A national monument for those with a sense of adventure
The town of Prince Albert in the Karoo is a historical gem and tourists from (literally) all over the world come to visit the many national monuments around this little town. There is one particular monument that is arguably the most famous of all, but to visit this monument, you would have to go on an epic journey.
One of the world’s most spectacular mountain passes, the Swartberg Pass, starts here in Prince Albert and this challenging pass is, in fact, a national monument. It has been around for many years and its history can be relived around every corner of its steep gravel road. A trip up the Swartberg Pass will reveal the historical points of interest and awe-inspiring panoramic views that make this old mountain pass so unique.
From its base in Prince Albert, the Swartberg Pass ascends to a whopping 1 583 meters above sea level. It is about 25 km long and with some very steep climbs and some serious hairpins, it can be a long and challenging journey to get to the top. That – of course – is no problem for the many outdoor enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies that come to take on this beast of a mountain pass with everything from bikes to ropes.
Is this heaven?
Yes, this area is heaven for outdoorsy people – the kind of people that hear the angels sing when they see a jagged, treacherous mountainside like this. As soon as you enter the Swartberg nature reserve and feast your eyes on the 180 000 hectares of pure adventure that lies ahead, it becomes clear that from that point, you’re leaving the easy life – and the tar road – behind. It’s time to conquer a mountain.
Of course, you don’t have to be an adrenaline junkie to enjoy this spectacular world heritage site. The Swartberg nature reserve offers some great picnicking, bird-watching and swimming opportunities too. And for those who would rather stay in the car, the Swartberg Pass also connects to Gamkaskloof road and the endless views along Elands Pass, so there will be plenty of beautiful vistas to enjoy.
Along with beautiful views and nostalgia-inducing historical sites, the Swartberg Pass is also home to very special kinds of fauna and flora. The mountain range’s unique micro-climate creates a great environment for South Africa’s unique fynbos and a thriving bird population that is not found in the surrounding Karoo landscape. There’s a lot of life in the beautiful green slopes of the Swartberg mountains and animal sightings range from baboons to black eagles. This is also one of the very few places where you might spot rare species like caracal and maybe even leopard – if you’re lucky (but don’t count on it).
However you decide to take on your journey through the Swartberg Pass, you will be met with beautiful views, unique fauna and flora, a glimpse into the past and probably a few surprises along the way. An experience like this is truly special and the way we see it – one for the bucket list.
If you want to make the most out of your exploration of this national monument, why not stay over in another national monument – the Swartberg Hotel? Our 150-year-old abode in Prince Albert has been home to many adventurers keen to take on the Swartberg Pass. We’d be happy to give you some tips and advice for your journey and to welcome you back with a sundowner by the pool – and maybe even a massage – after you’ve conquered the mountain. Click here to book your stay with us and let the adventure begin!
If you’re interested to know what it’s like to stay in the Swartberg Hotel, read our previous blog post, What it means to stay over in a hotel that is a national monument.