The Karoo town of Sutherland is best known for two things, starry skies and snow. Situated in the heart of the Roggeveld region, almost 120 kilometres from Matjiesfontein and 4.5 hours drive from Cape Town, it is the perfect place to experience a ‘real winter’ in sunny South Africa.
Sutherland’s clear starry skies have led to it being home to SALT (Southern Africa Large Telescope), the largest single optical telescope in the Southern Hemisphere. The telescope is used for analysing the size and age of the universe and studying star systems a billion times too far away to be seen with the naked eye. Astronomers come from far and wide to use SALT and the various other telescopes of the South African Astronomical Observatory.
Sutherland has the dubitable claim of being South Africa’s coldest town – though sometimes vying with Buffelsfontein. It is freezing cold in winter, sometimes reaching temperatures as low as -17 degrees. These extreme winters have actually become an attraction for the town – tourists who want to experience snow and ‘real winter’ flock to Sutherland during the winter months.
Sutherland is home to some unique architecture, including the corbel houses. Corbel houses are only found in this region in and around the towns of Fraserburg, Williston and Carnarvon. Farmers in the area built these characteristic houses using flat stones instead of bricks and using wheat chaff and sand as ‘cement’ – the end result is something which looks a lot like a stone beehive.
Outdoor activities are the name of the game in Sutherland. Some of the most popular activities you can get up to include hunting, bird watching, hiking and golf. The Karoo is considered prime hunting ground because it offers a variety of good game while being free of diseases like cholera and malaria. Some of the game that can be found here include Eland, Zebra, Bushbuck, Kudu, Elephant, Hippo and Cape Buffalo.