Bethlehem lies in the eastern Free State, in particular in the Dihlabeng district, one of the most spectacular provinces of South Africa. It is one of the six larger towns in the Free Sate and offers a diverse range of services. For the assurance of the prospective visitor, there are two provincial hospitals, one private hospital, a recovery facility as well as a day clinic with the backing of exceptional medical expertise. Bethlehem is also base to Aerocare, air ambulance should the need arise for emergency transport.
The town boasts two excellent secondary schools, Voortrekker and Witteberg. Jordania and Truida Kestell, both primary schools are also extremely popular due to diversity, discipline and high standards. Apart from these, there are numerous other schools and nurseries as well as a Technical College.
The town is economical viable and serves the smaller neighbouring towns. Clarens, Paul Roux, Rosendal and Fourisburg also are part of the Dihlabeng Municipality. There are several Coffee Shops, two movie theaters, a casino and nightclubs. The local gym offers a wide range of workouts for the enthusiast and also has an 18-hole golf course. Bethlehem has a selection of steak houses and pubs, as well as fast food outlets.
Bethlehem is strategically situated between all the main sentra of the country – Lesotho being only 50 km from the town. It is part of the well known Maluti Route – a meander through the highlands of the Maluti Mountains, a spectacular range, better known as the Drakensberg; KZN, Eastern Free State, Lesotho and the Eastern Cape. The Drakensberg is a World Heritage Site.
There are several hiking routes in the immediate surroundings of the town. The well-known Mt Aux Sources is only 80 km from Bethlehem and a comfortable day walk. Golden Gate offers the well known Ribbok Hiking trail, Cleopatra’s Pools and the Cathedral’s Cave. Bethlehem also forms part of the Grassland Routes – a new initiative under hospice of the N3TC.
The lion sanctuary, Lionsrock is situated approximately 12 km from Bethlehem on the xxx road. Being home to a diverse range of wildlife and predators makes it an ideal destination for wildlife enthusiasts. There are several pride of lions, two leopards, a Bengal tiger and other wild cats. LIONSROCK is a shining example of the sorely needed sanctuaries in South Africa. Since the resident Big Cats were born and raised in captivity, they are being kept in family groups in spacious and enriched environments.
Clarens is quite famous and has earned itself the definition of Art Mecca of South Africa. Apart from the numerous galleries, gift shops and restaurants, the area is extremely rich in culture and heritage.
The Basotho is regarded as the indigenous tribe of the Eastern Free State – 12 km from Clarens on the Fourisburg route is the mysterious Mtouleng (Motouleng) – also known as the Fertility cave – pilgrims flock here to bring homage to their ancestors. And from Fouriesburg , 14 km down the xxx road, brings you to Mt Mautse – the sacred valley of the Sangoma. It is peaceful and quiet in the valley, and all around shrines have been built. People come here for healing, for praying and for saying thank you.
The eastern Free State is well known for its remarkable sandstone architecture; many of these buildings are still in very good condition and well preserved. Both the towns of Fouriesburg and Bethlehem have a number of national monuments and makes for an interesting sightseeing route to travel.
Mountain biking is very popular in and around Bethlehem and there are a number of splendid routes for the enthusiast to venture off to, including the nature trail in the Wolhuterskop Nature Reserve. The Lesotho Highlands Water Project channels water through the Ash river to eventually reach Gauteng, thus making the Ash a perennial river, ideal for white water rafting – another popular sport in the area.
Bethlehem has two large dams, the Loch Athlone dam and the Saulspoort dam, recently renamed Sol Plaatje, after the tragic bus accident some years ago where many lost their lives. The ample supply of water makes the Bethlehem district very popular amongst fisher men.
Another remarkable characteristic of Bethlehem would be the spectacular changing of the seasons. Spring brings new life, bright greens, pink and white blossoms, dramatic skies with the most impressive cloud formations and then of course the light. Summer has its own splendour – green pastures, yellow crop, yellow sandstone emphasized by red layers known as the Elliot formation. Autumn is probably the most popular season amongst the photographers when the cosmos starts to bloom and the trees turn from rich amber to cold. And once the trees have shed the leaves, winter sets it – the seemingly stark landscapes has its own charm. The days are sunny and bright and although the nights get chilly, the ambiance of an open fire compensates for that.