With its vast mountain ranges, sandy beaches and brilliant blue waters, Cape Town is a place where nature dominates. So slow down, and enjoy this visually spectacular city. Cape Town is without a doubt the crown jewel on the African continent. From its location at the foot of Table mountain to the beautiful beaches which are surrounding this wonderful city, there’s always something around the corner that will blow you away.
“The Cape is South Africa’s gift to the world.” — Nelson Mandela
Cape Town is also riddled with history as traders traveling from Europe to India and the Far East would stop here. This resulted in Cape Town changing hands a few times, and even today these historical landmarks tell a story of how this unique city became such an incredible place to visit. If you want to check out the majestic mountains, the spectacular scenery of Table Mountain, amazing beaches, penguins in Boulders beach, and go on a breathtaking road trip along the South African coast, this should be your next travel destination.
What to see?
- Take the Mountain Aerial Cableway to Table Mountain — Table Mountain is a flat-topped mountain forming a prominent landmark overlooking the city of Cape Town. Famous for its impossibly flat “table-like” peak, it is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Its tabular shape results from nearly horizontal layers of sandstone exposed to vigorous wind and water erosion. To visit Table Mountain, you can either take a long hike up or take the cable car to the top, where you can get gorgeous views of Cape Town, and breathtaking views of the ocean. It can get very windy and chilly when you are up there. When the cloud cover overhangs at the sides of the mountain, it is called the ‘Tablecloth over Table Mountain’. The view from the top is truly alluring and overwhelming.
- Hike Lion’s Head or Devil’s Peak — Lion’s Head is a mountain in Cape Town, between Table Mountain and Signal Hill. Lion’s Head peaks at 669 metres above sea level. The peak forms part of a dramatic backdrop to the city of Cape Town. The views of Table Mountain, the 12 apostles, and the Atlantic ocean are just mesmerizing. It takes about 1 hour to hike to the top, and the only way to reach the top if by foot. You can also hike up Devil’s Peak located right next to Table Mountain for a more adventurous hike!
- Road Trip along Chapman’s Peak Scenic Route — It is no exaggeration to say that every road in the Western Cape leads to somewhere beautiful. The joy of a road trip is not just in the pleasure of the open road ahead. For both of us, it’s also in taking little detours, making unplanned stops to soak in the majesty of the scenery and the thrill of discovering little towns, rivers, fauna and flora along the way. From stunning seaside views to mountainous landscape, the Western Cape is picture perfect on a road trip. We drove along the scenic Chapman’ Peak route, and we made several stops along the way — Chapman’s Peak, Cape Point, Cape of Good Hope, Kalk Bay, Gordon’s Bay, and Betty’s Bay.
Cape Point is located at the southern tip of Africa where the Atlantic and Indian Ocean meets. The drive goes through Chapman’s Peak and its windy mountainside roads offering some of the most dramatic views you’ll ever see. Next stop was the Cape of Good Hope National Park, where you can witness the collision of the Atlantic and Indian oceans at the Cape of Good Hope. We continued down the road to stop at Kalk Bay for an amazing late lunch at Harbour House restaurant, then Gordon’s Bay, and our final stop was at Betty’s Bay to checkout African penguins.
- Betty’s Bay at overberg coast of South Africa’s Western Cape province — You can find the African Penguin along the coast of Namibia through South Africa. There are quite a number of places to see them. The most popular destination is Boulder Beach, about a 45 minute drive from Cape Town. However, this is a very touristy area, so you’ll find people cramming together to checkout the penguins. we drove a little further along the coast, to the Stony Point Nature Reserve. Stony Point is located on an old whaling station, and Betty’s Bay is about 90 minutes from Cape Town. You’ll need to drive a little farther, but we promise that this is an amazing location. There were about 10 other people at Betty’s Bay along with us. The African Penguin is incredibly endangered, and the population has dwindled to less than 10% of what it was in 1900. Conservation areas in places like Boulder Beach and Betty’s Bay are meant to combat this.
- Bo Kaap — Located at the base of Signal Hill, the Bo-Kaap neighborhood is famous for its colorful painted houses and cobblestone streets. It was formally known as the Cape Malay Quarter, a township during the Apartheid era. Bo Kaap’s residents proudly painted their houses with vivid colors to celebrate their independence. The residents of this neighborhood can still trace their roots back to the Malaysians, Indians, Sri Lankans, and African people brought here by the Dutch as slaves back many centuries ago. The inter-mixing of these various groups through generations resulted in the colored demographic aka mixed race people.
