect for conducting business, having some fun and getting to grips with genuine South African hospitality.
PRINCIPAL LANGUAGES: Sesotho; Afrikaans; isiXhosa
POPULATION: Approximately 2.88 million
AREA: 129,480 sq km