South Africa is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and this trend is in no small part thanks to the incredible beauty and diversity of its magnificent Western Cape district. Boasting stunning scenery and an eclecticism that some nations would struggle to offer across their entire territories, this single corner of South Africa has a baffling amount to offer. The area is itself categorised into six sub-regions; the city of Cape Town, Cape West Coast, Cape Winelands, Cape Overberg, Cape Karoo and Cape Garden Route and Klein Karoo.
With so much going on it becomes difficult to know where to start when visiting the Western Cape, let alone the rest of the country. With this in mind here is a list of the top 5 places to visit in the area.
1 Cape Town
Renowned the world over, Cape Town along with Bloemfontein and Durban functions as one of South Africa’s three capital cities and though it is not the largest municipality in the country it remains the most popular. With a plethora of fashionable bars, boutiques restaurants, malls and theatres to choose from there is plenty to keep travellers occupied. A visit to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront is also a must with superb views up to Table Mountain and across the bay to the infamous Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. The aforementioned Mountain is of course another of Cape Town’s major attractions and there are several routes up to the summit including a scenic cable car ride.
2 Cape Whale Coast
Just South of Cape Town this collective stretch of coastline which is generally conceived to include Hangklip, Kleinmond, Hermanus and Gansbaai offers tourists stunning scenery and one of the most impressive wildlife displays in Africa. The region is often referred to as the Whale Coast because between June and November numerous pods of these majestic marine mammals glide past the shore (within 200m) as part of their annual breeding cycle. The whales also make up part of the marine ‘big five’ which be observed in the area and includes penguins, seals, dolphins, great white sharks and of course whales. With a rugged but beautiful coastline and the chance to see the convergence of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans the Whale Coast is a superb addition to any South Africa travel itinerary.
3 Garden Route
One of the sunniest regions in South Africa, the Garden Route is favoured by locals and tourists alike for its picture postcard fishing villages and pristine beaches. Although perhaps not as renowned as the KwaZulu-Natal area for wildlife the Garden Route is also home to Africa’s ‘big five’ throughout the various national parks and game reserves in the region. Knysna is one of the areas most popular tourist attractions, a charming family of communities that together boast a kaleidoscope of colourful scenery from forests , lakes and rivers to beautiful beaches. One of the best driving routes in the world can be found here, clinging to the undulating coastline for anyone who appreciates self drive holidays this could be the perfect alternative.
For gastronomic guys and gals there is no where else better to visit than the Cape Winelands. For lovers of the finest flavours and delicious delicacies the townships surrounding this picturesque district offer up some of South Africa’s best cuisine and without doubt its best wine (hence the name). The communities of Paarl, Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and a host of others have become renowned for their wine producing prowess with countless international awards. The Winelands are also home to a number of premier hotels and boutique properties which nestle serenely into the landscape, particularly recommended is Le Quartier Francais whose in house restaurant, The Tasting Room is ranked in the top 50 restaurants in the world. Though only a short ride from Cape Town the Winelands feel like a world away, a quiet and peaceful retreat from the bustle of everyday life.
This more secluded stretch of the Western Cape offers more space, more sunshine and more tranquillity than the rest of the district. Perhaps not as well publicised as other areas of the Cape, Swartland also boasts perhaps its most extensive and pristine beach Yzerfontein, over 16 miles of unspoiled blue flag beach that offers ideal conditions for families and couples alike. Stretching north as far as the West Coast National Park here you can enjoy a variety of water sports as well as whale and dolphin watching. Nestled between the vast vineyards and the golden wheat fields to the north is the small hamlet of Darling which in spring bursts into life as for miles around a blanket of wild flowers erupts into view revealing a glorious spectrum of colours. The flowers and the displays that are produced by the locals to celebrate their coming are a favourite tourist attraction for many.