South African Holidays in Western Cape

Table Mountain is one of the main attractions of the Western Cape.

Capital: Cape Town
Population of Cape Town: 1 million
Provincial population: 6,3 million
Area: 129 370 km2
Percentage of the total area of South Africa: 10,6%
Percentage of GDP produced in the Western Cape: 9.8%
Principal economic sectors: Tourism, publishing, manufacturing, ostrich and poultry farming, fishing, fruit, grape and wine production

The Western Cape is the most popular tourist province - with good reason. Cape Town, the "Mother City", is one of the world's top destinations to visit. Reminiscent of other stunning coastal cities such as Monaco and San Francisco, with its spectacular scenic drives, the Western Cape offers a fantastic assortment of irresistible experiences. Much of the province's appeal lies in its geography and topography. This creates a stunning diversity of regions within the Western Cape, each with its own special character.

The Cape metropole covers Cape Town, Table Bay, Clifton, Camps Bay, Muizenberg, Fish Hoek and False Bay. The Cape winelands, the longest wine route in the world, is famous both for its excellent wines and the natural beauty of its lush valleys, that are sparkling green in summer and cloaked in warm, rusty colours in autumn.

The Breede River Valley is a region of rivers, fruit orchards and vineyards. The West Coast is dotted with charming whitewashed fishing villages.The Cape Peninsula comprises the spectacular Table Mountain System, which continues inland with the Hottentots' Holland and Boland ranges sheltering a magnificent market gardening and viticulture agri-industry. Washed by two oceans, residents and visitors alike have a vast choice of beaches and pretty coastal villages offering excellent seafood restaurants and marvellous scenery.

The splendour of the Western Cape is best enjoyed by leisurely drives. The peninsula has several breathtaking views such as Chapman's Peak Drive, Hout Bay, the Constantia winelands, Fish Hoek, Simonstown and Kalk Bay. Alternately visitors can drive inland to investigate the longest wine route in the world, sampling excellent vintages along the way. The oldest vineyards date back to the 1660s, but the wineland area is continuously expanding. The entire stretch of wine country is picture perfect, dotted with quaint historic towns, with an abundance of excellent country food, and some of the world's finest wines to taste.

There are several ideal weekend getaways in the Cape interior. One such place is the Victorian spa of Matjiesfontein, right on the edge of the desert. Founded by an innovative Scottish immigrant, Matjiesfontein comprises a stunning Victorian hotel and pub, just two hours from Cape Town.

Other seductive towns include Darling and Riebeeck Kasteel. These towns have become the hideouts of sophisticated urbanites and artists seeking respite from the rat race. They are ideal destinations for a day's exploratory drive outside Cape Town. Further up the coast, the small city of George is the capital of the Garden Route and a veritable magnet for golfers. Knysna and Plettenberg Bay are the most popular destinations on this scenic coast. Further inland, the Karoo town of Oudtshoorn is famous for its ostriches and the enchanting Cango Caves are waiting to be explored. The Cape is the perfect venue for a wide range of outdoor activities including canyoning, rock climbing, mountaineering, hiking and water sports that would be difficult to beat anywhere in the world.

Cape Town

Nestled in the shadow of Table Mountain and broadly cosmopolitan, this incredible city is many things to many people. So whether it's culture, wine, scenery, the Houses of Parliament, the beach, or the many wonderful leisure activities available here will capture the heart and soul of all who visit.

Table Mountain

Set against the backdrop of Cape Town, Table Mountain rises to 1 073m above sea level and can be seen from all over the city. It is one of the few mountains in such close proximity to a city. For the adventurous traveller, there are several hiking routes that lead to the summit; alternatively one can make use of the cable car that takes just three minutes to reach the top. Once on top, one is treated to some of the most breathtaking views that South Africa has to offer. Mountain-top dining can be enjoyed at the bistro or café and there is also a souvenir shop.

Cape Floral Kingdom

Fynbos is the richest biome of the floral kingdom and takes up a large part of the Cape region. Even though it is the smallest of the world's floral kingdoms, it has the greatest biodiversity. Taking up an area of over 90 000km2 or 35 000m2, it has about 9 000 plant species, of which about 6 000 are endemic.

