Lonely Planet review
Right before the darkness erases the remaining flecks of colour from the sky, something magical happens in Golden Gate Highlands National Park. The jagged sandstone outcroppings fronting the foothills of the wild, maroon-hued Maluti Mountains glow golden in the dying light; lemon yellow rays silhouette a lone kudu standing still in a sea of mint green grasses before the sky explodes in a fiery collision of purple and red.
The park might not boast any of the Big Five, but it does feature fantastic nightly sunsets. We suggest arriving about an hour before dusk (ask the locals when this happens as it changes throughout the year), this way you’ll have plenty of time to find the perfect spot. The scenery from the western approach is pretty tempting – loads of blazing sandstone and rusting old cars – but only stop for a few moments; head out into the open instead, taking the turn-off for the Basatho Cultural Village. You’ll now be off the main road and in the middle of the grasslands. Pull out a picnic basket, a bottle of good South African red and a bit of biltong and toast the end of another perfect African day. You can pick up great picnic supplies at Mezzaluna Cheese Deli in Clarens.
There are quite a few animals in the park, including grey rheboks, blesboks, elands, oribis, Burchell’s zebras, jackals, baboons and numerous bird species, including the rare bearded and Cape vulture as well as the endangered bald ibis. The park is popular with hikers on long treks, but there are also shorter walking trails. Winters (June to August) in the park can be very cold, with frost and snow; summers (January to March) are mild but rain falls at this time and cold snaps are possible – if you’re going out hiking, take warm clothing. You buy entry permits at the park reception.