It’s always irritating when you read of the latest ‘it’ town, especially when it’s a place like Nieu Bethesda that’s been around for so long. But something certainly seems to be afoot in this unforgettable Karoo town in the hills near Graaff Reinet.

On the winding road into Nieu Bethesda. Photos: Ted Botha.

Long known for the Owl House, Helen Martin’s unique artistic oasis she created around her home, of owls and camels and mermaids and maidens and pyramids made from concrete, tiles, wire and bottles, the museum was recently given a facelift, with the addition of a fantastic shop. Even if you’ve been there before, it is worth revisiting. One of South Africa’s very special places.

In the sculpture garden of the Owl House.

Like other small towns around the country that have found favour among artists and people wanting to get back to the land – Rosendal, Parys, Richmond, Greyton, De Rust, Stanford, Clarens, Barrydale, White River, Prins Albert, the list goes on – Nieu Bethesda has the requisite incredible setting plus it gets snow in winter.

A bedroom in Oude Pastorie.
Oude Pastorie’s garden to laze in.
Having a bite at the Waenhuis Restaurant.

A number of fabulous new lodgings have opened to complement the array of restaurants, giving the tranquil town – which has one of the most sensational roads as an entryway down into the valley – a feeling of New Mexico’s famed Taos.

Afternoon traffic.
The Oude Pastorie.
A view from the kitchen in Oude Pastorie, a room you won’t want to leave.

In the old parsonage or Oude Pastorie, interior designer Albert Van Schalkwyk has given an incredible makeover to one of the oldest buildings in town, and out back, past the garden you want to laze in all afternoon and pool (recreated to resemble a farm dam), the Waenhuis is a gorgeous cool (it can get up to 42 C in summer) two-bedroom unit. So choose the main house or the Waenhuis out back. On other sides of town are other eye-catching properties including Gordonville, Kliphuis and Letskraal.

At the Waenhuis restaurant.
The pool at Oude Pastorie.
On the stoep at Oude Pastorie.
In Helen Martin’s Owl House.

The beauty of staying in Nieu Bethesda is that you are close to the must-see Graaff Reinet and the Valley of Desolation in Camdeboo National Park. Numerous walks to age-old sites and geological formations dating back millions of years and territory trodden once by the Khoisan are all around you. Come and discover.