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Situated on the edge of the Karoo – a Khoi word meaning thirst land – and at the base of the spectacular Swartberg Pass, Prince Albert is a tiny hamlet with a staggering amount of national monuments. The residents take great pride in ensuring that their town is always clean and spruced up for visitors and passing travellers. And Prince Albert is earning quite a reputation for excellent food fare at the many restaurants that have popped up over the years.
Prince Albert was founded in 1842 and named after Queen Victoria’s husband.
The mountain scenery surrounding Prince Albert is, in a word, magnificent. The town’s serenity and friendly folks have convinced many a stressed city dweller to pack up and seek a better quality of life in Prince Albert.
For a small town, Prince Albert has much to offer and a weekend getaway is the minimum amount of time necessary to appreciate the area.
Top 6 reasons to visit Prince Albert
1. Explore the village to enjoy the architecture, quaint antique stores, art galleries, wool weavers and historic water mill. The curator at the Fransie Pienaar Museum offers enlightening tours of the town. The museum has one of the largest collection of fossils and witblits (white lightning) is sold here.
2. For art lovers, obtain a Prince Albert Arts and Design map from the tourism office (the museum) and visit the many galleries, theatres, photographic studios, metal forgers and a weavery along the route. Watershed has a Lego display well worth viewing.
3. Travel the scenic Swartberg Pass, constructed in the late 1800s and regarded as the country’s most remarkable pass. Continue to the valley known as The Hell where a small self-sufficient group of individuals once resided, practically cut off from humanity. A 4x4 vehicle is recommended.
4. The Hell and Back Mountain Bike Challenge is a challenging 2-day mountain bike race through a valley located within a picturesque nature reserve.
5. Prince Albert is renowned for its olives (and figs) and the town hosts the Prince Albert Olive Festival every year in early autumn. Visit to savour the olives, olive oils, fresh home-baked breads, cheeses and plump figs, and accompanied by a sweet wine from the region.
6. Take a trip into the Swartberg Nature Reserve to hike the various trails for an opportunity to see leopard, baboon and various antelope species. The reserve has a dam and fishing is allowed with a permit.
Prince Albert can be reached either from the Cape Town International Airport, 390km away, or the George Domestic Airport, 170km away. Car rental agencies are located in Cape Town, George and at the airports, otherwise order a rental online and collect at a convenient location. There are no trains and bus services into and out of Prince Albert, however, local tour operators offer shuttle services.
Did you know?
SoetKaroo Wine Estate in Prince Albert produces dessert wines from a tiny vineyard of 1ha in size. The owners are registered to grow the grapes, make wine, bottle and label, somewhat unusual for such a small winery. Their wines are only available from the estate.
Witblits is a traditional South African spirit made from grape waste. Farmers create the high proof alcohol drink from recipes handed down over many generations. This fire water could be compared to moonshine and, like moonshine, distilling the product privately is illegal.