The Free State province is located in the central-Eastern part of South Africa, originally known as the Boer state of Orange Free State, while the current name has been in use since 1995; it is the third largest South African province by extension, but is the second smallest in population and population density.
The Free State is located between the Vaal River to the North and the Orange River to the South, from this river derived the name of the former Boer republic; the region is characterized by a series of undulating plains of cultivated fields, that rise towards the enchanting sandstone mountains in the North-East.
The province borders to the North with the North West province with Gauteng and with the province of Mpumalanga, to the East it borders the province of KwaZulu-Natal and the state of Lesotho, while to the South it borders the province of Eastern Cape and West with the province of the Northern Cape; the provincial capital is Bloemfontein, that is also the judicial capital of South Africa.
The province is located on the Highveld, a plateau that rises up to an altitude of 1,800 meters in the Eastern part while in the West it reaches an altitude of about 1,200 meters; the Free State is a flat land with fertile soil and an exceptionally favorable climate for agriculture.
The grassy plains allow a thriving agricultural industry; with over 30,000 farms, that produce over 70% of the country's grain, this region is the granary of South Africa.
The Free State possesses considerable mineral deposits, in particular gold and diamonds, found mostly in the Northern and Western part of the province.
In this South African province the cultural and historical diversities of its inhabitants are still very evident, the blacks constitute more than three quarters of the population of the province and the most spoken language is the Sotho; here the black culture is still strongly influenced by tribal life; the supremacy of the leaders is still recognized by all and the legacy of the traditional animist religion is still evident despite the influence of Christianity.
What to see in the Free State province
The provincial capital of Free State, Bloemfontein, is also the judicial capital of South Africa, thanks to its abundance of roses that are grown here, Bloemfontein is popularly known as "the city of roses"; moreover, the history museums that the capital holds are very interesting.
Near the town of Vredefort, there is the oldest and largest crater formed by the impact of a meteorite, the Vredefort Dome, that, in 2005, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its geological interest.
The meteorite crater has largely eroded over the millennia, but you can still admire its considerable size; it has a diameter of over 200 kilometers and inside it you can admire spectacular rock formations, here there is also the pink granite, this is the only place in the world where you can find it.
The crater dates back over 2 billion years; it is possible to travel by car and you can also take guided tours around the central crater.
The main attraction of the Free State province is undoubtedly the Golden Gate National Park, located on the slopes of the Maluti mountains, near the border with Lesotho, in the North-Eastern part of the Free State.
The Golden Gate Highlands National Park owes its name to the golden color of the steep sandstone walls that glisten in the sun; it is precisely the stratified rock formations, with their sandstone spurs ranging from white to red, through yellow and ocher to be the most remarkable feature of the park.
The beauty of the landscape is due to the bizarre shapes of its rocks, shaped by atmospheric agents; the steep sandstone walls give the best when they are illuminated by the sun, assuming the typical golden color.
The park was established in 1963, extends for 120 square kilometers and rises at an altitude between 1,892 and 2,837 meters, in addition to the rock formations it also preserves ancient rock paintings of the Sanand numerous paleontological finds, including dinosaur eggs and skeletons.
The Golden Gate National Park also hosts numerous wild animals, you can admire mongooses, elands, zebras, oribis, jackals, blesboks, moreover in the park there are over 140 species of birds, among which the rare lamb vultures, also known as bearded vulture, the bald ibis, also threatened with extinction, the Black Eagles and Martial Eagles, different species of falcons and kestrels.