Upington is both a gateway and an oasis to the Northern Cape’s formidable Kalahari Desert. The Orange River passes through the city, making it a fertile region of vineyards and orchards, and a playground for water sport enthusiasts in the summer. The mild winters and tranquil atmosphere make it a popular “out of seasonâ€ retreat.
Upington is centrally situated on the Namakwari Route (Namibia-Namaqua-Kalahari) between Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Namibia; making it the most convenient stop over on your way to the Augrabies Falls National Park, Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, Fish River Canyon, Namaqualand, and Kalahari Desert.
Originating as a mission station run by Rev. Christian Schröder in 1875, Upington has a long and interesting history. Notable landmarks include the Kalahari Orange Museum, Dutch Reformed Church, Roman Catholic Church, Hortentia Windmill, the Donkey Statue, the Camel and Rider statue, and Date Palm Avenue.
Upington lies in the arid yet fertile Green Kalahari region of the Northern Cape; bound by the mighty Orange River and enchanting Kalahari landscape. Shaped by a harsh climate, the Kalahari is a vast territory of dramatic burgundy dunes, savannah grasses, thorn trees, and open tracts of land that make it ideal for viewing game. Upington provides a welcome reprieve from the stark landscape as it is, surprisingly, the only major city through which the Orange River runs through. The Orange River is South Africa’s longest river, bringing life-giving water from the distant Lesotho highlands to Alexander Bay, and contributing to the fertile Green Kalahari belt around Upington.
During the hot summers, water sport enthusiasts can enjoy activities like swimming, boating, fishing, canoeing, water skiing, and cruises on the river. The cool water is a welcome escape from the summer heat, which reaches an average of 35°C during the day. Winter daytime temperatures average a mild 21°C, making it a popular winter holiday destination.
The fertile valley produces large quantities of fruit; much of which is exported or dried at the SA Dried Fruit Co-op, the second largest and most modern of its kind in the world. The searing summer temperatures create a high sugar content in the grapes and, as a result, the area is famous for its fortified wines. Travellers can visit the Orange River Wine Cellars Co-op, the second largest cellar in the world, for wine tastings.
For a taste of the untouched beauty of the Kalahari, travellers can enjoy game viewing, cycling, and hiking at the nearby Spitskop Nature Reserve; and a day trip to see the magnificent 56m waterfall at Augrabies Falls National Park cannot be missed. The Kalahari 4x4 Trail provides a tough 250km route that can be done in 2 or 3 days. This under-rated region is great for nature lovers, adventurers, families, and city slickers. The next time you’re looking for a new place to visit, head to the lush banks of the Orange River.