Calvinia is located in the Karoo of the Northern Cape province, originated in the mid-18th century as Hantam and in 1851 named after John Calvin (French theologian) by the then pastor. The place is located halfway between Cape Town and Upington and was founded by the Voortrekkers who went in search of new land to the north. The name Hantam can still be found in many places and the region also bears this name that refers to the language of the KhoiSan which means as much as; “where the red balls bloom”.
Located in Namaqualand means that it is beautiful here in the Wild Flowers season around September. The nature reserve of Akkerdam Nature reserve (located 3 km from Calvinia), is then transformed into a beautiful carpet of colorful flowers. Calvinia and the Hantam region are one of the few areas where the Hoodia plant (a well-known dietary supplement) is still growing. A cactus plant that the Khoi men used when they went hunting for days on end to suppress their hunger.
The Akkerdam nature reserve has 2 hiking trails through the Hantam mountains and the native rare Star tree (Cliffortia arboreais) can be seen here. The nature reserve also offers a home to many birds and the Kareedam is an oasis for all those birds that choose this place when they migrate to South Africa.
Nearby and worth a visit are: the Hantam National Botanical Garden which is located on the Bokkeveld Plateau and just outside the town of Nieuwoudtville.
Between Nieuwoudtville, VanRhynsdorp and Calvinia lies the Oorlogskloof Natuurgebied. A beautiful unspoilt area with gorges, rivers, caves, plateaus, beautiful plants and an exuberant bird life.
The somewhat further away Tankwa Karoo National Park (± 241 km from Calvinia) is more than worth a visit.