What is the Vredefort Dome?

It is the core of a much larger crater caused by an Asteroid impact about 2 billion years ago. It is the oldest and largest visible “astrobleme” or star-scar on Earth’s surface.

Why is it called the Vredefort Dome?

Because the small town of Vredefort is closest to the point of impact.

How big was the Asteroid?

Computer modelling suggests it could have been 10k wide or smaller, travelling at around 80-100 000km an hour, or 15-20 km wide or larger travelling at 40-60 000km an hour.

Is it a Dome?

No not in appearance. It is a collapsed dome but under the surface it is an enormous plug of granite. It is at the centre of a complex crater with three apparent rings.

How big is it?

The Dome itself is between 60 and 90km in diameter. It includes the towns of Parys, Vredefort, Koppies and Kroonstad. The original crater wis up to 360km across, stretching from what is now Johannesburg to Welkom and beyond.

Is there an entrance fee?

No. The area is accessible on public roads. Private properties do however charge access fees. We can arrange to enter but in most cases the owers require a guide to be with you.

How do we get to see the Dome?

The area is huge and you can see parts of it in many places. But the whole Dome and its surrounding crater can only be seen from space.

Is it easy to see and understand?

No this is a scientific and geological marvel, as well as magnificently scenic, but unless its features are explained you will not know what you are looking at.

Is this only about geology?

Not at all. There is a lot of astronomy involved in the story of asteroids, comets and planets. There is also a lot of cultural history and in particular there are many battlefields.

Tell us more?

The Dome could well be renamed the Crucible of Conflict because wars have been fought throughout the area. From the time of Mzilikazi and the Voortrekkers, through the Anglo Boer wars and the anti-apartheid insurgency, there are many places where people fought and died.

What were they fighting about?

Land dispossesion, water, grazing, and especially GOLD. The Asteroid did not bring the gold but it pushed existing gold deposits deep into the earth. These deposits are the Witwatersrand gold reefs, on the outer ring of the crater. When they were discovered in the 1870s, South Africa experienced the world’s greatest gold rush. The country would not be what it is today without the Vredefort Dome

Are there special places to go?

Yes, certainly. A well informed and qualified guide will take you to the most impressive viewsites and explain them.

Such as?

Exposures of melted rocks, shattered rocks, mountain ridges, and deep valleys – all of which resemble what you would expect if a stone hit a plate glass window. Except that the scale is absolutely massive.

Are tours all driving?

You can decide on driving, hiking, cycling, rafting or canoeing. Each activity offers fresh and unusua perspectives on the Dome. The Vaal River is a very important feature which has exposed much of the underlying Dome structure.

How come the Vaal flows through the Dome?

The river finds its way through macro-faults, or enormous cracks, radiating outwards from the centre of the Dome. It is one of the world’s oldest rivers and the only major river to cross an impact crater. The Vaal has played a major role in exposing the Dome, which was hidden under later geological deposits.

Are there any facilities along the way?

Very few. The area is largely private farmland although there is a quaint hotel called The Old Imperial Inn at Venterskroon, and a craft beer brewery 3km outside Parys. In Parys itself are many restaurants, antique shops and a small museum.

Is there accommodation?

Stay at Otters Haunt on the Vaal where there is an information centre. We show videos and maps, and from here you can venture forth to see the area. Email, visit, call  or WhatsApp/SMS +27 82 475 8767

How do get a guide?

Call or WhatsApp/SMS +27 84 245 2490 or +27 82 475 8767. You can have a 1,5 hour presentation, a halfday tour, full day, or even a battlefield tour over one or two days. Use your own vehicle if it has high clearance or hire our transport.