The charming little village of Nieu-Bethesda is set in a picturesque and fertile valley in the Sneeuberg Mountains, dominated by the magnificent Compassberg as a backdrop. The village has become a popular retreat for artists, and because of its unique appeal, this is a place that no visitor should miss.
Visitors to Nieu-Bethesda come from far and wide to see the Owl House and Camel Yard, once home to the artist Helen Martins, whose artistic hand had
touched every space of her house. The walls, ceilings and even the doors were decorated by finely ground glass of various colours.
Port Elizabeth to accommodation in Nieu Bethesda
I'm a paleontology student, and on a recent study from Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, I was surprised by the rustic charm of Nieu Bethesda, home to the Kitchin Fossil Exploration Center.
I drove up from Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, and made a few stop overs - one in Uitenhage, then Jansenville, where I took a detour and found private game reserve accommodation at Koffylaagte Game Lodge. From Jansenville it was a relatively short drive to Graaff-Reinet - On my return trip I plan to stay over with friends in a local Graaff-Reinet bed & breakfast.
Nieu Bethesda lies in a narrow valley at the foot of the Sneeuberg Mountains, and is only about a kilometer wide by three kilometers long, and home to less than a thousand Nieu Bethesda locals. Along the dusty main streets lie only a few Nieu Bethesda bed & breakfasts, restaurants, a pub and couple of art galleries, although I believe there is also some Nieu Bethesda self catering, guest farms and backpacker accommodation available I must mention that this Eastern Cape town is home to a growing number of artists, crafters and other creatives seeking a simpler, less hectic way of life. What has made Nieu Bethesda famous is Helen Martins' Owl House - a fantastic fusion of paint and multi-colored glass.
I stayed at the Outsiders Bed & Breakfast in Nieu Bethesda, a quaint place with a long 'stoep' that overlooks the untarred main road. I was greeted by the locals like a long lost friend, and thoroughly enjoyed the homemade local food. My hosts Katrin and Ian told me that because of Nieu Bethesda's isolation there are no street lights, and it's perfectly safe to walk around at any time of the day and night. A tip for the 'city dweller', there are no petrol stations or credit card facilities, so you have to fill up your tank and wallet before you arrive at Nieu Bethesda!
Remember that all Nieu Bethesda accommodation will also need to be paid in cash
Besides my work days at the Nieu Bethesda Fossil Center, I did manage a very entertaining ride on a donkey cart, and a couple of day trips - one to the Valley of Desolation in the Camdeboo National Park, and another to the scenic Mountain Zebra National Park. These are only a few of the many activities to be had in the heart of the Eastern Cape.
My last night in Nieu Bethesda was a chilly one, and luckily the Outsiders Bed & Breakfast provided cosy woolen duvets and mohair blankets. I woke to a light dusting of snow, and the delicious smell of bacon, eggs and Karoo worse wafting from the restaurant next door.
Although I'm a city girl, it was with regret that I packed my car and headed back through the Eastern Cape's Karoo and although Nieu Bethesda may be considered by many as a sleepy 'one horse town', the community spirit is vibrant, and most definitely a place worth revisiting.
Review for Nieu-Bethesda Self Catering