Ficksburg
Close to the ground.

GPS: S 28 52.218 E 027 52.578 pop. 30,000 | elevation 1,601 m/5,253 ft

The small border town of Ficksburg calls itself the “Gateway to the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho,” and true enough, many travelers pass through en route to Lesotho. But every November, Ficksburg leads a regional transformation into a cherry lover’s dream as tens of thousands of visitors pick, eat and buy fruit-inspired goods at the Cherry Festival. In addition to cherries, Ficksburg is known for its asparagus and its historically notable sandstone buildings. The town and surrounding area are particularly beautiful in April, when the pink Cosmos flowers bloom.

The Cherry Festival (late November) briefly puts the sleepy border town of Ficksburg on the map for tens of thousands of sweet-toothed revelers each year. This region produces the majority of South Africa's cherries. During harvest time, visitors can take their pick from cherry farms in the area and shop at the cherry-themed markets that open up in town. Show grounds are arranged specially for the festival, where you can try your hand at sheep herding, cherry pit spitting or camel riding.


Tempelhof Game Farm

Tempelhof Game Farm allows visitors to view game and offers daily game drives every morning and night. The park is home to cheetahs, lions, ostriches, zebras and 20 varieties of antelope. Visitors can picnic near the lion and cheetah enclosures and play with lion cubs or feed monkeys.


The White Mischief

The White Mischief is a cigar boat that floats down the Meulspruit Dam and through the Thaba Sediba private nature reserve. Try to spot the more than 15 species of animals while you have dinner, sip a cocktail or puff on a cherry cigar.


Sandstone Estates

Sandstone Estates has a private collection of steam locomotives and vintage agricultural equipment on a working farm. The estate boasts the largest collection of privately owned, narrow-gauge locomotives in the world and the longest privately owned, narrow-gauge railway in the world.


All Saints Anglican Church

All Saints Anglican Church is perhaps the town's best example of the beautiful sandstone architecture built in the late 1800s and early 1900s. This church, just behind the town square, was created from unbaked mud bricks and the colored glass windows were formed by a local artist by gluing colored glass from broken bottles, dishes and stemware onto normal glass to create unique pieces of stained glass art. Take a quick cruise around Ficksburg to see some of the other similarly constructed buildings, which include the Old Post Office and the Town Hall.


Ficksburg is by no means a shopper's haven, but you'll find the essentials at the shops surrounding the village square and on nearby Kestell Street.


Spar

Spar is in the center of town for fresh groceries.


Imperani Guest House

Imperani Guest House is a haven for weary travelers right on Ficksburg's main drag. Quiet guest rooms, set back from the street, have beds with lusciously soft linens and electric blankets for chilly nights. The rooms and grounds are neat as a pin and the onsite pool and decent restaurant are rare luxuries in this area. Note that room rates are slightly higher during the week.


Bella Rosa

Bella Rosa is a lovely English cottage in a residential area a few blocks from the town square. The guesthouse has 12 rooms, each comfortably furnished with antiques. It also has a pub, which opens for guests and the public on demand, and a restaurant that serves home-cooked roasts and gourmet vegetarian dishes with advanced notice.


Woodpecker Guesthouse

Woodpecker Guesthouse has 12 pristinely kept, pretty rooms in a large guesthouse surrounded by neat gardens.


Highlands Hotel

Highlands Hotel in the center of town is looking a bit worn at the heels but it's the best (or the only) budget option in the area. Backpackers rooms are barebones and share bathrooms but still offer the privacy of a hotel room. Regular rooms aren't much of a step up, but are en suite and have their own television sets. Highlands is also home to one of the few restaurants in town.


Imperani Restaurant & Coffee Shop

Imperani Restaurant & Coffee Shop is one of few restaurants in town, so good thing the food here is homemade and delicious. The fairly limited menu covers the usual ground for breakfast, lunch and light meals, but glance toward the specials blackboard for the best of the countryside's hearty and fresh fare.


Bottling Co.

Bottling Co. may be Ficksburg's most popular restaurant and bar. Its wide menu of hearty dishes include chicken bakes, steaks and curries that cater to just about every taste.


Bella Rosa

Bella Rosa is a guesthouse with a restaurant open to the public that serves home-cooked roasts and gourmet vegetarian dishes with advanced notice. While not quite a set menu, the chef generally prepares hearty country fare with fresh local ingredients so there is usually only one dish available each night.


Bottling Co.

Bottling Co. is the only pub in town with regular hours. It's also one of the best restaurants in the area.


Bella Rosa

Bella Rosa is a guesthouse and restaurant with a pub that opens by demand of locals and visitors alike. The bar only opens when it's busy, so call ahead to find out if the taps are flowing.