With an ever-increasing amount of adventure activities to offer, antique and decor shops, coffee bars and galleries, and of course its scenic spot on the Vaal River, Parys in the Northern Free State continues to be a great weekend getaway from the big cities.
Straddling the provincial border with North West, Parys is located in a 200-kilometre radius of 75% of the country’s population.
All the geographical features that make it possible to abseil, canoe, rock-climb and more are the legacy of an enormous and violent meteor impact about 2 000-million years ago, which created the Vredefort Dome, in which the city finds itself. This dome has been declared a World Heritage Site.
There are a few versions on how Parys got its name. The most popular is that a resemblance to the French capital was the motivation. The Vaal River meandering through the area reminded the German surveyor involved with the town’s development, a Mr Schilbach, of the River Seine on which Paris was situated.
Three years after the city’s 1883 inception, gold was discovered on the Witwatersrand. Parys became a stop-over for people travelling to and fro, prospering economically.
This growth was temporally halted with the outbreak of the second Anglo-Boer War. With its hills and islands in the Vaal, the city’s terrain proved ideal for snipers and the area became a place of guerrilla warfare.
While tourism is an essential aspect of Parys’ economy, the town is central to a large farming community that grows tobacco, maize and sorghum and also farms beef.
More recently, Parys’ physical attractions have been enhanced by a reputation for chic sophistication. Antique dealers, craftsmen and artists have set up shop in the charming downtown area, which also houses trendy restaurants, a good sprinkling of coffee shops and galleries.
The city has more than 50 conference, function and wedding venues and a number of teambuilding facilities. There is also a large supply of guesthouse and B&B-style accommodation.
Look out for
Walk the lengths of Bree and Water Streets for boutique shopping opportunities.
Contact the local tourist bureaus to set up a guided tour of the geological wonders of the Vredefort Dome.
Old gold mining tunnels, late Iron Age and Anglo-Boer War sites are some of the other places of interest outside town.
Soak up local history and culture at the Parys Museum.
River-raft, balloon-ride or powerboat on the Vaal. All these fast-paced pursuits are on offer.
Play golf on the 18-hole Golf Island, connected to Parys by a suspension bridge.
Hiking trails in the surrounding hills bring the chance for bird and small-game spotting.