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Parys is a small town with a surprising amount of things to do. Located in the Free State Province, Parys is a popular destination for the romantic, the artistic, the weary and the lover of nature. It’s also in the centre of the world’s largest crater, so large you won’t even know it!
A gigantic meteor hit the earth roughly 2000 million years ago, resulting in a massive crater known as the Vredefort Dome. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site with interesting rock formations and terrain and regarded as somewhat of an outdoor paradise for hikers and climbers. Parys was laid out in 1876 and is the Afrikaans word for Paris, named by a surveyor who saw a likeness in the town’s location along the Vaal River to that of Paris on the river Seine.
There are a number of spectacular wedding venues surrounding Parys, and the outdoor adventure activities on offer attract companies seeking team building ideas.
The town streets are lined with antique shops, restaurants, art galleries and quaint knick-knack stores.
Top 8 reasons to visit Parys
1. Attend a geological tour of the Vredefort Dome to appreciate the vastness of the crater and to see the results of the meteor impact. Several sites are visited and lunch baskets are available for purchase.
2. Visit Berakah Eco Trails to take up the challenging 23km mountain bike route that passes through magical scenery, along river courses, up steep inclines and over log bridges.
3. River rafting is popular on the Vaal River that meanders along the town outskirts. With names like Big Daddy and Whiplash, the rapids can put fear into visitors, however, guides will ensure they are breached safely.
4. If you consider yourself an aesthete, Parys has an interesting Art Route that takes in galleries, a metalwork factory and potters. The route is open on the first weekend of every month.
5. Mampoer tastings are offered at Hanzet Distillers. Mampoer is a fruit brandy pot-stilled until the alcohol content is highly concentrated. Mampoer is also called white lightning.
6. The Parys Golf and Country Estate has a magnificent 18-hole golf course, with fine views of the Vaal River. Visitors are welcome on this course which is ranked top in the province.
7. Head out early to the Dell Cheetah Centre to catch the personalised morning tour of the facility, renowned for its dedication to cheetah conservation. Volunteers from all over the world arrive to help manage the centre.
8. When the sun goes down, join the locals at Plaasjol to party the night away. The venue hosts regular live acts and the onsite restaurant serves traditional Afrikaans dishes such as offal, pork cracklings with pap (a type of polenta) and bobotie.
Parys is 135km – via a toll road – from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. Chartered flights are available from the Vereeniging Airport, 75km out of town. Several car hire companies are based in Johannesburg, Vanderbijlpark and OR Tambo airport or you could order a rental online. Tour operators and shuttle service companies offer transport services between Johannesburg, the airport and Parys.
Did you know?
In the Parys cemetery lies the grave of a young 20-year old Canadian woman who arrived to teach children in the refugee camps but contracted typhoid and died in 1903, less than a year after her arrival. Sadly, her family were too far away to be at her bedside and attend her funeral.
Situated in a massive crater, Parys has its own microclimate with hot dry summers and brisk to chilly winter days.