Pretoria may be South Africa’s political and economic capital, but Cape Town is undeniably its cultural center. With a stunning setting between the flat-top Table Mountain and the point where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, it is a vibrant and diverse city that no traveler to southern Africa should miss. And in a Discovery Tours small group, you can gain an intimate view of its varied culture, natural beauty, and day to day life.
Of course, a destination is only as welcoming as its people. And you’ll experience them at their warmest and most gracious as we’ve arranged for you to be the guests of a local family for lunch. The menu varies depending on the household you visit. You might sample a homemade stew known as potjiekos, which means “small pot,” or a traditional braai, a barbecue meal that South Africans love. Meat dishes might be complemented by sweet chutney or chakalaka, a spicy vegetable relish. Regardless of what’s on the table, Discovery Tours travelers know that meals like these are more about forging connections and discovering our common humanity. Of course, they are also about the wine, and you’re your hosts are sure to have plenty on hand from a favorite South African vintner.
Lots of vintners produce a variety of wines in South Africa—none better than Constantia dessert wine, which dates back to 1659 and is rated as one of the finest in the world. We set our sights on the more typical vineyards that blanket the beautiful valleys and hillsides of the Cape Winelands, just outside Cape Town. In Stellenbosch, South Africa’s second oldest European settlement, a wide range of soils produce fine Cabernet Sauvignons. The city of Paarl, once home to a co-operative wine growing association, continues its grape-cultivating tradition at several wineries. And in Franschoek, the Dutch word for “French Corner,” the French Huguenot settlers gave their farms names that were reminiscent of their home country—La Provence, Champagne, Bourgogne. Today, many of those farms are fine wineries.
An exploration of Cape Town demands a visit to the summit of Table Mountain, and we ascend in the most exciting way, by cable car, if weather allows. The vista from the top has been called one of Africa’s most epic, with views into a massive amphitheater that points to Cape Town, Table Bay, and the Atlantic coast. Robben Island is also visible in Table Bay, a few miles from the coast. This is the place where Nelson Mandela was held for 18 of the 27 years he spent in prison before the end of apartheid.
After so much exploring, it just might be time to shop. The city’s Victoria & Albert Waterfront—a delightful array of quays, indoor and outdoor courtyards, street performers, and stunning vistas of ocean and mountain—lines South Africa’s oldest working harbor. More than 450 retailers, 80 restaurants, a fresh food market, and much more attract Capetonians, other South Africans from outside the city, and countless others. More than a shopping mecca, it also hosts 22 historic landmarks and local musicians playing traditional African instruments, giving it important meaning to locals. And for fantastic views of the whole expanse, you can climb aboard the Ferris wheel.