The Karoo is the vast and beautiful semidesert stretching across the great South African plateau inland from the Cape coast; its southeastern section covers a chunk of the Eastern Cape. The dry region, with its variety of grasses, hardy shrubs, tolbos (tumbleweed in Afrikaans) and succulents, is a surprisingly rich cultural and historic destination. Graaff-Reinet, the architectural 'jewel of the Karoo', is complemented by artistic Nieu Bethesda and literary Cradock, while Camdeboo and Mountain Zebra National Parks offer stunning scenery and rare Cape mountain zebras. Throughout, the overwhelming sense of space, peace and freedom stand in sharp contrast to the busier coastline – and make the region perfect road-trip territory.
Between December and February temperatures in Karoo towns can reach 45°C, and things barely cool down in March and April. June and July see the thermometer plummet to -5°C, with snow in the mountain passes and frosts. Come prepared!