Learn more about the Western Cape
With its majestic Table Mountain backdrop, Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. A harmonious blend of architectural styles reflects the tastes of dictates of the past as well as today's more functional requirements.
Between the high-rise office blocks, Edwardian and Victorian buildings have been meticulously preserved, and many outstanding examples of Cape Dutch architecture are found. Narrow, cobble stone streets and the strongly Islamic ambiance of the Bo-Kaap enhance the cosmopolitan ambiance of the city.
The Cape Helderberg
The Cape Helderberg, or Helderberg basin, is one of the most visually dramatic areas in the Cape, with the Hottentots Holland and Helderberg Mountain ranges creating a powerful backdrop against which the valley descends into vineyards and finally on to a coastline swept with warm waters and effortlessly white, sandy beaches.
This is the land of the Helderberg and Stellenbosch wine routes and home to the towns of Gordon’s Bay, Sir Lowry’s Pass, Somerset West, Strand, Lwandle and Macassar. 45 minutes’ drive from Cape Town, the land that originally belonged to the Strandlopers has become a playground for visitors and locals.
The Cape Agulhas
The rocky headland of Cape Agulhas is the place where two great oceans – the Indian and Atlantic – meet. It's also the spot at which to have one's photo taken at the official southernmost tip of Africa, where there is a stone plaque that marks the place – right on the beach.
The plaque forms part of a wooden boardwalk that is easy to stroll and which offers incredible views over the crashing seas. Confusingly, the point at which the Agulhas current meets the Benguela current tends to fluctuate seasonally between Cape Agulhas and Cape Point. But the official meeting place, decided by the International Hydrographical Organisation, is unquestionably Cape Agulhas - lest there be contention amongst your party.
The Cape West Coast
What is still an almost undiscovered treasure trove of unspoilt beaches, incredible mountain ranges, rich geographical diversity, and the most astounding carpet of wild flowers in spring, has evolved into a major holiday route out of Cape Town along Route 27.
The Cape West Coast stretches from Cape Town as far as the border with the Northern Cape at Touws River, including within its parameters the indescribably beautiful Cederberg Mountains, famous for centuries-old rock art. All along this stretch of coastline is a series of quaint historic towns and fishing villages with names like Lambert’s Bay, Paternoster, Saldanha and Langebaan that today roll with ease off the tongue, but until fairly recently were left to languor in relative obscurity.
The Olifant's River Valley
The Olifant's River meanders through the valley bringing life to the surrounding area. Without the water this beautiful world of green, the heavy fragrance of the citrus groves that greet you as you drive along, the proud farming community with the renowned Groen Vallei wines would cease to exist. There are many beautiful villages hidden away, that offer warm hospitality to visitors. You can travel around the region for days and days and never get bored.
The majestic Cederberg mountain range towers over Citrusdal; the hub of the citrus growing industry in South Africa. Only two hours drive from Cape Town, this town seems worlds apart with its old-world charm and values.
The beautiful Cederberg, a wilderness area dominated by a craggy mountain range and a nature reserve that stretches from the Middelberg Pass at Citrusdal to just north of the Pakhuis Pass at Clanwilliam - over 70 000 hectares of spectacular, rugged terrain - lies roughly two to three hours’ drive, depending on how leisurely the pace, from Cape Town.
The Cederberg, named after the endangered Clanwilliam Cedar - a tree endemic to the area - is virtually synonymous with a series of impressive rock formations that emerged as a result of a combination of factors, including the chemical composition of rocks in the area, climatic conditions and the general flat-lying nature of the geology in the Cederberg.
The Cape Winelands
About 40 km to the east of Cape Town, lying in the shadow of a continuous belt of Cape fold mountains, lies a series of generous valleys known as the Cape Winelands – a collection of historic towns, little hamlets and Cape Dutch farmsteads that provide well-regarded South African wines to the world. These mountains create an incredible scenic backdrop for a myriad vines, but they are also one of the reasons wines do so well here. Their geological compositions provide unique soil conditions that directly effect the character of wine.
The topography of wineland soils vary substantially, ranging from shallow, rocky soils on steep slopes and plateaus, to reddish-brown soils along mountain foothills - the predominant soil type of the Cape Winelands, Stellenbosch, Paarl and Wellington particularly.
The Breede River Valley
There really is no adjective apt enough to describe the beauty of the Breede River Valley. This incredibly picturesque fruit and wine producing vale has become extremely popular with Capetonians and visitors.
This is in no small part because it is close enough to the mother city to reach easily within a couple of hours, but also because little towns like Robertson, McGregor, Ashton, Bonnievale, Tulbagh and Montagu that litter the valley are particularly appealing to visitors, and together with outlying farms, provide a space that gives city dwellers instant reprieve from the grind of city living.
Mountain ranges abound in the valley and it follows that there are roughly 10 alternative scenic routes that lead one here, depending from where one comes.
The Swartland, otherwise known as the wheat and rooibos-producing part of the Western Cape Province, lies between Malmesbury in the south, across the Riebeek Valley to Piketberg in the north, Darling in the west, to the Oliphants Mountain at Porterville in the east.
The Swartland Region begins only 50 kilometres outside of Cape Town making it fairly accessible to visitors, and its undulating wheat fields, vineyards and deep river valleys have been the topic of many a photographer’s lens.
This incredibly beautiful, yet often overlooked, area is named for its wide fertile plains that, after the rains in winter, turn black (swart land means black land in Afrikaans). The wide, fertile plains are filled with golden wheat fields that have contributed to its status as the bread basket of the Cape. There are as many landscapes as there are seasons and the blazing wheat is interspersed with wine, fruit and olive plantations that give rise to a patchwork quilt of colour.
The Little Karoo
The Little or Klein Karoo, which is a long valley bordered by the Swartberg and the Langeberg Mountains in the Western Cape, forms the southern sibling of the larger Karoo - the Great or Groot Karoo occupies the northern part thereof.
This is the land of succulents - their thick, fleshy diversity unparalleled anywhere else in the world - peppered only by the odd bush and tree that gives the Karoo, at first glance, the appearance of arid, dry and very flat land devoid of living matter and given over to hot days and cold nights. Herds of buffalo, elephant and kudu once dominated these plains only to be hunted or driven out by modern development.
Today the mainly visible animal in the area is the ostrich, farmed for his meat, eggs and feathers, but stay awhile and you’ll hear the rustlings of the bat-eared fox, the suricate or meerkat and the common barking gecko.
The Garden Route
The Garden Route includes one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline, the starting point of which is constantly contested as towns such as Witsand, Stilbaai and Albertinia join the route that winds its way for some 200 km via George, Wilderness, Sedgefield and Knysna on to Plettenberg Bay culminating in the Tsitsikamma Forest - a fairyland of giant trees, ferns and bird life.
Mountains crowd close to a shoreline dotted with beaches and bays, and vividly coloured wild flowers delight the eye. Between Heidelberg and Storms River, the Garden Route runs parallel to a coastline featuring lakes, mountains, tall indigenous forests, amber -coloured rivers and golden beaches.