The typical little Karoo town of Calitzdorp is situated along a fertile valley that was originally a lake. It is surrounded by the Swartberg, Rooiberge to the south and the mountains of the Huisrivier Pass in the west. Streams meander through the mountains to provide a source of water for the surprising amount of fruit grown in the area.
The Klein Karoo is a sparse, dry and arid area interjected with surprisingly fertile valleys that host a huge number of plant species. The Khoi people called the area Kannaland – valley with no grass. There is evidence of early San and Khoi people in numerous rock paintings found in the surrounding mountains. Calitzdorp is built on what was a lake and the soil is mainly alluvial. Agricultural crops are grown 1km on either side of the Nels and Gamka (meaning lion in khoi) rivers. The hot and dry climate makes Calitsdorp well suited to the production of port and some of the country’s best port wines are produced in the region.
Vines apparently struggle to ripen here, which, contrary to expectation, results in a grape with an aroma-intensity and depth that is key to port making. The town is regarded to be similar in climate to the Duoiro valley in Portugal. Calitzdorp is a haven for enthusiasts of fishing, bird-watching, 4×4 adventures, horse riding and wine tasting.