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Prince Albert

This is arguably the Cape's most charming Karoo dorpie (little village), with wonderfully preserved Cape frontier architecture; it can be reached as a day trip from Oudtshoorn (or even Wilderness), but I'd opt to overnight here rather than in Oudtshoorn. That said, it's perhaps not as authentic as Oudtshoorn; the village is very much "discovered," and the vast majority of its community is transplanted here -- people who fell in love with the low-key atmosphere and irrigation canal-lined streets, and saw the tourism potential. As a result, there are numerous places to stay, most of them good. My top choice is Dennehof Guesthouse (tel. 023/541-1227; www.dennehof.co.za), a tranquil oasis in an 1835 farmstead on the outskirts of the village that is said to be the oldest surviving building in town; try to book the gorgeously renovated Wagon Shed (R700-R860 double, including breakfast; other room prices vary). Ria and Lindsay are not only very good at running their "Karoo chic" guesthouse, but they act as an informal tourism bureau for the area.

If you'd prefer to be in the heart of the village, a good option is Saxe-Coburg Lodge (tel. 023/541-1267; www.saxecoburg.co.za; R720-R820 double), particularly the Victoria or Albert garden rooms. Onse Rus (tel. 023/541-1380; www.onserus.co.za; R820 double) is far more basic but has character, a fascinating history (one of the rooms once housed the town newspaper's printing press), and a super hostess; just be aware some bathrooms are extremely small and basic. But probably the best deal in town is the gorgeous, three-bed cottage Vergeet-My-Niet, 8 De Beer St. (tel. 023/541-1069 or 083/316-4015; R500 -- R560 double). Tucked away on a quiet street but within walking distance of restaurants and museums, it's filled with lovely furniture and has a great fireplace, a garden, and a dam with geese. If you like your luxuries, head straight for De Bergkant Lodge and Cottages, 5 Church St., Prince Albert (tel. 023/541-1088; www.debergkant.co.za; R1,000-R2,000 double, depending on season; no children under 12). In a Cape Dutch national monument (with a few rooms in the new Georgian-style extension), with lovely antiques, two large saltwater swimming pools, two outdoor "star baths," and a wellness center, De Bergkant is the most upmarket guesthouse in the village. It's delightful, but I'm not sure it's worth the price (double what you'll pay elsewhere).

If you are overnighting, try to make sure it's on one of the nights that the Olive Branch is open (bookings depend on reservation numbers, so call 023/541-1821 and beg). This is a real family-run country-kitchen restaurant with unlikely chef Bakkie Botha at the helm. At around R190 for five courses, it's an exceptional value. Alternatively, dine on real Karoo fare (traditional bobotie -- lightly curried ground beef cooked in a savory egg custard and served with yellow rice, Karoo lamb pie, chicken pie, or Karoo leg of lamb, followed by sticky malva pudding or steamed lemon pudding) in the wonderfully camp, over-the-top atmosphere of Karoo Kombuis. Be warned, you may be asked to don a hat from the selection on hand (tel. 023/541-1110; dinner Mon-Sat; main courses R65; no credit cards; BYOB). With its wider menu, emphasis on fresh local ingredients, and convivial setting, newcomer Gallery Café (tel. 082/749-2128; dinner only) is pulling in both punters and compliments (if it's warm, book a table on the veranda overlooking Church St.). The butternut and sage soup is a favorite; you will also always find poultry, venison, and lamb (a rack crusted with almonds, feta, and oregano was on offer the day I stopped by) and -- scarce in the Karoo -- a number of vegetarian options. Plus delectable homemade ice cream.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.