Rock formations at Truitjieskraal in the Cederberg Wilderness Area, Western Cape, South Africa.

© Kobus Peche/Shutterstock

Cederberg Wilderness Area

West Coast & Swartland

As you drive, bike or hike through the bizarre-shaped, weathered-sandstone formations, glowing ochre in the fabulous Cederberg light, you'd be forgiven for whistling the soundtrack to an old Western movie. The 830-sq-km wilderness area boasts San rock art, craggy mountains, clear streams and bumpy dirt roads perfect for 4WD fanatics. The peaks and valleys extend roughly north–south for 100km, with the highest point reaching 2027m.

The region is famous for its plant life, which is predominantly mountain fynbos (fine bush). Spring is the best time to see the wildflowers, although there’s plenty to see at other times of the year. The vegetation varies with altitude but includes the Clanwilliam cedar (which gives the region its name). The cedar survives only in relatively small numbers, growing between 1000m and 1500m.

There are small populations of baboons, rheboks, klipspringers and grysboks; and predators such as caracals, Cape foxes, honey badgers and the elusive leopard. There are also farms dotted about, almost all of which offer accommodation.

As well as hiking, the Cederberg is popular with rock climbers, star-gazers and photographers, keen to capture the endlessly impressive landscapes.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby West Coast & Swartland attractions

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There are nine San rock-art sites along a relatively easy 5km hike here. The permit fee includes an informative pamphlet deciphering the paintings and…