Pretty, historic Graaff-Reinet, South Africa, located 360 mi/580 km northeast of Cape Town, is worth a half-day's visit. The architecture is quite attractive. Be sure to see the Reinet House and the Old Residency, both beautiful examples of Cape Dutch architecture. Also worth visiting is the Old Library, interesting for its large-scale reproductions of San paintings.
The town is practically surrounded by the Camdeboo National Park, best known for the Valley of Desolation, a dramatic gorge that is a favorite spot for viewing the sunset. To the east, between Graaff-Reinet and Cradock, is Mountain Zebra National Park, famous for its rare namesake, a species of equid that is endemic to the Cape.
About 24 mi/40 km east of Graaff-Reinet, cradled in the Sneeuberg Mountains, lies the historic village of Nieu Bethesda. Dating back to 1875, this dusty Karoo town has been home to several South African artists and writers including playwright Athol Fugard and, more currently, ceramicist Charmaine Haines. But the main attraction there is the legacy left behind by Helen Martins, an eccentric, reclusive woman who transformed her home and backyard using crushed glass and cement sculptures. Her Owl House and Camel Yard are intriguing, somewhat haunting, examples of outsider art.
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