The perfect safari holiday in the Winelands
A beautiful region of South Africa; valleys of impressive vineyards and historic settlements set between the imposing mountains
Nestled away to the east of Cape Town, beneath the shadows of the Hottentot-Holland Mountains, the breathtaking Cape Winelands are rightly high on visitors’ lists of places to visit when in South Africa, and a simply superb space to spend a few relaxing days.
The historic university town of Stellenbosch and quaint valley village of Franschhoek are the most popular places to stay, although the Afrikaans town of Paarl and farming town of Wellington also have their appeal, especially for those looking to get off the beaten track.
Stellenbosch is the largest of the towns and home to one of the country’s most famous Universities, regarded as the equivalent of Oxford or Cambridge in South Africa. The town is very vibrant and there is always a buzz about the place, with students, locals and tourists mingling together to create a lovely atmosphere. The surrounding vineyards seem to stretch on forever and produce superb reds and whites, with Cabernet Sauvignon gaining a strong reputation in the area. South African Golfer Ernie Els has a winery just outside of the town and a restaurant in the very heart of Stellenbosch as well.
Franschhoek, which translates as ‘French Corner’, is named after the French Huguenot settlers who landed here in 1688 and immediately recognised the area’s wine-growing potential. It retains a small village feel but is packed with boutique hotels, elegant shops and truly outstanding restaurants. Visitors are able to explore the wineries via the unique Franschhoek Wine Tram, which negates the need to drive between wineries or hire a guide, and it’s a superb way to spend a day. For many, Franschhoek is the food and wine capital of South Africa, and a must-visit on any trip to the country.
Paarl and Wellington often tend to be passed up in favour of the more well-known towns further south, but they still shouldn’t be discounted as places to stay. Wellington in particular is growing in popularity and there are some charming places to stay on the outskirts of this very traditional farming town.
The area is certainly one that can be visited year-round, although the quiet winter months of June to August see a number of restaurants close down, especially in Franschhoek, so it can be better to opt for Stellenbosch at this time of year. Summer is a superb time to be here, with a cooling wind helping to keep conditions bearable, even at the height of summer. Visitors in February and March are able to witness the grape harvest, a momentous time across the region, whilst February also sees the fascinating Cape Wine Auction – a fascinating weekend attended by wine buyers, hoteliers and bon-vivants from across the country.
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