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Paarl Mountain Reserve Trail

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In Paarl

-33.7426, 18.9442


+27 21 21 807 4500, +27 21 872 4842

Easy to moderate difficulty; Suitable for Children, if accompanied by an adult


When you look up at the granite domes glistening in the sun, it’s easy to understand the origins of the name, Paarl, which was originally called Parel (pearl) in Dutch. The second-largest granite outcrop in the world (after Uluru in Australia), the Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve comprises Paarl, Britannia and Gordon’s Rock.

Like Uluru and Half Dome in the Yosemite Valley, the highest dome in the reserve, Britannia Rock, can be ascended with the help of fixed chains, so it makes a fun mountaineering adventure.

To get to the trailhead, take the R45 exit off the N1 onto Main Road, then, shortly after passing the KWV buildings on the right, turn left onto Jan Phillips Drive towards the Taalmonument and the nature reserve. Follow the road up the mountain to a T-junction and then turn right and continue on a good dirt road through the entrance gates and on to the parking lot at the end of the road.

From the car park, follow the path past an overhanging rock to the base of the Britannia dome. Aim for the chains snaking up the grey face and hang on to them as you head up to the summit, as the rock is smooth and slippery in places. From the trig beacon, you have a 360-degree view over the vineyards towards Stellenbosch and Wellington, with the majestic Cape mountains in the background.

Table Mountain, known to the Khoisan as the “Mountain in the Sea”, floats like a ship in the distance and raptors such as black eagle, jackal buzzard and peregrine falcon often wheel about the summit. Paarl Rock is a popular rock-climbing destination so if you look out at the neighbouring dome you might see climbers making their way up the near vertical faces in their sticky rock shoes or appearing from nowhere to join you on the summit.

Retrace your steps to the base of the rock. A good short extension is to then turn left and follow the boardwalk and steps down into the indigenous forest – a very different environment from the exposed mountain you’ve just descended. From the bottom of the steps, you can return to the car park the same way, looking out for forest inhabitants such as fiscal flycatchers, Cape batis and ground woodpecker. The steps are fairly steep but it’s always cool in the shade of the trees. Alternatively, continue around the base of Britannia Rock back to the start.

The gates are open between 7am and 7pm in summer (1 Oct - 31 March) and between 7am and 6pm in winter (1 April - 30 Sept). Entrance to the reserve is free of charge during the week. Fees per vehicle and occupant apply on weekends and public holidays. For more information follow the Paarl Mountain Reserve icon on the website link above.

Cape Winelands

Western Cape


As the name suggests, the Cape Winelands is an area of vines and vineyards; the berries of which are responsible for that most delicious fermented juice of the grape: wine. The region is well known for its proliferation of estates and cellars that continually create quality wines throughout the cultivar spectrum.

This is an area that encourages leisurely meanders along its various wine routes, absorbing the natural beauty of the rural surroundings.

The region stretches northwards from the eastern outskirts of Cape Town. In the south the popular and trendy towns of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek nestle in the shadow of the mountains that make up the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve. To the west the popular tourist ‘Route 62’ follows the Breede River Valley. It takes in the town of Robertson, the quaint village of McGregor and continues to Worcester.

North, across the N1 highway, the historic towns of Paarl, Wellington and Tulbagh are strung out between a series of mountains. In the far north-east, the town of Ceres is a dot in a sweeping valley of fruit orchards.

Craggy mountains are a feature of the landscape, giving rise to the region also being called the Boland (High Land). The mountains include the ranges of the Groot Drakenstein, Langeberg, Hexrivier and Witzenberg. Their steep rocky peaks plunge to gentler gradients rich in fynbos and proteas, before levelling out in fertile valleys threaded with chortling streams.

In these low-lying areas, suspended between the slopes, vineyards stretch in patchwork patterns. Like an artist’s palette the area changes with the seasons - from subtle spring pastels, through lush summer greens, to the earthy shades of autumn.

Not only are the Cape Winelands a delight for connoisseurs of fine wines; the towns themselves are centres for a host of enjoyable pastimes. Many are steeped in history and have magnificent collections of traditional Cape Dutch and period architecture.

These are best viewed during a stroll along the leafy streets. The historic Church Street in Tulbagh has the largest concentration of provincial monuments in one street in South Africa. The university town of Stellenbosch, with its oak-lined boulevards, is the second-oldest town in the country, dating back to 1671. Today it is an important cultural centre with a host of galleries and museums, and the country’s oldest music school.

Franschhoek, reclining in a somnolent valley ambience, entices gourmets to sample its fare at some of South Africa’s top restaurants. McGregor is well known for its life-enriching tranquillity and Ceres for its fruit production and snow-covered mountains in winter. Besides their wineries, Robertson and Worcester are known for the production of some of South Africa’s best known brandies – Klipdrift and KWV, respectively.

The winelands is great country in which to enjoy a leisurely trip along minor roads that fade into the fynbos. They will take you into valleys and gorges, past barns stacked with bales of lucerne, and paddocks with grazing sheep and lazing cows. Around farmsteads and cottages, chickens strut their stuff and pigs wallow in slushy heaven. Dams mirror the sky and hillsides, their reflections rippled by drifting and preening waterbirds. Tractors till the land, and labourers and farmers wave to every passer-by.

For centuries the terroir here has been ideally suited to the production of great wine and today, more than ever before, it is also conducive to the making of good times and fond memories. The Cape Winelands is a region to relax in, whilst inhaling the warm, scented air and indulging in the finer things in life.

Look out for

Wine tasting – naturally this is a popular and pleasant pastime in the region. The Stellenbosch wine route, established in 1971, is the oldest in South Africa. Today other routes lead to the cellars and estates around virtually every town in the region. Many of the wineries offer tasting and sales from Monday to Saturday. Maps are available from the tourism office in each town.

Brandy tasting – this much-loved spirit is produced by a good number of cellars and specialist distillers throughout the region. There are 2 brandy routes in the region. The Western Cape Brandy Route winds through Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl and Wellington. The R62 Brandy Route goes through Robertson and Worcester. Many of these offer tasting, tours and sales from Monday to Friday.

Historical towns – the Cape Winelands is rich in history, with most towns and many of the wine estates having their own collections of historical buildings, museums and monuments. The region is synonymous with Cape Dutch and Victorian architecture. Highlights include Church Street in Tulbagh and the De Oude Drostdy Museum just outside the town. There are Zeederberg Square and the Paarl Museum in Paarl, and Klein Plasie open air Museum in Worcester. Twenty declared National Monuments are in Wellington and there is the Huguenot Memorial and Museum in Franschhoek.

Scenic drives – where there are mountains and valleys there are always scenic roads and passes to explore; here is no exception.

River rafting – the Breede River is the sixth largest river in South Africa and is a playground of fun and adventure.

Adrenalin - for lovers of the adrenalin rush, Ceres Zipslide Adventures offers 8 slides totalling 1.4km amongst the rock formations of the Skurweberg mountains near Ceres.

Art galleries – the towns are home to a host of artists and galleries. The Stellenbosch Gallery and Rupert Gallery in Stellenbosch are popular and showcase art through many mediums and genres.

Wildlife on display – the area has a number of parks that allow one to get close to a variety of wild creatures in captivity. Some of the better known ones include the Drankenstein Lion Park, Butterfly World, Paarl Bird Sanctuary and the Le Bonheur Crocodile Farm - all situated between Paarl and Stellenbosch. 

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