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January 10, 2013

Visit Ceres – the ‘Eden of the Cape’

Stone huts in the Cederberg. Photo courtesy jonwade

Often referred to as “the Eden of the Cape”, the town of Ceres is world famous for its exceptional deciduous fruit production. Fruit tours present a great way to appreciate the journey from tree to table, while sampling fresh fruit along the way.

Apples, plums, grapes, peaches and pears are grown in the region, along with potatoes, onions and wheat. Spring water is also bottled at source here.

The Ceres district is a mere 150km or 90 minutes' drive from Cape Town, and is accessible only by a number of scenic mountain passes, comprises the fertile valley of the Warm Bokkeveld; the potato and onion packing industry at Prince Alfred’s Hamlet; and Bo-Swaarmoed, famous for its cherry picking and proteas.

Fresh produce market, Ceres. Photo courtesy avlxyz

Mid-November to end-December is cherry-picking season, when locals and visitors head for places like the Klondyke Cherry Farm to fill their baskets with sun-ripened cherries. World-famous Ceres fruit juices are available for tasting at the Ceres Transport Riders’ Museum.

While in Ceres try some local cuisine, like oxtail potjie (a dish cooked in a three-legged pot over an open fire), minted lamb chops or curried tripe and trotters. Produce outlets like Baba’s Jêm sell homemade preserves, chutney, jams and atchars, so it’s well worth stocking up while you’re there.

The Koue Bokkeveld, with its village called Op-die-Berg, lies on a plateau, where apples and pears are grown. The unique scenery of the region has been inspirational in South African literature, and there are strong historical ties to some of the country’s oldest farms, many of which can still be visited today.

Koelfontein is the region’s sole wine producer, where tastings are by appointment only. They also offer visitors a unique opportunity to experience life on a working fruit farm. Spend the night at farm cottages or chalets, and step into a farmer’s boots for a few days. 

Over the Theronsberg mountains in the semi-arid Tanqua Karoo, indigenous flora and fauna may be viewed and spectacular sunsets enjoyed. Other game-viewing localities include the Matroosberg Private Nature Reserve, Big Five country at Inverdoorn Game Reserve and Iziba Safari Lodge, and 6 000-year-old rock art at Kagga Kamma private game reserve.

Unique rock chalets in the Kagga Kamma. Photo courtesy Jason Bagley

The town’s surrounds also have strong historical and cultural connections, with the Ceres valley, Koue Bokkeveld and Tanqua Karoo first occupied by the San and Khoi people thousands of years ago.

Luxury game reserves, self-catering, bed and breakfasts and a holiday resort offer a variety of accommodation to suit all tastes, including pet-friendly options.

The more energetic might like to try a round of golf, paintball, ziplining, 4x4 trails, biking, fishing or hiking, all of which are offered in the area.

During the winter months, the mountains transform the region into its alter ego, Little Switzerland. Many snow-based activities, such as skiing and snowboarding, hold the promise of family fun from June to August.

There are many arts, crafts and gift shops to be found in and around Ceres, which also hosts a bonsai centre.

Ceres, in the heart of the Cape Winelands, is the gateway to the Cederberg area (to the north) and Route 62 (to the south). The Ceres valley can be reached through Mitchell’s Pass (from Cape Town, via N1, R43, R46), Theronsberg Pass (from Touws River, R46) and Gydo Pass (from Citrusdal, R303).

The Koue Bokkeveld. Photo courtesy: Martin Heigan

Panoramic shot of the Gydo Pass between Ceres and Citrusdal. Photo courtesy: Jeurgen Schulte

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