THE WESTERN CAPE
The Western Cape is one of South Africa’s premier tourist attractions, and for good reason. It is home to the famous Table Mountain, vast winelands, magnificent beaches, world-class restaurants and cosmopolitan entertainment haunts.
Situated on the south-western tip of Africa,
the Western Cape is the meeting point of the
cold Atlantic and the warm Indian Oceans. Its
capital city Cape Town, is dominated by the flat-topped bulk of Table Mountain.
The story of the Republic of South Africa began in the Western Cape, some 350 years ago, when it was inhabited by the Khoi, San and other Bantu-speaking groups. In the late 15th century European seafarers arrived here in search of a halfway stop on trade routes to the East and thereby changed the face of South African history forever.
Today, the province boasts South Africa’s fifth largest population, numbering in the region of 4.5 million inhabitants.
The Western Cape enjoys hot summers and mild, green winters perfect weather for the production of fruit, grains and, most important – wine. Summer days are long and warm, whilst winters can be wet and muggy.
Getting to Know The Western Cape
Thanks to its scenic beauty and many attractions, tourism is a major and growing force in the Western Cape, which hosts over 50% of the country’s international visitors.
Major attractions in the area:
Cape Town Metropolitan area
The area between Table Mountain and Hottentots Holland comprises the Cape Town Metropole and encompasses pulsating cosmopolitan city life, beach playgrounds, forests and exquisite nature parks.
Table Mountain is Cape Town’s most famous landmark. A quick spin by revolving cable car to the 1 086m summit will give the visitor a grand view of one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and of course the equally famous South African `Alcatraz’ – Robben Island.
The V& A Waterfront
The most visited attraction in Cape Town is the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront with its assortment of shopping, eating, entertainment and sightseeing facilities, all set within a working harbour.
Take an emotional journey to the former prison of Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela and many other anti-apartheid activists spent many of their adult years. An absolute must on any journey to the Cape.
Most fabulous Beaches in the World
There’s a beach to suit every mood in Cape Town: Clifton for those who want to see and be seen, Sandy Bay for the nudists, Muizenberg with its colourful bathing boxes for a good swim in warmer waters, Kommektjie for watersports, Fishhoek – a quaint seaside village, Houtbay – a colourful fishing harbour and craft market, Kalk Bay for antique hunters and Boulder’s Beach at Simon’s Town is home to a colony of Jackass penguins.
The Cape Fortress
The oldest surviving building in South Africa is the Castle of Good Hope - the pentagonal fortress built by personnel of the Dutch East India Company back in the 1660s-70s. Today it houses the regional headquarters of the South African Defence Force in the Western Cape, and a military museum.
A stop at Cape Point gives the visitor the opportunity to boast of having been at the most southern point of the Cape Peninsula. Some 26 shipwrecks have been recorded at Cape Point, some of them presenting good diving spots. A funicular takes visitors on scenic trips to an old lighthouse and the spot is a bird watcher’s paradise.
Guided township tours are extremely popular with international tourists whowant to get to know the ‘real’ Cape Town. In Guguletu and Langa expect to be overwhelmed by hospitality, informal roadside traders, rowdy taverns servinglocal beer and toe-tapping jazz.
Cape Town has many markets and impressive shopping centres and malls. One of the most talked about shopping venues is the impressive 400-outlet Canal Walk Century City. It also boasts a 20-theatre cinema complex and for adrenaline-pumping entertainment, there’s Ratanga Junction, a 30-attraction theme park with and the glitzy Grand West Casino & Entertainment World. Don’tforget to explore the fleamarkets too.
Great Gardens of the World
A day in Cape Town might end with a classical concert at sundown in one of the world’s great botanical gardens – Kirstenbosch, a repositoryfor many rare fynbos species and a wealth of indigenous plants, trees and flowers.
Cape Town city centre is known to many as the party capital of Africa, down just a few streets in the Mother City there are hundreds of bars, restaurants and clubs just waiting to be explored through to the wee hours of the morning. Cape Town is also known as a ‘pink city’, offering a warm welcome to the gay and lesbian community.
The West Coast
The West Coast offers some of the greatest of small town experiences in South Africa. Road trips along the West Coast are a firm favourite with locals and international visitors. Not only does the area offer some of the most beautiful scenery in the world – mountains, oceans and views that go onforever, this coast is also a haven for the finest South African hospitality.
Just a 45-minute drive from Cape Town and you’re in the mountains and valleys of the Winelands – all gracious gabled Cape Dutch homesteads, cask-lined cellars, oak-treed towns and ultra fine restaurants. The towns of Stellenbosch, Franschoek and Paarlare delightful and beg to be explored and savoured very slowly, like good wine.
The Garden Route
This land of lakes, bays, mountains and forests languishes on the southern coast from Heidelberg to the Eastern Cape's Tsitsikamma Forest and Storms River Mouth. A coastal drive along the Garden Route links a series of charming towns interspersed with natural wonder. Along the way, every kind of adventure activity is possible – scuba diving, abseiling,fishing and more.
The Klein Karoo
One of the most geologically interesting parts of South Africa is the Klein Karoo, with its towering mountains and sheer gorges. A notable geological feature is the Cango Caves, a series of caverns and chambers naturally hewn out of limestone, outside of the city of Oudtshoorn. Oudtshoorn itself, the heart of the ostrich feather industry when it was at its zenith in the late 1800s/early1900s, is worth a visit.
The Central Karoo
Peaceful Prince Albert at the foot of the spectacular Swartberg Pass makes a convenient base from which to venture out and explore. It’s close to Gamkaskloof or Die Hel (The Hell), once home to an isolated farming community that for a century was accessible only by foot or horseback. The Karoo National Park, as the largest ecosystem in South Africa, reveals how fauna and florahave adapted to their harsh environment.
The Breede River Valley
Some 15 attractive small towns have the good fortune to nestle in the fertile Breede River Valley, wall-to-wall in orchards and vineyards. Attractions in the valley include one of the largest brandy distilleries in the world (KWV Brandy Cellar), game reserves, tribal art and museums (try Kleinplasie Living Open Air Museum which revives early settler days with demonstrations of candle making, sheep shearing and harvesting).
An hour east of Cape town `over the mountains’ is the Overberg, marked by a coastline of holiday-friendly beaches, picturesque seaside towns, an ancient lighthouse that has witnessed many a shipwreck (at Cape Agulhus) and a whale route that draws more whales and more watchers each year. Between June and November crowds flock to Hermanus and its surrounds to watch the great mammals in their natural habitat.
Information courtesy of South African
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