The Cape Winelands

Although there are a number of wine growing areas in South Africa, the bulk of South Africa's wine comes from the area classically called "the winelands", which includes Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek. The wine route is complemented by a host of restaurants, coffee shops and attractive guest houses with wonderful menus and extensive wine lists. The scenery is spectacular, with dramatic green mountains a backdrop to the wine estates which also boast the best Cape Dutch and Georgian architecture in the country.

This is where it all seems to hang together - the vines, the oak trees, the whitewashed, gabled houses and even the red and white roses planted next to the vines. Nature reserves in the area offer guided trails for short walks or extended hikes. Horse or wagon rides through several of the wine estates offers something different. The Oude Libertas Amphitheatre and the Spier Theatre, both in Stellenbosch frequently host classical and contemporary music, theatre and dance festivals.

Robben Island

This is where Nelson Mandela and other African National Congress members such as Walter Sisulu were detained during the apartheid struggle. The island is 13km off the shore of Green Point. Today Robben Island is a museum honouring the courageous individuals who were imprisoned there. It is also home to an abundance of wildlife, including over 100 bird species. On 1 December 1999, UNESCO declared the island a World Heritage Site.

Cape Point

This is the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula. While it might not officially be the place where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet (the official meeting point has been declared to be at Cape Agulhas - the southernmost point of Africa), it is still one of the most spectacular headlands in the world. Needle-sharp and steep-sided, Cape Point lords it over a sometimes wild and stormy sea. On bright summer days, it is sunny and pleasant with pretty fragrant flowers all around.

The point is at the far end of the Table Mountain National Park. You can reach it by car, bus, and for the more adventurous, bicycle tour, ending in a walk
to the viewpoint. The truly adventurous may like to join a sea kayak trip around the point - which can only be undertaken in perfect weather.

Hermanus

Situated about an hour's drive from Cape Town, Hermanus is famous for the fantastic sightings of Southern Right whales from June until the end of October. It's not even necessary to go out on a boat, as these huge mammals are clearly visible from the cliff-top walk. A pair of binoculars is always useful but even without, keen watchers can get a pretty good view of the whales as they frolic in the bay.

As fascinating as the whales are, there is more to Hermanus. The diving is good,
there is a small, dedicated sea kayaking operation, and the local golf course, that is not a links course, is particularly scenic with lovely views of the sea. The tiny but prolific Kogelberg Nature Reserve is botanically rich and diverse, with over 1 600 species of plants, about 150 of which are endemic, in an area of only 18 000ha. The Walker Bay wine region has some of the most southerly vineyards in the world and a tasting trip is well worthwhile.

Victoria & Alfred (V&A) Waterfront

This is one of the prime attractions in Cape Town, offering a world-class shopping experience and an interesting variety of restaurants, cafés, bars and exciting nightspots. The V&A Waterfront also boasts some of South Africa's best hotels on the marina as well as the Two Oceans Aquarium.

The Garden Route

The stretch of coast between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth is one of the most popular destinations in South Africa. Called the Garden Route because of its wonderful vegetation, it certainly lives up to its name. Tangled forests extend into the purple mountains. Dramatic cliffs fall straight into the sea. And, in other places, long sandy beaches stretch for miles. Large areas of fynbos are filled with exquisite and aromatic flowering plants.

Dolphins and whales are a common site in the sheltered bays, and the extensive wetlands are home to a large variety of birds and aquatic animals. There are many small towns scattered along the Garden Route, each offering a variety of lodgings and dining experiences. There are numerous fine golf courses in the area and a range of adventure activities on offer.

You can choose from sea kayaking, tubing, abseiling, horse riding, surfing, gliding, paragliding, diving, bungee jumping and awesome mountain biking trips through the forests or along the coast. And, for the less energetic, there are plenty of craft centres, art galleries and museums found in and around the local communities. The main towns and cities are George, Knysna, Mossel Bay, Oudtshoorn, Plettenberg Bay, Wilderness and Albertina.

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