The Swartberg Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 1,583 meters above sea level, located in the Western Cape province of South Africa. The pass is traversed by the R328 road. Climbing 1.000 metres in 12 kilometres, it's one of the steepest passes in the country.The road is gravel and sand but you don’t need a big 4x4 car to climb the pass.
The road encompasses miles of stunning views through twisty hair pin corners, high elevations and steep grades. Along with striking warped and twisted rock formations and interesting plant life, you will see some amazing drystone work supporting the picturesque hairpin bends. There are relics of an old prison, toll hut and other interesting historical sites too. Running between Prince Albert in the north and Oudtshoorn in the south, the route offers spectacular views over the Little and Great Karoo.
The drive is definitely worth it. There are many excellent photo opportunities here. Don’t forget your camera! The pass offers spectacular views over the Little Karoo to the south and the Great Karoo to the north. The plant life along the pass is very interesting, many hundreds of species being found on the Swartberg. It offers many breathtaking views of mountains, valleys and waterfalls. It is considered to be one of the most spectacular mountain passes in the world. Don’t forget your camera!
The unpaved sections of the road can be a little treacherous and tricky in wet weather and impassable when wet. The Swartberg pass was built between 1881 and 1888 by Thomas Bain, son of the famous Andrew Geddes Bain. Thomas Bain, with the help of some 250 convict labourers built the pass from 1883 to 1886. He managed to keep the gradient lower than 1:8 throughout the pass, compared to the steeper 1:6 of the Montagu Pass.
All primitive dirt roads may be rocky with areas or soft gravel or sand that makes travel unsafe for sedans or RVs. The 27 km Swartberg Pass is considered one of the most impressive mountain passes in the world steep zigzags and sudden switchbacks with breathtaking views at every turn. The road is supported in places by hand-packed stone walls.
This road is usually open all year, but it can be closed anytime when the access is not cleared of snow. Avalanches and heavy snowfalls can sometimes block some sections of the road and can be extremely dangerous due to frequent patches of ice. Conditions can change quickly and be harsh. Road closures can be frequent, so check conditions before traveling to this area.
The surface of the road is gravel and sand. The road over the pass opened on January 10, 1888.
This road has humbled many egos. It’s not for the sissies and shouldn’t be attempted by novice drivers. The road is in dreadful condition and requires strong nerves to negotiate it. It’s certainly breathtaking and it has a fearsome reputation. It still remains an adrenaline-pumping journey and is definitely not for the faint of lungs, heart, or legs.