Parys – Our French Flavour on the Vaal

Parys – Our French Flavour on the Vaal

Parys, South Africa, is a small town situated on the banks of the Vaal River on the Free State side. It has become one of the most popular Highveld weekend venues, offering a wonderful contrast between old world country charm and adventurous outdoor activities.

Interestingly, this little town was romantically named by a German land surveyor. He likened the Vaal to the Seine River in Paris and envisioned the town of Parys developing on both sides of the river banks as in Paris. One thing he did not keep in mind was the fact that each side of the river was in a different province!

The town is fast gaining a reputation with visitors and shoppers as an arts and antiques centre, as many well-known artists, antique dealers, craftsmen and ex city people have made Parys their home. Despite the touristy look and feel, it still remains a typical South African small town with friendly locals and true plattelandse (country) hospitality.

The town with its unique surrounding area is the gateway to the Vredefort Dome World Heritage Site which is the world’s oldest and largest meteorite impact site.

The original crater, now eroded away, was probably 250 to 300 kilometres in diameter. The Vredefort Dome Conservancy is not just of scientific value but also has great scenic beauty, making it a true tourist attraction.

The Vaal is a playground for white water rafters, kayakers and adventurers. Rapids are between grades 1 and 3 and include the ‘Big Daddy’ and the world renowned ‘Gatsien’ rapids.

As far as we know Parys is the only place in the country where you will find a 900m long continuous rapid known as the ‘Theater’, at 1200 cubic meters/ second, it is known as the suicide mission.


The town is home to some lovely old historical buildings including two Churches and a Museum, which is housed in the old magistrate’s office opposite the Town Hall.

Visitors can call back the past and take a peek into the history of the town which was built in 1904 and proclaimed a provincial heritage site in 1986.

Parys is definitely geared for visitors, whether you are looking for a quiet place in or out of town, something in the mountains, on the river, near the shops, camping, backpacking or caravanning, you are sure to find accommodation to suit your every need.

As for where to eat, restaurants are plentiful and have culinary delights to suit all tastes so whatever you fancy you will find it here.

Talking about food – a stop at the local wild olive tree forest is a must or, for a day out with a difference, why not go berry picking or drop in at the local distillery where the well-known, traditional South African ‘witblits’ (extremely strong spirits) is made.

Abseiling is an exhilarating adventure activity in the Vredefort Dome area where the accomplishment of overcoming your fear leads to the ultimate adrenaline rush.

Another wonderful pastime where you can feel the freedom, admire the view and enjoy the fresh air around you, is hot air ballooning. Experience the pure joy of floating gently over the plains, mountains and ravines – keep your eyes peeled as you may catch sight of some wildlife below.

Hot air Ballooning is truly an experience of a lifetime and an unforgettable one at that!

If you have ever been a star gazer, then you can only imagine what the stars must look like when you go out into the heart of the bush. The Vredefort Dome area offers an amazing opportunity to do a bit of celestial spotting.

Many of the northern constellations can be seen low on the northern horizon here in South Africa, but it is the southern hemisphere constellations that attract the most interest.

Why not book a sunset game drive in one of the wild life conservancy areas where one can find game such as giraffe, zebra, oryx, eland, kudu, red hartebeest, water buck, impala, deer, crocodiles, rhino, buffalo, lions and numerous other smaller game species.

There is a cheetah breeding center where you can experience feeding time and watch how these magnificent animals devour their food.


The Vredefort Dome bird sanctuary boasts more than 450 species of birds that have been identified. This area is truly a birdwatcher’s paradise and is also home to some relatively uncommon animal species, such as the rooikat, aardwolf, leopard, several small buck, the endangered rock dassie and plenty of baboon.

For the golfer, a visit to Golf Island, situated on the eastern side of town, is a must. The island is home to an 18-hole golf course and club house and is connected to the town by a suspension bridge. The suspension bridge was constructed high enough to allow access even when the river is in flood. So you can always ‘drive’ there…..  

Apart from golf, there are also tennis and squash facilities available and you will find jukskei, bowling and cricket in the town.

Parys has become a popular weekend destination, offering visitors endless opportunities for pleasure, leisure and adventure.Being a vibrant small town and centrally located to three provinces, Parys is the perfect place for a day trip or a great weekend getaway…….

Denny McQueen

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