Explore the Cederberg

I absolutely love visiting the Cederberg mountains, there is just so much to see and do it’s almost impossible to experience it all in one trip without getting totally overwhelmed.

My favourite thing about this amazing place is the obvious contrasts you see everywhere you turn. The Cederberg is essentially a desert and it’s easy to get dehydrated even in winter, yet secreted away you will come across cool refreshing rock pools fed by underground springs. The ground seems too dry and barren to support life, yet there are hundreds of species of flowering plants and even tiny delicate succulents nestled between grains of sand. The idea that something so delicate could live in such a harsh environment is mind boggling, but here in the Cederberg mountains, it seems like anything is possible.

The Cederberg in South Africa is one of those destinations that will leave you in awe of nature. You'll find incredible rock structures, dry desert like conditions, crystal clear rock pools and even ancient cave paintings. This should definitely be on your South African bucket list...

Another contrast I just cannot get tired of is the landscape. For kilometres in any direction around you, you will see ‘normal’ mountains, the kind that slope gradually then come to a peak. You will even see patches of flat land, all covered in a layer of small shrubs, some of which will flower once a year. Then suddenly, as though dropped there by accident, there will be large, bare boulders and walls that are too steep and rocky for even the most hardy of plants to grow on. Each of these rock structures are carved out with little nooks and crannies, overhangs and caves that beg to be explored. You could easily explore these structures for hours, even days and still not see all the mini caves and crevices hidden in the rocks.

Cederberg rocks

Then, suddenly, a few meters away from these fantastic rock structures, the land appears flat again. It’s almost as though these rock structures have nothing to do with the land around it. It is one of the strangest things I have ever seen. It’s no wonder that the bushmen who painted the rocks thousands of years ago saw the Cederberg as a magical and sacred place.

It’s because of the varying and dramatic landscape that the Cederberg mountains have so much to offer, there is just so much to see and do here no matter what you are into. If you want to run, hike, climb or just explore, there’s so much to keep you busy throughout your stay. If you just want to chill by a natural rock pool reading a book and getting a tan, then there’s that too.

You can also take book your accommodation within the Cederberg conservancy so that you are near the activities you have in mind. This will minimise driving time and maximise fun time on your weekend getaway.

Tip: plan your camping meals ahead of time to make the trip even more enjoyable. There are few shops near the Cederberg so come with everything you might need.

Hiking the Cederberg mountains

Most people who visit the Cederberg mountains do so for the hiking opportunities it provides. You can easily find a hiking route that is suitable for your level with lots of stunning things to see and explore along the way. There is no such thing as a boring hiking route when you are hiking in the Cederberg.

Tip: make sure you carry enough water, food and electrolytes on your hike and always hike with a group. The air is very dry and you can get dehydrated very easily.

Sanddrif has an awesome map detailing the more popular hiking/mountain biking routes in the Cederberg. These include the:

  • Wolfberg cracks and arch
  • Maltese cross
  • Maalgat
  • Window rocks
  • Rock paintings and stadsaal caves
Cederberg mountains activities map
Cederberg activities map

If you find yourself camping near or in Kromriver there are some lovely hikes to do nearby. These include the: Disa pool; Kromriver cave; Apollo cave; Maltese cross; Sneeuberg; Stadsaal caves and Truitjieskraal. You can find these in detail on the Kromriver site.

Climbing in the Cederberg mountains

The very nature of the incredible rock structures in the Cederberg make for some pretty awesome climbs. There’s something for every type of climber and you are bound to find a project to work on here.

Tip: make sure you have some extra long rope (70m) as the walls can be quite high.

You can find some epic rock climbing routes in the Rooiberg and Truitjieskraal areas.

Rock art

The rock art you will find in the caves of the Cederberg mountains were made thousands of years ago yet are still vivid red and easy to see. Each tells a story of its own, though what that story is exactly is still unknown. If you are interested in learning more about the rock art you will find in the Cederberg mountains you can check out the African Rock Art Digital Archive.

Cederberg mountains rock art
Cederberg bushman painting sites

Mountain biking and trail running the Cederberg mountains

Mountain biking and trail running are other popular activities that you can do in the Cederberg. There are well laid out dirt roads and paths you can test your skills on and just explore the area around you.

Some of the more popular trails include the:

  • Wolfberg trail 7km
  • Kliphuis trail 21 km
  • Lot’s wife trail 27km
  • Maltese cross trail 30km
  • Tierkop trail
Cederberg mountains activities map
Cederberg activities map

Rock pools

If swimming is more your thing, there are plenty of little rock pools and waterfalls dotted around the Cederberg mountains. Each pool is fed by an underground spring so the water is crystal clear, filled with minerals and refreshingly cold for a hot summer’s day. Here are some of the more common spots for rock pools.

The Algeria camp site has a lovely river running through it and a waterfall in the distance. At the base of the waterfall are rock pools that you can swim in.

The Disa pool is a 3-4hour (return) hike from the Kromriver camp site.

Maalgat pool is a huge natural swimming pool located 35min walk from the Sanddrif holiday resort.

Many of the camp sites in the Cederberg have natural rivers running through them and dams that you can fish or swim in.


Land marks

cederberg structures

If visiting the Cederberg to see the main landmarks and tourist attractions is more your thing then these are the must see places you need to put on your list.

Cape Nature has put together a lovely map detailing the best must-see landmarks in the Cederberg. [Note: this map is not to scale.]

Some popular ones include:

  • The Maltese cross
  • Stadsaal and rock paintings
  • The rock paintings at truitjieskraal
  • Maalgat
  • Wolfberg arch and cracks

which you can find on the maps below.

Cederberg mountains map
Cederberg tourist information map
Cederberg mountains activities map
Cederberg activities map


Star gazing

Since the Cederberg is so far from the city and any towns near by the light pollution is pretty low. This makes for amazing stargazing even without a telescope. At night the sky lights up with trillions of start and the belt of the milky way just seems to suck you right in.

If you want a closer, more detailed look at the starry night you can visit the Cederberg observatory.

There are astronomers working at the observatory most weekends except when there is a full moon (the full moon makes is difficult to see the stars). You can also pre-arrange a lecture to learn more about the stars that we see at night.

There are only a few shops in the Cederberg conservancy and they have very little stock, so make sure to plan your meals carefully since you will have to take everything you need along with you. You can check out my article on planning camping meals to help you out.

Did you find this article helpful? Do you have any other adventures you want to know more about? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to share or pin this article. Sharing is caring ?


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