Aliwal North is a town on the banks of the Orange River, some 195 km from Bloemfontein, on the road to East London. It was founded in 1849 and named by the Governor of the Cape Colony, Sir Harry Smith (1847-1852), to commemorate his decisive victory over the Sikhs under Runjeet Singh at Aliwal in India on 28 January 1846. Municipal status was achieved in 1882.
The Kraairivier is a tributary of the Orange. It rises west of Naude’s Nek in the Barkly East district and flows in a westerly direction through the Lady Grey district, entering the main stream 5 km north-east of Aliwal North.
The railway line from Molteno reached Aliwal North on 2 September 1885. The town is connected to neighbouring towns via a good roads system, and serve as a thoroughfare for tourists en route to resorts in die Eastern Cape Drakensberg.
The principal attractions of Aliwal North are two hot mineral springs, both of which have extremely high concentrations of minerals and gases. The thermal springs resort, named Aliwal Spa, is located within the municipal area.