South Africa’s Brightest Hidden Gems: The Best Places to Visit in Kimberley
Kimberley and its neighboring cities feature much of what makes South Africa so special; rich history, culture, and unmistakable, natural beauty. Kimberley itself, with its iconic Big Hole and Kimberley Mine Museum, offers a fascinating glimpse into a bygone era – the diamond rush – that once dominated the region.
Beyond the city limits, the Northern Cape’s vast landscapes unveil a different kind of beauty. From the ancient rock engravings at Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre to the wildlife-rich Mokala National Park, the region entices many with diverse attractions and a sense of adventure that only untamed wilderness can bring.
When it comes to exploring South Africa, Kimberley stands out as a hidden gem, though it’s often overlooked by major cities like Pretoria, Johannesburg, or Cape Town. However, this historical city, situated in the Northern Cape province, is a criminally underrated and undermined must-see spot.
Particularly for novices who are unacquainted with the African continent, travel to this beautiful part of the world may seem quite intimidating. Bargain holiday packages usually consist of the same European locations and short-haul flights, which don’t involve as much planning or preparation.
In contrast, traveling to Africa is considered to be more of a pricey trip, in the same way that flights to Australia or Asia often tend to be. With so much to see, many tourists generally try to book for longer stretches, which will allow them to get true value for their money with both the flights and accommodation.
That said, booking flights to South Africa is relatively straightforward owing to the fact that this region consists of several airports and multiple airlines cover flight paths from countries all around the world. If you’re preparing for an adventure in Kimberley, know that there are multiple travel routes at your disposal:
- Kimberley Airport (KIM): Kimberley Airport (KIM) is your likely port of call. It offers domestic flights connecting Kimberley to major South African cities like Johannesburg and Cape Town.
From Johannesburg to Kimberley (by Air):
- The most common route to Kimberley is from O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) in Johannesburg.
- Multiple airlines operate flights from Johannesburg to Kimberley Airport (KIM), with flight durations typically around 1 hour.
From Cape Town to Kimberley (by Air):
- You can also fly from Cape Town International Airport (CPT) to Kimberley Airport (KIM).
- Flight durations between Cape Town and Kimberley are also usually around 1 hour.
- Kimberley is well-connected by road, and many travelers opt to drive to the city, especially if they plan to explore the surrounding areas.
- If you’re driving from Johannesburg, Kimberley is approximately 500 kilometers (about 310 miles) southwest, and the journey takes around 5-6 hours, depending on road conditions and any occasional stops.
- From Cape Town, the distance to Kimberley is approximately 500 kilometers (about 310 miles) to the north, and the drive takes around 6-7 hours.
- South Africa’s rail network connects major cities, including Kimberley. The Shosholoza Meyl train service offers routes to Kimberley from cities like Johannesburg and the capital, Cape Town. Traveling by train can be a scenic and leisurely way to reach Kimberley.
Getting Around Kimberley:
- Once you’ve arrived in Kimberley, getting around the city is convenient. Cabs, rental cars, and rideshare services are readily available for local transportation.
Whether you choose to fly, drive, or take a train, Kimberley’s accessibility ensures that you can plan your trip according to your preferences and itinerary. It’s a place that’s full of surprises, including in it’s long and well-documented past.
Kimberley: A Tale of Rags and Riches
As we alluded to earlier, Kimberley’s history is closely tied to its past as a center for diamond mining, but there’s plenty more to take note of, too.
Before European settlers arrived, the region around Kimberley was inhabited by various indigenous groups, including the San people, who are known for their rock art and were among the first inhabitants of Southern Africa. Later, the Tswana people settled in the area.
By the mid-19th century, European settlers began to establish a presence in the region, and Kimberley was founded in 1871 when diamonds were discovered on a farm belonging to the De Beer brothers. The discovery of these precious gems marked the beginning of a significant diamond rush, attracting fortune seekers from around the world.
