Experience the thrill of the Swartberg Pass
Swartberg Pass
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Are you a thrill-seeker? Do you like living on the edge? Consider driving the Swartberg Pass in the Karoo, South Africa.

This is an unpaved mountain pass. It is considered to be treacherous after rains and impassable during wet weather. Adverse weather conditions are common. 

What you need to know about the Swartberg Pass

  • The Swartberg Pass is at an elevation of 5.193ft / 1.583m above sea level.
  • This is one of the steepest passes in the country. It is considered a “dangerous road” according to dangerousroads.org.
  • The pass is gravel and sand—therefore unpaved. However, you don’t need a 4×4 or similar vehicle to drive on it.
  • Expect beautiful scenery along with twisted rock formations, steep zigzags, sudden switchbacks, twisty corners, high elevation, steep inclines.
  • The Swartberg Pass is supported in places by hand-packed dry-stone retaining walls.
  • The Swartberg Pass was declared a Provincial Heritage Site.
  • The Pass is 16.7 miles / 27 km long—it’s the shortest route between Prince Albert and Oudtshoorn.
  • It takes approximately 1 hour to drive the entire length of the Swartkop Pass. 
  • There are a few viewpoints to stop at for an Instagram photo. 
  • The pass can be cool with misty clouds covering the top.
  • Expect magnificent birdlife.  Verreaux’s eagles and jackal buzzards are seen regularly. You may also see the Victorian’s warbler, the Cape rock jumper, the orange-breasted sunbird, and the Cape Sugarbirds.
  • Plantlife on the pass will vary in micro-climates, but you are likely to see ericas, pincushions, proteas (South Africa’s national flower).
  • It is unlikely but you may also spot larger animals like the  Cape Grysbok (antelopes), Common Duiker, and Klipspringer.
  • The road was constructed using mainly prison labor.

Looking for safe adventures on the Swartberg Pass?

The Swartberg Pass is a popular spot for birders and nature lovers, who may not be as keen to drive the treacherous road themselves. If this is you, take a tour. There are many available. You can take a full-day tour, a half-day tour, a sunset tour, etc.

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About The Author

Hi! We’re the Cheltens’. We visit South Africa 1-2 times per year. We want to share our experiences with you so that you may make educated decisions when you plan your next trip to the rainbow nation.

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