Calvinia was originally called Hantam
after the mountain range.
In 1847 the settlement was
founded on the banks of the Oorlogskloof River, at the foot of the Hantam Mountains
on the northern most border of the Cape Colony.
1853 after the building of the first Dutch-Reformed
church, the minister insisted in changing the name
to Calvinia in honour of the Swiss reformer Johannes
Situated 1,000m above sea level, the average
summer temperature in Calvinia is 22�C, but often
soars above 40�C. During winter the average
temperature is 10�C, but may plummet to -8�C at
night. Snow frequently falls on the Hantam mountains
during the winter, and is the main source of primary
This part of the Northern Cape is regarded as the
finest area in Africa for stargazing. It is no
coincidence that the internationally funded
Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) - the
largest and most powerful telescope in the southern
hemisphere - is located nearby at Sutherland.
The Hantam Mountains were named by the
people, meaning "the mountain where the red bulbs
grow." The word comes from the name for the edible
roots of the Heyntame plants (Pelargonium bifolium),
which grow here.
The Tankwa Karoo
National Park is close by. The Akkerendam Nature Reserve 3km north of
Calvinia provides beautiful hiking trails, picnic
spots and unique flowers.
The rare sterboom (star
tree), which blossoms in September, is unique to this area.
There are various 4x4 routes, some steeped in
Anglo-Boer War history, along the escarpment with
picturesque views and huge Namaqua fig trees clinging to the
rock surfaces. These are a must during spring when
thick carpets of Namaqualand flowers adorn the
The museum is in the art deco Old
Synagogue built in 1920. It portrays life of
the early European settlers. As well as many
old photographs, farming activities are
depicted by the bucket pump, flour mill,
cobbling workshop as well as soap and
candle-making utensils. Visitors are often
amused by the mousetrap, moustache cup,
four-legged ostrich and merino sheep with a
38cm long fleece.
The Hantam House is built
in Cape Dutch style with a concave-convex
gable. Retaining its original cedarwood
woodwork, traditional delicacies are served
in an exclusive coffee house built in the
If you are looking for somewhere off the
beaten tracks this is a
great place to go. Time seems to stand still
in this little rural town, making
nostalgic Calvinia well worth a visit.