Charming and unique, Nieu Bethesda is a mountain village, 55km outside Graaff Reinet, nestled in a valley with the towering Compassberg Peak as a backdrop. The Compassberg, at over 2500m above sea level, is South Africa’s highest free-standing mountain. Established by the Dutch Reformed Church in 1875, Nieu Bethesda is best known for Helen Maartins’ iconic Owl House and some of the most memorable fossil discoveries of the last hundred years.
What to do in Nieu-Bethesda
Despite its size, Nieu-Bethesda has an array of attractions: the Ibis’ six-course tasting menu, farm life and a private fossil museum at Ganora Guest Farm, an invigorating and challenging hike up the Compassberg, the Owl House, a brewery and working flour mill, the Kitching Fossil Centre and, just to really appreciate the Big Sky in the mountains, no streetlights!
More to do
Ganora private fossil museum
Where to Stay
Whether you choose a relaxing farm stay complete with hiking, camping and mountain bike trails or any number of unique, quirky and charming town houses (including a converted water tower), you’re sure to be contented, comfortable and very welcome.
Explore the Town
The Owl House is known as the finest example of Outsider Art in South Africa and has inspired many artists to visit Nieu-Bethesda and more than a few to move to the tiny town, too. Martins created fantastic concrete sculptures around her house and yard, often of owls. To bring more light into her home, she embedded crushed glass into the walls and continued to build her artistic legacy until 1974 when she committed suicide due to failing eyesight. Playwright Athol Fugard wrote a play about her life called “The Road to Mecca” which was later filmed and, as the story of Helen Maartins’ fantastical house spread, visitors flocked to Nieu-Bethesda.