FREE STATE

Free State
Wedged between the magnificent Orange and Vaal Rivers lies the Free State. A region blessed with such beauty and grace that for scores of years, thousands of pioneers paid the ultimate sacrifice for the honour and privilege of calling the Free State their home.

Embraced by several of South Africa's provinces, the Free State assumes its rightful place at the heart of the country. Today, visitors and inhabitants alike are rediscovering their souls through the majesty of this land and the moulded spiritual ethos of its people.

The Free State is a rural province of wide horizons and blue skies, with farmland, mountains, goldfields and widely dispersed towns. The land of the windpomp and krummelpap is peaceful, with a high quality of life, good infrastructure and a low crime rate.

The Free State province covers an area of 129 464 km and has a population of 2,8 million - 6,4% of the national population. 71% of the province's population - about 2 million people - live in urban settlements. Although the Free State is the third largest province in South Africa, it has the second smallest population and the second lowest population density.


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Free State
Geographical location
The Free State border on the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, North-West, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng Province and also shares a border with Lesotho. The biggest part of the Free State is an undulating plain at between 1 000 m and 1 500 m. However, the eastern and southern region, which borders Lesotho, is hilly to mountainous, with scattered flat-topped hills or 'kopjes'. The Orange River forms the southern boundary of the Free State and includes the Gariep and Vanderkloof Dams, which are the largest dams in the country. The northern Free State is drained by smaller rivers, which are, as is the Orange River, extensively utilised for irrigation.

Free State Climate
The Free State is hot in summer, when most of the rain falls (between 600 mm and 750 mm in the east to less than 300 mm in the west), but it can be very cold in the winter, with heavy frost over most of the province. Snow is often recorded on the eastern mountains, and occasionally over the rest of the region. Seasons: Summer: December - February / Winter: April - July / Spring: July - September / Autumn: January - March. Average winter temperature: 7.7ºC ; average summer temperature: 23º C.

Population
The population profile consists of 84% African, 13% White and 3% Coloured. Sesotho is the most dominant mother tongue (57%), followed by Afrikaans (15%), isiXhosa (9%), Setswana (6%), isiZulu (5%) and English (2%). Sesotho is the mother tongue for 64% of all Africans, while Afrikaans is the predominant language among the whites (88%) and Coloureds (90%). In a national context, 57% of all Sesotho speaking people live in the Free State.

Major towns
The capital of the Free State is Bloemfontein, having a well-established institutional, educational and administrative infrastructure and housing the seat of the Provincial Government as well as the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Other important centres include Welkom, the heart of the Goldfields and one of the few completely pre-planned cities in the world; Bethlehem, capital of the Eastern Free State; Sasolburg, which owes its existence to the world-renowned petrol-from-coal installation established there; Ladybrand; a thriving town on the border with Lesotho; Parys, an attractive town on the banks of the Vaal River; Phuthaditjhaba, situated in Qwa-Qwa and well-known for beautiful handcrafted items produced by the local people; and Botshabelo, some 60 km south east of Bloemfontein the most populous centre in the Free State.

Many of the towns display a mix of culture clearly evident in street names, public buildings, monuments and museums. Dressed sandstone buildings abound on the Eastern Highlands, while beautifully decorated Sotho houses dot the grasslands. Some of South Africa's most valued San rock art is found in the Free State.

Tourism Routes in Free State   
The Free State has much to offer the tourist in search of insight and adventure. As a result, various tourist routes have been suitably packaged to meet the needs of the on-the-road traveller.

The Maloti Route
This route follows the scenic Highlands of the Free State and over the border into the magnificent Maluti Mountains of Lesotho and ends at the Seekoelvlei Nature Reserve.

The Goldfields Route
Follow the fascinating history of the many gold mines of the Lejweleputswa area.

The Friendly N6 Route
Experience the Southern Free State by taking the N6 from Bloemfontein to Reddersburg, Smithfield and Rouxville and then onto Aliwal North and the rest of the Eastern Cape. Many interesting stop-overs along the way, especially at Smithfield, but also others.  

BBT Heritage Route
Bloemfontein, Botshabelo and Thaba Nchu are in close geographical relationship to each other and, yet, have an extreme diverse cultural and political heritage.

The Battlefield Route
The province contains many historic sites related to the Anglo-Boer War, including 13 battlefield sites, 8 military monuments, 2 war museums and 3 war and concentration camp cemeteries.

Diamond & Wine Route
Follow the route of the diamond prospectors of the past and present. A man-made diamond hole at Jagersfontein of 760m beats the better-known Big Hole of Kimberley for size. Also visit the wine cellars of Landzicht and Wilreza in the scenic Jacobsdal area.