Cape Town’s setting befits a film set: a sprawling, effervescent metropolis shoehorned between soaring peaks and white beaches lapped by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Here are 6 great reasons why you should visit.
A strenuous two to three hour hike via Platteklip Gorge is the most direct route up this iconic peak. For the less energetic, hop on the cable car and zoom 3,500 feet to the pinnacle in five minutes. The cable car gently rotates, to give you amazing 360 degree views as you ascend. At the summit, enjoy the panoramic vistas across the city to the ocean. If adrenalin sports are your thing, book an abseil down off the peak, or enjoy a sunset paraglide from nearby Lion’s Head.
Table Mountain’s residents include lizards, tortoises, porcupines, falcons and eagles. You’ll pass swathes of fynbos, the region’s indigenous and endangered plant life. Look out for the rock hyrax (also known as dassie). These compact furry mammals resemble rabbits with hooves, but are actually related to elephants!
The V&A Waterfront
The lively pedestrianised Waterfront is Cape Town’s main entertainment district and offers a multitude of shopping and dining options, accompanied by super harbour views. Meet penguins at the Ocean Aquarium, and enjoy a ride on the Ferris wheel. For a reminder of South Africa’s turbulent history, take the ferry to the UNESCO site of Robben Island. This former prison housed many political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela. Check out the world’s largest collection of modern African art at the recently opened Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA). Try SUP or kayaking on the waterways of chic Canal District. Cycle, skate or simply chill out amidst the green expanses and landscaped gardens of leafy Battery Park.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
One of the world’s most acclaimed botanical gardens, Kirstenbosch is a vast 528 hectare estate situated on the eastern flanks of Table Mountain, six miles from downtown Cape Town. Over 7,000 species of South African plants thrive on the estate, which includes a fragrance garden, and a medicinal garden. In springtime don’t miss the protea garden, spectacular in bloom. You’ll find numerous sculptures dotted around Kirstenbosch’s expansive grounds including a collection of life-size dinosaurs! Take to the air on the ‘Boomslang’, a 425 feet long elevated walkway that winds through the tree canopy 40 feet above the ground. The estate hosts regular summer music concerts, open air film screenings and art exhibitions. Choose from three cafes onsite, or bring a picnic to enjoy on the lawns.
Wildlife lovers should head to Boulders Beach for a rendezvous with its resident colony of endangered African penguins. Between June and December (whale mating season) make for Cape Point in False Bay or St James to spot Humpback whales, and Southern Rights. If you’re lucky you may get a glimpse of the elusive Brydes whale.
The Cape Winelands
An hour’s drive east out of Cape Town brings you to the beautiful and undulating Cape Winelands region. Surrounded by vineyards and dramatic mountains, the area’s three main settlements lie within close proximity to one another, and make an enjoyable day excursion for wine aficionados. Dating back to 1679, the lively university town of Stellenbosch offers a thriving bar and restaurant scene. Admire old town’s elegant Georgian and Victorian architecture and Cape Dutch farmsteads. Historic Paarl is renowned for its award winning red wines, whilst Franschoek is an attractive and compact 17th century town with a rich French heritage. Its main street boasts art galleries, boutiques and severally excellent restaurants. Climb aboard the Franschoek wine tram which calls at many of the surrounding wineries. Enjoy wine tastings and world class dining at some of the region’s top vineyards, which range from small family run ventures to rambling estates.
Hit the Beach
Cape Town is blessed with wonderfully scenic beaches, lapped by the crystal waters of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Stunning Camps Bay is the city’s largest expanse of white sand, and visitors flock to the bars and restaurants along its curving shore. The four pristine coves of well-heeled Clifton are also popular, with 4th Beach receiving the most action. Both Camps and Clifton are fabulous locations to watch the sunset.
Muizenberg offers excellent surfing, particularly for novices. Several surf schools operate here, and the warmer (Indian Ocean) waters and blue flag status make it a hit with families. If you’re seeking a quieter spot to lay out your towel, Bakoven’s Beta Beach is often peaceful, and offers superb views of Lions Head. Another good bet is the remote, undeveloped sandy cove of Llandudno.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com