Off the beaten path used to be so easy; buy a plane ticket to a country that’s not Spain or France, make a break for somewhere rural, find a path, step off it left or right and find yourself in untouched, unspoilt beauty. But in 2019, it seems like it’s all been done before. Matcha Pichu is so packed there’s not enough room to swing a selfie stick. Thai beaches are ko phi phit to bursting with preening posers. There’s no elbow room left to take a seat at Table Mountain. And is anyone even looking up from their phones to appreciate the natural wonder?

Fortunately, there are still some places yet to be rendered in sepia soaked 1080px.  South Africa’s vibrant, varied central region is one such place. The capital, Bloemfontein, South Africa, is the heartbeat of the country’s majestic Free State. This interesting city is unburdened from the hustle and bustle of most large cities; laid back and replete with museums, heritage and buildings of historical intrigue. What’s more, the restaurants and accommodation of Bloemfontein also have a fine reputation. If that’s got your opening a new tab and searching for flights, you’ll soon be penning an itinerary. So, here are 5 IDEAL things to do in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

NATURE PARKS & RESERVES

The best time to visit Bloemfontein is from March to April and September to December, as these are the spring/summer months. Bloemfontein means “fountain of flowers” and during these bouts of fine weather, the city really is in bloom. The city and its surround area’s nature reserves and parks are filled with a fauna and wildlife you won’t see anywhere else. So, get amongst it at Soetdoring Dam Nature Reserve, Maria Moroka Game Reserve and the Franklin Nature Reserve, to name but a few. Off the beaten path, indeed.

BLOEMFONTEIN ZOO

If your thirst for the exotic hasn’t been fully quenched, but an African safari might be a step too far into the unknown, the city has a zoo housing the famed animals of the splendid African savannah, and many more besides. Bloemfontein Zoo hosts the Big Game 5 of the region; lions, leopards, rhinos,  buffaloes and African bush elephants, as well as panthers, tigers and hippopotamus. What’s more, it’s famous for its liger, a cross between a lion and a tiger. For those who enjoy flights of fancy of the feathered kind, birdlife is in abundance. All boxes ticked, then.

THE ORCHID HOUSE

True to the city’s name, Bloemfontein is a celebration of all things floral. The city is home to the magnificent Orchid House, which exhibits these rare, delicate flowers perfectly. Within the nursery’s glass domed greenhouse, orchids of all shapes and sizes are found. During the winter months the orchids are in bloom, so if this is your thing, make sure to be in town to see the spectacle.

ADRENALINE CHASING

The opportunity for raising the pulse are plentiful. So many romanticise the idea of a hot-air balloon. In Bloemfontein, this dream can become reality. The views are unspoilt and spectacular, but it can get a little nippy up there, so make sure you pack a jacket.

For those looking for something a little more exciting, river rafting along the Orange River – the largest in South Africa – is a way to get your adrenaline junkie fix and take in some great scenery.

THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF BLOEMFONTEIN

Bloemfontein is filled with history and the city’s official museum interprets the art, natural history and cultural wealth of the region perfectly. In 1877, this museum was declared a Cultural Institution. It boasts an impressively sized fossil collection including the Florisbad Skull, believed to be approximately 35 000 years old.