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The town of Upington was born by uniting Christian Schroder's 1871 mission station, Olyfenhoutsdrift and the Upington police station. 

Upington traces it history back to the mid-19th century days when the ill-defined and poorly protected northern reaches of the Cape Colony were the stamping-ground of cattle rustlers, gun-runners, river pirates and outlaws of all kinds. From a stronghold near Upington, the Nama Chief Jonker Afrikaner rustled cattle from other clans in the region, ranging as far as the present-day Namibia.

In 1870, Klaas Lucas, a Koranna Chief who lived at Olyvenhoutsdrift asked for a mission station to bring stability to the region. In 1871 the Reverend Christiaan Schroeder arrived from Cape Town and erected the first buildings on the northern banks of the Orange River.

Upington is named after the first Attorney General of the Cape, Sir Thomas Upington who visited the town in 1884. The town was originally known as Kharahais and is bound by the Orange River in the south and the Kalahari desert in the north.

Upington is situated on the banks of the Orange River in the Northern Cape, surrounded by bright green irrigated vineyards. This area is known as the Green Kalahari. (The rest of the Kalahari, while not actually a true desert, is classified as thirstland, and is most definitely not green, except after exceptional rainfall in the region.)

Along the river the principal products are sultanas (the best in the country) and other grape varieties, wine, wheat, deciduous fruit, vegetables, lucerne and cotton. Away from the river the main economic activity is sheep ranching (merino and karakul). Salt from the pans, tungsten and pegmatites are mined in the district. upington is well known for the variety of semiprecious stones that occur in abundance, such as beryl, amethyst, agate, tourmaline, jasper, aquamarine and tyger's eye.

Upington is a pleasant town with some lovely accommodation in the form of guest houses, hotels and restaurants. The Kalahari Oranje Museum Complex offers an insight into the history of the rather hardy folk who have made this town their home over the last couple of hundred years. The museum sells beautifully packaged dried fruit from the enormous South African Dried Fruit Co-operative just outside the town. Upington is the principal town and commercial, educational and social centre of the Green Kalahari and the centre of the Orange River wine region. You could do a wine tasting in town at a co-op of five different wine cellars. The well known island in the Orange River boasts one of the longest and most dense date palm avenues in the southern hemisphere that is over a kilometre long.

This clean town has a relatively large collection of animal statues. A statue of a donkey outside the museum pays tribute to the contribution of this humble beast in the development of the region, and a camel outside the police station commemorates the recalcitrant beasts on which the police patrolled the vast Kalahari in the past.

You could enjoy a gentle sundowner cruise on the river on "Sakkie se Arkie"  or, for something much more exciting, head to the Augrabies Falls National Park 120km away to the west, where you could do some white water rafting and view the magnificent waterfall and canyon at its heart. There is also a gentler canoeing trip, a quite taxing hike, and a fun day trip consisting of a short paddle, a walk and a mountain bike ride. The Augrabies Park also has some small game, as does the Spitskop Nature Reserve, which is conveniently situated about 13km north of the town.

Upington is the biggest town in its immediate area and the second biggest in the Northern Cape, after Kimberley. There is a small airport with a limited number of scheduled flights to Cape Town or Johannesburg.

A visit to this region is not easily forgotten. The locals have a saying: "Once you drank from the water of the Orange River, you will always come back for more.

Upington has an airport and is linked to the South African Airways network with flights departing daily to Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Excellent and not expensive bus connections to Upington from Cape Town and other cities are available through Intercape: Tel 021 3804400.                  

Email: info@intercape.co.za.


Five highlights that should not be missed in the Green Kalahari.

Augrabies Falls
This is where the Orange River is at its most impressive as it thunders down a ravine and into a poor walled by sheer granite, creating the world's sixth largest waterfall.

To the north of the Augrabies Falls, with the Orange River in the south and the dry Molopo River in the north, lies a 75 000 hectares community run mountain desert wilderness and hot spring resort.

Red Dune Route
Find warm hospitality in a remote desert area as you follow a route that links a network of guest houses, farms and game reserves and enjoy the stories and traditional dishes like roosterkoek, nabbas, venison and melktert.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park
Visit a truly unspoilt ecosystem and wildlife sanctuary the  forms part of the largest conservation areas in the world.

Orange River Wine Cellars
A world of difference at the largest co-op wine cellers in the country. It is made up of wineries situated in Upington, Kakamas, Keimoes, Grootdrink and Groblershoop. Grape juice cellers operate from Kakamas, Kanoneiland and Grootdrink. The wine grapes originate from 794 producers along the Orange River, stretching over more than 300km from Groblershoop to Blouputs.
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This page was last updated: 30 May, 2018
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