“One cannot resist the lure of Africa.” — Rudyard Kipling
What to eat?
- Harbour House Restaurant, Kalk Bay in Cape Town — Waterfront restaurant that offers more than just a view… magenta sunsets, clear turquoise waters, dramatic cliffside terraces, and a delectable meal with a sublime view of the ocean. This was our best meal in Cape Town. Kalk Bay is a little bohemian town filled with shops, bookstores and restaurants. We stopped here for an early dinner at a waterfront seafood restaurant, Harbour House. The views of the ocean were spectacular and the food was amazing. We had Scallops, Mussels and Calamari, which were all delicious. During the whale season, Kalk Bay is also a good place to see whales from the shoreline, but we were a little late for the season. It’s a bit pricey for the portion size, but well worth it!
- Nando’s, Sea Point in Cape Town — This is South Africa’s best fast food. Afro-Portuguese chain restaurant serving flame-grilled chicken in spicy chili sauce. The grilled peri peri chicken here is a must have! The first Nando’s was opened in 1987 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Nando’s authentic PERi -PERi has captivated its customers all over the world, making it the largest South African restaurant group to expand internationally.
- The Test Kitchen Fledgelings — The Test Kitchen offers some of the most innovative and delicious food in South Africa using locally-sourced produce. The food is a blend of Latin cuisine with a South African touch. This restaurant was consistently ranked in the top 50 restaurants of the world. The plates are both beautiful and tasty.
When is the best time to visit?
- January and February — January and February are Cape Town’s busiest months. Summer is in full swing with warm temperatures and blue skies. This is the best time to visit Cape Town, but its also the peak season, so flights and accommodation are a bit pricey, and attractions can be busy as well.
- March and April — March is the beginning of the shoulder season, when the summer crowds have left. Temperatures in March and April are between 60°F to 82°F, so this is a great time to visit this part of South Africa. By April, the first cold fronts of the winter sometimes begin, so you’ll see some rainy days. We visited Cape Town in March, and it was very windy on some days, but the weather was gorgeous.
- May, June, July and August — By May Cape Town is starts to cool down significantly. There are few tourists around, although rain can be a big factor. June, July, and August are mid-winter, so they’re the rainiest months as well as the coldest. July and August are a great time to visit as its the peak whale season, when southern right and humpback whales can be seen calving in the shallow waters just offshore.
- September and October — September marks the start of spring in Cape Town. You’ll catch the end of whale season, but this time of year is most famous for the wildflowers. All over the Western Cape, blooms take over vast fields and mountains and splash the region with bursts of colour.
- November and December — These are summer months in Cape Town, so the town comes to life, and also marks the start of the peak season. The long, sunny days attracts tourists, so you’ll definitely be paying more if you choose to travel in these months.
How to save money?
- Travel during off-season — Traveling during the shoulder seasons will save a lot of money. You can save both on accommodation and airfare.
- Enjoy free activities — Cape Town has many opportunities for free activities outdoors. Try out some of the spectacular hiking trails, visit the beaches, go chasing waterfalls, or spend a day exploring the parks and gardens all over the city.
- Buy groceries and eat a meal at your apartment — Cook at least one meal to stretch your travel budget. We typically eat breakfast at our Airbnb.
- Stay in budget-friendly neighborhoods — Camps Bay, Sea Point, and the Waterfront areas are all real estate hotspots: they are some of the most beautiful areas of Cape Town. Therefore they’re the most expensive areas to stay in. We stayed in Camps Bay due to proximity, but it can get expensive.
- Hit the beach — Get outside and enjoy one of Cape Town’s beautiful beaches for a day of fun without having to spend a dime. Pack your own picnic lunch and spend the day at the beach.
“When you leave Africa, as the plane lifts, you feel that more than leaving a continent you’re leaving a state of mind. Whatever awaits you at the other end of your journey will be of a different order of existence.” — Francesca Marciano
Dominated by the iconic Table Mountain, which serves as a backdrop everywhere in the city, Cape Town is a mish-mash of cultures. We were in Cape Town for only 2 days, but there’s so much to see and explore here. You can spend several days soaking up the sun, enjoying the outdoors, hiking, and eating delicious food. The magic of Cape Town extends well beyond its natural beauty, and you’ll never run of things to do here.
Always remember… Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer!