The 8 best dorpies to visit in South Africa

Posted on 26 February 2024 By Tsoku Maela

South Africa is home to many incredible destinations, but some of the smaller towns are often overlooked. Affectionately referred to as ‘dorpies’ (meaning ‘small town’ in Afrikaans), they can be spotted for their one-stop stores and still intact town centre.



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Okay, we understand we’re starting with one that isn’t exactly a secret spot, but Clarens has to get a mention. Found beneath the Maluti Mountains, it has been hailed as a bohemian paradise for all who love art and food. With galleries galore and no shortage of places to sip some good wine and eat great food, Clarens is a must-stop for those exploring the Free State.



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Just outside Cape Town, Greyton is a great spot for a weekend away from the city. With an oak-lined town centre lined with little cafes and restaurants, there isn’t much more to do than sit back and relax. The peaceful town is found alongside a river, which is great for swimming in the hot summer months. Those who are adventurous enough can tick off two places in one go by hiking the Boesmanskloof Trail, which takes you to the quaint town of McGregor.

Coffee Bay


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The seaside gem of the Eastern Cape, Coffee Bay, is an incredible spot. However, it is hard to call it a town, as it is small, even for the smallest of dorpies with only 600 residents. This small population speaks to the incredible rural atmosphere, with Nguni cows roaming over the hills and even onto the pristine beaches.



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If you want to escape it all, Nieu-Bethesda is the best option. This Great Karoo town is known for being the quirky location of the Owl House, which is home to thousands of statues made by its owner, the late Helen Martins. The town has stayed almost entirely the same since it was founded 130 years ago, with dirt roads and no street lamps. The area teems with unique things to do and makes a great spot for wildlife spotters, foodies, stargazers, and artists alike.

Gariep Dam


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Another little Free State gem, Gariep Dam is the name of the actual dam in the area. The closest town is Norvalspont, but the entire area is great to explore. The massive dam is overlooked by the De Stijl Gariep Hotel, which is a great place to wake up and take in this expanse of water in the middle of the Karoo.



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If you’re looking for a little magic, Hogsback is the place. Found high up among the clouds, this small town is a straight road that ends at the edge of a cliff. Rumoured to have inspired J.R.R Tolkien and home to eccentric artistic types, the small town offers a great base to explore the mountains, waterfalls, and natural beauty.



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This town in the Kalahari boasts impressive vineyards, making it a must-visit for wine enthusiasts. Sitting on the banks of the Orange River, there is no shortage of incredible natural beauty to be seen. You can test your strength canoeing on the Orange River, explore Riemvasmaak hot springs, visit the Augrabies National Park, or pop into the adorable Pienk Padstal.

Pilgrim’s Rest


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This part museum, part town, is a town preserved in the 1800s. Founded during the gold rush in Mpumalanga, the town has been kept as it was, with houses turned into museums depicting artifacts and the history of the time. You can visit the old bar, hotel, and multiple stores selling antiques and curios. Since it’s found in the gorgeous Panorama route, there are plenty of activities to incorporate into your visit.

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