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Hidden Gems – Pilgrim’s Rest

There are many different places in South Africa to see and do, not all of them are on guided tours and safaris. While these are certainly exceptional, there are also many small spots, not on the beaten path, that can be as exciting and educating as seeing the Big Five, and other excursions that everyone expects. If you are traveling on your own, touring the country, you may even pass these by on your way somewhere else, and miss out on an opportunity of a lifetime.

These are what we like to call Africa’s Hidden Gems. One of these is Pilgrim’s Rest, in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa. This is in the Eastern Escarpment region. In September of 1873, this area was established as a gold field, and a mining camp was set up, searching for alluvial gold. By the end of the century, the Transvaal Gold Minings Estates, or TGME had several claims going.

By 1971, mining closed, and the village was sold to the local government, turning it into a national museum. While gold mining has resumed close by, the town was established as a National monument by 1986. Because of this, the main part of the original architecture has been left in tact. It was also an emergency mint during the second Boer War, minting the highly valuable and rare Veld Pond. In May of 2004 it was added to the tentative list for the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, under the cultural listing.

If you want to enjoy a living memory of the glory days of gold mining in South Africa, this is the place you need to stop at. A Conservation team of architects, curators, and historians have painstakingly monitored to development of the site, making sure that authentic historical appearance is strictly adhered to. This unique village has many museums and other historical sites that you can visit, as well as many local and area attractions.
You can actually stay in the town of Pilgrim’s Rest.

There are two established buildings, the Pilgrim’s Environmental Centre, and the Royal Hotel. The center is a hostel, the hotel a bed and breakfasts. This way, you are in walking distance to all the different museums in town, and other attractions are only a short drive.

For your dining pleasure there are many different restaurants, pubs and bakeries. During the mining days, one of the miners’ favorite pastimes was ‘pub-crawling,’ still practiced with enthusiasm today. If you are looking for traditional South African dishes, The Vine Pub and Restaurant offers a number of mouth watering dishes. The Royal Hotel itself has a buffet, an A la Carte list, as well as the Church Bar. For a great family restaurant, the Pilgrim’s Pantry, have many different offerings, and are open late. If you are looking for a more traditional tavern, Enos and Meadows taverns offer a traditional Shebeen style.

Shopping in Pigrim’s Rest isn’t hard to find. You will see many different street vendors along the main street, offering many items reflecting the colour and brilliance of the African culture. There are also many shops, from the Spotted Dog, and Thandan ani for home made crafts and clothing, to Kuzzulos Emporium for pictures of yourself in period clothes.

If you are looking for petrol or groceries, they Highwayman’s Garage is located right downtown.
There is a lot to do right in Pilgrim’s Rest. There are more than seventy points of interest, churches, and museums are just some of them. A few of these include the Anglican Church, the House Museum, The War Memorial, and Alanglade House Museum. The first place you should stop while here is the Information Centre. Located in Uptown Pilgrim’s Village, it is where you will find everything to get you started exploring the town. There are brochures and maps, and you can get tickets to the many tours and museums. They also offer a number of different displays, showcasing artifacts from the past.

For the more adventurous, there are a number of activities. You can take the kids on a donkey cart ride, go horseback riding, quad bike and 4X4 trips, as well as fishing, hunting, and golfing. You can find out more information about accommodations, booking tours and other adventures, as well as a more detailed history of the area online.