There is no need to fear the cold and stay cooped up at home. Embrace winter and cuddle up at these cosy stays with the picturesque landscapes of our parks and reserves as your backdrop. By Gaynor Siljeur

Highlands Mountain Retreat, Golden Gate Highlands National Park

Panoramic views from the log cabins. Picture courtesy of SANParks.

Winter is a picturesque time to visit Golden Gate Highlands National Park. The vast grasslands turn honey and gold and the higher peaks are often dusted with snow. Highlands Mountain Retreat is the ideal place if you are looking for a remote getaway to escape your busy lifestyle.

Stay at one of just eight log cabins in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains. Choose between a one-bedroom cabin or a family log cabin with two bedrooms. Each cabin has a well-equipped kitchen and an open fireplace in the living area to warm you up and set a great mood in the evening. During the day you can lounge around on the spacious wooden veranda and get lost in the panoramic vistas.

While Golden Gate may not have the Big Five, the park has a rich variety of mammals that roam the open plains and mountain slopes. Look out for black wildebeest, eland, blesbok, oribi, springbok and Burchell’s zebra.

Make the most of the crisp winter weather with a hike to Cathedral Cave and a visit to the Basotho Cultural Village. Here you can take a museum tour to learn about the Basotho culture and way of life – the staff members even dress in traditional wear.

Good to know: Guests have to check in at the Glen Reenen Reception.

Rates: Base rate for 2 people is R1,609 per night, R465 for an additional adult and R233 for an additional child (maximum 4).

Contact: SANParks Central Reservations +27 (0)12 428 9111 or book online at

Rock chalets, Mountain Zebra National Park

Picture courtesy of SANParks

Lose your heart to the rugged landscape, tranquil ambience and abundant wildlife of Mountain Zebra National Park.

Spend a weekend at one of the two luxurious Rock Chalets – so sophisticated and elegant that you might be temped to stay put. Inside the two-bedroom chalet you’ll find inviting leather couches, a fireplace, air conditioning, flat screen TV with DStv, and a modern kitchen. Full-length glass stacking doors let you admire the gorgeous view from inside, so light a fire and kick back.

But don’t be seduced by the beautiful cottage – it’s even more astonishing outside. Get an early start and explore the Karoo the best way you can: on foot. Book a three-hour guided morning walk to get a closer look at the park’s plants and smaller creatures. Feeling more adventurous? Drive out with a guide to look for Mountain Zebra’s cheetahs. When the guide gets a signal of the collared cheetah you may even have the chance to approach these spotted beauties on foot.

Good to know: Visitors doing guided walking trails have to be between the ages of 12 and 65. Wear neutral coloured clothing (not black or white).

Rates: R3,329 per night for four people.

Contact: SANParks Central Reservations +27 (0)12 428 9111 or book online at

Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve

Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve

Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve

Nestled in the Breede River Valley just outside the quaint town of McGregor lies the secluded haven that is Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve. It’s the perfect winter breakaway for the whole family.

Stay at Ichelesi, one of five self-catering cottages in the reserve. The cottage consists of four bedrooms: two with a double bed each and two single beds in each of the remaining two bedrooms. There are two bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen and a lounge with an indoor fireplace – the ideal way to heat up the room for family game night.

Vrolijkheid is an excellent spot for birding, with a wheelchair-friendly boardwalk and bird hides. You can explore the reserve along an 8km mountain-bike trail or choose between three day hikes, ranging from short and easy to all day.

Good to know: Fuel and supplies are available in the nearby towns of Robertson and McGregor.

Rates: R1,200 a night for up to 6 people during off-peak season, R380 for an additional person (maximum 8)

Contact: CapeNature at +27 (0)87 087 8250 or book online.

Also read: Stay between the flowers