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Western Cape

About

The Western Cape is one of South Africa’s most popular holiday destinations. Its plethora of national parks is testimony to its natural beauty and hints at a world of promise for the outdoor enthusiast. Its cities are as lively as its country towns relaxed. Its culture reflects the richness of its history, both long past and more recent.

It has one of the world’s most famous mountains, right in the middle of the Mother City – a city that is often a finalist when lists of ‘most beautiful cities in the world’ are compiled. Cape Town is rich in history. And although laid-back, it also has a very active night life.

Extending south from Cape Town, the Cape Peninsula forms a spectacular knife edge that runs out to sea for miles. Naturally, this coast is rich in maritime history. Much of this is fraught with tragedy – it is not called the Cape of Storms for nothing.

On wild, stormy days its seas pulsate with unrestrained energy. You would hardly recognise it from days of cobalt skies and blond beaches when the weather gods are on their best behaviour.

The southernmost tip of the African continent is just a few hours’ travel to the east of Cape Town at L'Agulhas.

This coastline is probably the best place in the country to spot southern right and humpback whales at close quarters. Mid-August to mid-November is the best time for this.

From here the gentle corn lands of the Overberg gradually give way to the temperate ridges and valleys of the Garden Route.

This region is well known for its beaches, estuaries and freshwater dams, for its coastal cliffs, and for its green mountain ranges covered in indigenous forests and fynbos.

Crossing the first range of mountains to the interior – via a collection of ragged mountain passes or ‘poorts’ (a chasm through the mountains, usually following a river bed) – brings you to the plains of the Klein (Little) Karoo and its fortified wine and ostrich farms.

Here summers are unforgiving and the climate dry, but still nothing in comparison to the plains of the Central Karoo. This you reach by crossing yet another range of mountains. Go for early morning walks, go tortoise spotting in the late afternoon or arrange your own sundowners. The landscape is big and the skies vast. Most of all, appreciate the solitude.

To complete the ‘arid circle’, you have to head back to the coast again. Travel west until you reach the cold, nutrient-rich waters of the Atlantic Ocean. 

In contrast to the southern coastline the Cape West Coast is arid, but makes up for this austerity with a rich bloom of flowers in spring. The flowers only open when the sun is high in the sky, making for lazy mornings. They are also polite enough to close in time for you to get back to your front porch to watch the sunset with a smoky single malt.

Returning to Cape Town - and heading out north-east from the city this time - brings you to the Cape Winelands. Here the valleys of the Cape fold mountains give shelter to stately vineyards. Some of them have been around since the early 1800s.

Spoilt for choice, the best way to make the most of the Western Cape is to plan your second trip even before you set out on the first.

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