The Western Cape is one of South Africa’s premier tourist attractions, and for good reason. It is home to the famous Table Mountain, vast winelands, magnificent beaches, world-class restaurants and cosmopolitan entertainment haunts.
Situated on the south-western tip of Africa, the Western Cape is the meeting point of the cold Atlantic and the warm Indian Oceans. Its capital city Cape Town, is dominated by the flat-topped bulk of Table Mountain.
The story of the Republic of South Africa began in the Western Cape, some 350 years ago, when it was inhabited by the Khoi, San and other Bantu-speaking groups. In the late 15th century European seafarers arrived here in search of a halfway stop on trade routes to the East and thereby changed the face of South African history forever.
Today, the province boasts South Africa’s fifth largest population, numbering in the region of 4.5 million inhabitants.
Thanks to its scenic beauty and many attractions, tourism is a major and growing force in the Western Cape, which hosts over 50% of the country’s international visitors.
Just a 45-minute drive from Cape Town and you’re in the mountains and valleys of the Winelands – all gracious gabled Cape Dutch homesteads, cask-lined cellars, oak-treed towns and ultra fine restaurants. The towns of Stellenbosch, Franschoek and Paarlare delightful and beg to be explored and savoured very slowly, like good wine.
The Garden Route
This land of lakes, bays, mountains and forests languishes on the southern coast from Heidelberg to the Eastern Cape's Tsitsikamma Forest and Storms River Mouth. A coastal drive along the Garden Route links a series of charming towns interspersed with natural wonder. Along the way, every kind of adventure activity is possible – scuba diving, abseiling,fishing and more.
The Central Karoo
Peaceful Prince Albert at the foot of the spectacular Swartberg Pass makes a convenient base from which to venture out and explore. It’s close to Gamkaskloof or Die Hel (The Hell), once home to an isolated farming community that for a century was accessible only by foot or horseback. The Karoo National Park, as the largest ecosystem in South Africa, reveals how fauna and florahave adapted to their harsh environment.
An hour east of Cape town `over the mountains’ is the Overberg, marked by a coastline of holiday-friendly beaches, picturesque seaside towns, an ancient lighthouse that has witnessed many a shipwreck (at Cape Agulhus) and a whale route that draws more whales and more watchers each year. Between June and November crowds flock to Hermanus and its surrounds to watch the great mammals in their natural habitat.
Affectionately known as the Mother City, Cape Town is South Africa's oldest city.
Founded in 1652 by Jan van Riebeeck and his band of Dutch settlers, Cape Town is rated as one of the most beautiful cities in the world (the backdrop of flat-topped Table Mountain juxtaposed by the sweep of the Atlantic Ocean in the foreground is a sight indeed).
Cape Town has a relaxed atmosphere and offers visitors a host of outdoor leisure activities, as well as all the amenities of a world-class city at the sea.
Top attractions include catching the cable-car up Table Mountain to enjoy a panorama of the city and peninsula; taking a ferry to historic Robben Island; drinking tea at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens and visiting the Castle of Good Hope.
For outdoor lovers, the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, adorned in delicate indigenous fynbos, affords spectacular views over two oceans in all directions. There are numerous hikes and trails all around Cape Town for more energetic visitors. Of course if you’re a wine-lover, then taking in a wine route tour through Stellenbosch is an absolute must.
Magnificent beaches line the Atlantic seaboard - Clifton, Camps Bay and Llandudno to name just a few, and warmer waters can be found at Muizenberg, Fish Hoek, St James and Strand.
Shopping possibilities are abundant at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cavendish Square and Canal Walk, while quirky fleamarkets can be found at Greenmarket Square, Green Point and Hout Bay. If it's pulsating nightlife you're after, go directly to Long Street and enjoy trendy dining (and partying) at its absolute best.
Cape Town is everyone's city, offering the best life has to offer - all at the foot of the mountain.