The Valley of Desolation: Things to know before you go

Posted on 24 July 2023 By Jordyn Johnson

As a sucker for beautiful views, I can vouch that the Valley of Desolation outside Graaf Reinet is a must-see for all scenery lovers.

120 m Precariously-balanced Dolerite columns and sheer cliffs rise up from the Camdeboo Valley floor. ‘This is the product of volcanic and erosive forces of nature over 100 million years,’ Graaf Reinet Tourism website explains.

Pack a picnic basket and your camera, and look out over the valley that is definitely more beautiful than its name lets on.

Best time to go:

This is a year-round attraction that you can enjoy whenever you find yourself on that side of the Eastern Cape. Going in the middle of winter (July) isn’t highly advised as temperatures plummet before the sun sets and as it rises.

We were told to try and catch the sunrise from the viewpoint but soon realised that the gates don’t open early enough. We ended up snacking on rusks and coffee in the car as the sun rose over the SANParks office.

However, a benefit to going in the morning is that you might have the whole view all to yourself, as most visitors don’t go in the morning. You’ll have all the time and space to capture the perfect picture for the perfect Instagram post.

If you want to watch the sun setting over the majestic valley, visit the park in the afternoon. There are plenty of spots to enjoy sundowners as the sun goes down.

  • Park operating hours: Summer months | 6:00 – 20:00; Winter months | 7:00 – 18:00

Other things to do in the park:

The park is a game reserve with mostly plains game like Cape Mountain Zebra, gemsbok, kudu, and buffalo so keep your eyes open for some wildlife sightings. You can also drive to the game viewing area across the road to spot more wildlife in the park.

Picnic sites are scattered throughout the park, so you can stop and enjoy your tasty snacks when you feel a little peckish.

Camdeboo National Park also has three hiking trails that range from a one-hour trek to an overnight hike. If you’re up for an adventure, try one of these hikes out the next time you’re in or around Graaf Reinet.

Things to remember:

  1. The viewpoint is about a kilometer circle route that you walk, so wear comfortable shoes.
  2. If you’re going in winter, pack a jacket. Even if it’s a warm Karoo day, it can get chilly from the viewpoint.
  3. If you’re going in summer, try to visit in the early morning or late afternoon as the days can be very hot.
  4. Keep your receipt after paying entrance as you can use it to enter the game viewing area after seeing the valley.

Camdeboo National Park details:

  • Entrance fee: R52 per person
  • Location: 20 N9, Graaff-Reinet, 6280, South Africa
  • Website:

Pictures: Jordyn Johnson

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ALSO READ: 10 unique attractions you never thought to visit in South Africa

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