Calvinia lies off the beaten tourist tracks, some 120 km east of Vanrhynsdorp. Time seems to stand still in the little rural town which is why nostalgic Calvinia is worth a visit. The town at the Oorlogskloof River was founded in the year 1847, first under the name "Hantam", a Khoi-Khoi word meaning "Mountain where the red edible flowers bloom". After the building of the first Dutch-Reformed church the minister insisted in changing the name to Calvinia in honour of the Swiss reformer Johannes Calvin.
Calvinia lies at the foot of the Hantam mountain range at a height of about 1000 metres above sea level. The vegetation mainly equals Karoo Flora, but some fynbos plants can also be found in here.
Calvinia is the trading and service centre for the merino and dorper sheepbreeders in the vivinity. Over the last years this agricultural sector was badly hit by the falling of the wool prices. Lately, though, the prices start to recover.
Very worthwhile is a visit to the Calvinia Agricultural Museum in the former Jewish Synagogue. In a very appealing way, the history of the settlement of this area is documented there, covering sheepbreeding and other agricultural subjects.
The Akkerendam Nature Reserve lies 2 km north of Calvinia at the Hantam mountain. This nature protection area is 2500 hectares in size and offers 2 beautiful hiking trails: the Karee Tree route is easy and takes 2 hours; the Sterboom Route takes about 7 hours and leads up the mountain to the plateau. It is a sweat-producing stretch, but the reward of a stunning view is worth it.
Top left: Dorphuis in Calvinia. Top right: Road from Clanwilliam to Calvinia with the Hantam mountains in the background.