Kimberley quickly became the epicenter of the diamond mining industry. The Big Hole, a massive excavation site, was created by hand during the diamond rush and became the world’s largest hand-dug excavation. The De Beers Consolidated Mines company, founded by Cecil Rhodes, played a dominant role in the diamond industry and is still a prominent name today.
It was during this time that Kimberley also played a significant role in the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). The city was besieged by Boer forces for 124 days, with the defense of Kimberley becoming a symbol of British tenacity.
Naturally, the rush eventually waned, but the diamond industry continued to thrive in Kimberley, which remains a major center for diamond cutting and trading. Today, Kimberley stands as a testament to both South Africa’s mining heritage and its ongoing cultural and economic development. Visitors to the region can explore its history, natural attractions, and the enduring legacy of its diamond industry.
10 Must-See Spots In and Around Kimberley
1. The Big Hole
No visit to Kimberley is complete without marveling at the famous Big Hole, the largest hand-dug excavation in the world. This historic site, once a diamond mine, now offers a museum, ticketed, professionally guided tours, and an opportunity to learn about the diamond rush that shaped the city.
2. Kimberley Mine Museum
Immerse yourself in the past at the Kimberley Mine Museum, a meticulously reconstructed village that takes you back to the late 19th century. Explore historic buildings, see period-accurate displays, and gain insights into the lives of early Kimberley residents.
3. William Humphreys Art Gallery
Art lovers will appreciate a visit to the William Humphreys Art Gallery, home to an impressive collection of South African and international artworks. The gallery showcases paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts, providing a cultural perspective of the region, dating back as far as the San people who first settled there.
The city has preserved much of its modern-historical architecture, including well-preserved Victorian-era buildings. Visitors can explore both the Kimberley Mine Museum and the William Humphreys Art Gallery to gain insights into the city, but also take in the architecture that the city was once built on.
4. Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre
Delve into the ancient history of the San people at the Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre. Here, you can drink in well-preserved rock engravings and paintings, which offer a glimpse into the spiritual and artistic traditions of indigenous inhabitants long since gone but reflected in their ancient artwork.
5. Magersfontein Battlefield
History buffs will not want to miss exploring the Magersfontein Battlefield, a site of great significance during the Second Anglo-Boer War. You can take a guided tour to learn about the battles that unfolded here and the stories of the soldiers who fought on both sides.
6. McGregor Museum
Kimberley’s comprehensive history is recorded at the McGregor Museum, home to an array of exhibits showcasing the city’s evolution. From archaeological treasures to cultural artifacts, this museum provides a full picture of Kimberley’s past.
7. Mokala National Park
Nature enthusiasts should not miss the renowned Mokala National Park, a pristine wilderness area located a short drive from Kimberley. This park offers exceptional wildlife viewing opportunities, with a chance to spot rare and endangered species such as roan antelope and the uniquely curved-horned Cape buffalo, a member of the safari ‘Big Five.’
8. William Humphreys Bridge
For panoramic views of the city, visit the William Humphreys Bridge. This vantage point offers stunning vistas of the surrounding landscape and the opportunity to capture the perfect Kimberley sunset.
9. Wildebeest Kuil Northern Cape Heritage Route
Embark on a journey along the Wildebeest Kuil Northern Cape Heritage Route, which encompasses various cultural and historical sites, including ancient rock engravings, mission stations, and significant battlefields.
10. Magersfontein Golf Estate
Golf fans can tee off at the Magersfontein Golf Estate, an 18-hole championship course surrounded by natural beauty. It’s the perfect place to unwind and enjoy a round of golf in a dramatically beautiful and peaceful setting.
With a wealth of attractions, Kimberley is well-equipped to cater to essentially any tourist’s tastes, and that’s saying something given how the capital and major cities of South Africa are often the main focus of visits to the nation.
Whether you’re looking for a dive into the past at the museums, witnessing humanity’s roots by examining ancient rock art or encountering South Africa’s wildlife in Mokala National Park, this city has something to captivate any traveler, all easily accessible by its many travel routes.
The town of Kimberley is a must-see for those wanting to understand how South Africa’s past, present, and future continue to shape its identity and culture to this day.