In the heart of South Africa’s Mpumalanga Province lies the Lowveld. An area renowned for its low-lying valleys, majestic waterfalls, lush forests, wildlife and quirky towns. It also commonly serves as a gateway to South Africa’s prestigious Kruger National Park.
One place I particularly enjoy visiting in this region, is the small village of Kaapsehoop. This quaint and quirky little town, offers beautiful views and a rich history dating back to the Anglo Boer War and South Africa’s gold rush period. Added to that, you might even get a chance to see the town’s wild horses.
At roughly 1468m above sea level, Kaapsehoop is set in the natural beauty of the Highveld Escarpment. A large part of the area has also been declared a National Heritage Site, providing a save breeding ground to endangered Blue Swallows. With only a 150 residents, the village comprises of a handful of cottages, guesthouses and eateries. All easily accessed on its gravel roads.
Kaapsehoop was originally named the Duiwel’s Kantoor (Devil’s Office), because its large sandstone boulders resembled a room filled with tables and chairs. The fact that a cloak of mist often blankets the escarpment might also have contributed to this somber name.
In the late 1800’s, the discovery of gold in one of the creeks in town quickly changed this somber connotation to one of hope. This led prospective miners to rename the town to Kaapsehoop, meaning ‘Hope of the Cape’. However, as the gold ran out, the miners’ hopes receded too. Soon, many of miners left in search of gold elsewhere in the Lowveld. Today, Kaapsehoop is recognized as a historical mining town in the Lowveld and the original Old Mining Commissioner’s house still stands.
Apart from its rustic charm, gold rush history and scenic plateau, there is one thing that sets Kaapsehoop apart from its neighbors in the Lowveld: its free roaming wild horses. So much so, that the town has become synonymous with them. Which is exactly why visitors from near and far have been flocking here.
Even though it is not quite clear where the horses come from, many locals believe they descend from the British troops, stationed here during the Anglo Boer War. Regardless of their decent, there is nothing more magical than witnessing these creatures graze leisurely along the escarpment and green pastures in town.
How to spend your day
Kaapsehoop is the perfect place to enjoy a morning brunch, a lazy afternoon or even spend a night. There’s plenty to do and see:
- Grab a bite at one of the many eateries lining the entrance or mingle with the locals at Salvador’s.
- Go treasure hunting at the gift or thrift stores scattered about town.
- Take a hike in one of the neighboring forests, where you are bound to discover a waterfall or two.
- Go on a horse riding trail or take a carriage ride.
When I visit Kaapsehoop, I love popping in at these places:
Salvador Main Street Bistro
Situated on the main road as you enter Kaapsehoop, Salvador’s has a great little menu. Enjoy brunch, a late lunch or snuggle up next to the fire on a cold, misty day. On weekends, it usually turns into a lively pub and you will soon find yourself mingling with the locals or enjoying a game of pool. They also make a mouth-watering prego (a Portuguese beef sandwich)!
De-liteful Glass Works
De-liteful Glass, is a cute little glass works shop in the same building block as Salvador’s. The store has an array of unique glass products made by hand. Here you will find anything from colorful glass wind chimes to lamp shades. As an added touch, the store is also able to make custom-made products catering to your every need.
Koek ‘n Pan
Enjoy freshly made pancakes, a traditional South African treat at Koek ‘n Pan. The restaurant offers a wide variety of savory and sweet pancakes.
I love ordering the cinnamon-sugar pancake, served with fresh cream and lemon slices. Melt-in-the-mouth goodness!
Next to the restaurant, there is a luscious green field. On busy days, the area is mostly used for parking. But, should you ever find yourself in Kaapsehoop on a less crowded day, be sure to find the wooden bench in the field – it’s a great spot to admire the views.
Gold Dust Trading
This treasure throve is home to antiques, art pieces, books and a variety of vintage goods. If you are anything like me, you will easily spend hours working through dusty book covers or scavenging for trinkets, jewelry, souvenirs and much, much more.
Silver Mist Country Inn Chapel
A charming little chapel can be found opposite the Silver Mist Inn, which used to be the old Post Office. It serves as a popular wedding venue and has a large glass window overlooking a field.
Stroll past the Old Mining Commissioner’s house and then make your way to Soul Creations. This small jewelry manufacturer, specializes in unique designs and alterations. They also have a unique selection of gemstones on display.
When to visit
Kaapsehoop can be visited year round, although it gets quite crowded on weekends. During the winter months, Kaapsehoop and it’s surrounding plateau is often covered in a cloak of mist, giving it a mystical and eerie feel. This is the perfect time to relax at one of the eateries and spend time with family and friends. During the summer months, blue skies, luscious green fields and fresh air are enjoyed by young and old.
Due to its high altitude, the weather is rather unpredictable. So, be sure to check the local weather report before you leave home and always bring something warm.
What to bring
- Most places accept Visa/ Mastercard, but always have some cash handy
- A jacket or blazer
- Comfortable walking shoes
Kaapsehoop is roughly 25km from Nelspruit and is easily reached in 30 minutes, by car. Whilst you make your way up the winding mountain pass lined with pine trees and scattered rock formations, be sure to stop for a selfie at the De Kaap Valley, formerly proclaimed the Valley of death. The valley offers a scenic panorama of the lower lying area and Barberton.
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