The Klein (Little) Karoo -- a sun-drenched area about 250km (155 miles) long and 70km (43 miles) wide -- is wedged between the coastal mountains that separate it from the Garden Route and the impressive Swartberg mountain range -- part of the Cape Flora World Heritage Site -- in the north. To reach it from any angle, you have to traverse precipitous mountain passes, the most spectacular of which is the Swartberg Pass, connecting the Klein Karoo with its big brother, the Great Karoo. Unlike this vast dry land that stretches well into the Northern Cape and Free State, the "little" Karoo is watered by a number of streams that flow down from the mountains to join the Olifants River. Grapes grow here (Calitzdorp produces some of the country's best port), as does lucerne (alfalfa), which is why farmers in the region were able to successfully introduce the ostrich -- lucerne is a favorite food of the ostrich.

Today the ostrich farms, together with the Cango Caves -- a series of subterranean chambers some 30km (19 miles) from Oudtshoorn -- are the main draws of the region, but it is the Swartberg Pass, rated one of the most spectacular drives in Africa, the unique sandstone architecture, and the small-town Afrikaans ambience that makes no Garden Route itinerary complete without a sojourn in Oudtshoorn, center of the Klein Karoo.