A visit to the Western Cape is simply not complete without exploring the Winelands. South Africa’s wine industry, now the ninth largest in the world, dates back to the 17th century, and the wineries here welcome visitors with open arms, often providing free tastings and tours. There are various options and they start as close as 20 minutes drive from Cape Town in the Constantia Valley. The estates are on stunning locations, often also have an extremely good restaurant besides their tasting room, and a view-to-die-for. Think of Beau Constance with its delicious Chef’s Warehouse restaurant.
A little bit further you can find Stellenbosch, an elegant, historical town with stately Cape Dutch, Georgian and Victorian architecture along its oak-lined streets. Stellenbosch is full of interesting museums, quality hotels and a selection of bars, clubs and restaurants. A university town, it is constantly abuzz with locals, students, Capetonians and tourists. If there’s one thing that Stellenbosch is mainly renowned for, it is wine. There are hundreds of estates scattered around the outskirts of the town, many of which produce world-class wines. A tour of the wineries with their many tasting options and superlative restaurants will likely form the backbone of your visit, and if you are a foodie and like a glass of wine, you can easily spend weeks here; the options are endless.
French Huguenots settled Franschhoek in a spectacular valley over 300 years ago, bringing their vines with them. Ever since, this Winelands town has clung to its French roots, and July visitors will find that Bastille Day is celebrated here. Franschhoek bills itself as the country’s gastronomic capital, and you’ll certainly have a tough time deciding where to eat. Plus, with a clutch of art galleries, wine farms and stylish guesthouses thrown in, it really is one of the loveliest towns in the Cape.
For those who prefer to wander off the beaten track, we’d recommend the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley near the whale-watching town of Hermanus or the wine estates of the hugely scenic Route 62. Although not as well-known as Franschhoek and Constantia, these alternative wine routes are equally pleasing to both eye and palate, and can easily be combined with a self-drive holiday along either the Whale Coast or the beach-lined Garden Route.
The winelands are wonderful to visit when the weather is nice in South Africa. The weather is the best in the period from October to April, so take advantage of it! A timeline can be seen in the overview below. The greener the box is by the month, the better it is to travel to this country in that period.