A short drive from Cape Town is the stunning Winelands region, home to some of the best wine in the world. For any would-be sommeliers, a stay in scenic towns such as Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl offers the perfect setting to tantalise the taste buds, take in the beautiful surroundings and learn more about South Africa’s famous wine region.
Best Places to Visit in the Cape Winelands
Located at the bottom of Stellenbosch Mountain, this town is synonymous with fine wine and top-quality dining, and tailor-made Winelands holidays often include stays here. The immediate surroundings of Stellenbosch are filled with vineyards that produce some of the highest quality wines in the world. Visiting the sprawling estates for wine tastings and pairing experiences make Stellenbosch an attractive addition to any South Africa itinerary.
Founded in in 1679 by Dutch governor Simon van der Stel, Stellenbosch is the second-oldest European settlement in the region after Cape Town. The governor earned the town the title ‘City of Oaks‘ by planting many oak trees in the town’s rich and fertile soils, and oak lined streets still characterise Stellensbosch today.
Franschhoek is known as the culinary heart of South Africa and is a deservedly popular stop on a holiday in the Winelands. Nestled in the Franschhoek Valley, the town is famed for its Huguenot heritage and Cape Dutch architecture. Surrounding the town are the Drakenstein and Wemmershoek mountain ranges where there are many beautiful walking trails that can be enjoyed whilst burning off the fine wines and delicious dishes on offer on a Franschhoek holiday.
In the centre of town is the Huguenot Monument which commemorates the French Huguenots who fled religious prosecution in France. It was the Huguenot’s knowledge of the grape that developed South Africa’s pedigree in winemaking. Wine tours here are rewarding and there are several exquisite vineyards to visit where the produce can be tasted, from wine and chocolate to cheese and charcuterie. A popular way to do this is on the Franschhoek Wine Tram which stops at some of the region’s best wineries. A curated tour on the Wine Tram is a great way to spend a day learning about the winemaking process and enjoying the literal fruits of its labour.
Paarl is the third oldest settlement in the region having been founded in 1687. The town was named after the granite outcrop that sits atop the nearby Paarl Mountain. The aesthetic of Paarl owes itself to different periods of history with influences from Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian and Cape Dutch design all evident throughout.
This is also the location of the striking Afrikaans Language monument – a celebration of the different languages and heritages that have formed the ingredients of this melting pot of cultures. On the nearby mountainsides are hiking trails through vast areas of fynbos and stunning natural beauty, and a morning walk here is a great way to kick start a day before enjoying one of Paarl’s many award-winning wine estates.
Things to do in the Cape Winelands
There are no prizes for guessing that wine-tasting and wine-pairing experiences are among the most popular activities enjoyed on a luxury Cape Winelands holiday. Wine estates also offer tours of the vineyards for an insight into the winemaking process. There are several guided tours that explore the famous Cape Wine Region with a combination of historical insight and wine experiences. Tours can be done as small groups or privately.
The area is one of the most beautiful in all of South Africa, and nature walks, segway and horse riding experiences are all great ways to explore. For something a little more special, helicopter rides and hot air balloon flights in the Winelands are excellent ways to see the landscape from above.
The Winelands are renowned as a haven for culture vultures and foodies, with sevearl world-class galleries and restaurants to visit. For more in-depth experiences in either, specialist art or food tours can also be enjoyed.
Best Places to Stay in the Winelands
Winelands accommodation varies from luxury hotels to self-catering apartments, with boutique guesthouses also a popular choice in South Africa’s wine region. Picking the right property for you depends largely on the type of experience you seek, the amount of independence you prefer and how much you want to see and do.
Hand-picked Cape Winelands accommodation
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Best Time to Visit the Winelands
The Cape Winelands are a year-round destination, with each season offering something a bit different. The hot summer between November and February is a great time to sip wine on panoramic terraces and wander through leafy vineyards. If you want to watch the harvesting process, come during Autumn from March to May. Winter is all about cosy log fires and sumptuous dining affairs, whilst Spring brings a burst of flowers across the estates as the weather becomes warmer again.