Western Cape Tourist AttractionsThe Cape Winelands
About 40 km to the east of Cape Town, lying in the shadow of a continuous belt of Cape fold belt mountains, lies a series of generous valleys known as the Cape Winelands – a collection of historic towns, little hamlets and Cape Dutch farmsteads that provide well-regarded South African wines to the world. These mountains create an incredible scenic backdrop for a myriad vines, but they are also one of the reasons wines do so well here. Their geological compositions provide unique soil conditions that directly effect the character of wine.
The topography of wineland soils vary substantially, ranging from shallow, rocky soils on steep slopes and plateaus, to reddish-brown soils along mountain foothills - the predominant soil type of the Cape Winelands, Stellenbosch, Paarl and Wellington particularly.
Like successful European wines these inland vineyards benefit from a typical Mediterranean climate. However, the influence of nearby oceans means that summers have the advantage of offshore winds far more than northern hemisphere counterparts, giving credence to the saying: 'a vineyard that can see the sea, is a good vineyard'.
Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl, Tulbagh, and Wellington form the backbone of the Cape Winelands* – their wine routes representing hundreds of wine and grape producers. These valleys are the largest winemaking region in the country with grape cultivation that dates back to the 1600s.,
The Cape Winelands district is a landlocked area in-between the West Coast and the Overberg coasts, including Drakenstein, Somerset West, Stellenbosch, Witzenberg and Breede River Valley, and Langeberg winelands. Collectively they are known as the 'pearls' of South Africa's rural and small towns.
Tours through the Cape Winelands not only include world-class wineries: There are food and wine pairings; some of the country's best restaurants have established themselves here (Franschhoek is known as the gourmet capital of the country); and there are outdoor activities like hiking and MTB routes.
You will need more than a day to visit the winelands...
* These are the traditional Cape Winelands. Today, the Cape's winelands extend well beyond this district, incorporating newer vineyards to the north (Durbanville valley) and south (Constantia, Cape Point) of Cape Town, into the Breede Valley, Rawsonville, Overberg (Walker Bay, Agulhas) and Elgin, up the west coast (Darling) along the Olifants River, into the Swartland, and Klein Karoo. There is little in the Western Cape that is not under vine.
View the Wine Routes of the Cape for a detailed overview of all of the wine routes which includes the Constantia Valley, Coastal Routes, Little Karoo and Olifants River Wine Routes and more.
Popular Towns in the Cape Winelands
Overnight? Accommodation in Franschhoek
The French corner of the Cape, Franschhoek lies in one of the most beautiful wine valleys in the world, just 45 minutes’ from Cape Town and within half an hour of the Stellenbosch, Paarl, Wellington and Somerset West wine routes. This...
More info and photographs: Franschhoek Information
Stay? Accommodation in Gouda
Gouda is a little village just 37 km south of Porterville, at the western entrance to the Nuwekloof Pass that links Tulbagh to Wellington. The town does not produce or, in fact, have anything to do with cheese. The only Gouda you will find...
More info and photographs: Gouda Information
Stay? Accommodation in Groot Drakenstein
The valley known as the Groot Drakenstein lies in the shadow of the mountains with the same name, on the back side of the Hottentots Holland Mountains, part way between Franschhoek and Paarl. Some great historic Cape Dutch homesteads lie in...
More info and photographs: Groot Drakenstein Information
Overnight? Accommodation in Klapmuts
Klapmuts is not very well known amongst tourists - an added bonus as the area offers the chance to stay on large farms and small holdings with views out over the mountains on the edge of things. One feels free of the city out here...
More info and photographs: Klapmuts Information
Overnight? Accommodation in Paarl
A mere hour’s drive from Cape Town brings one to a giant granite outcrop with three rounded domes, the prominent one of which was initially called Peerleberg or Pearl Mountain by Abraham Gabemma. Abraham stumbled on the rock in 1657 en route...
More info and photographs: Paarl Information
Overnight? Accommodation in Pniel
If you have ever driven the R310 from Stellenbosch along Helshoogte, a lovely alternative route through to Franschhoek, then you've passed through the little village of Pniel. Linking the two major wine towns in this way makes for a more than...
More info and photographs: Pniel Information
Overnight? Accommodation in Simondium
The little hamlet of Simondium lies at the upper point of a triangle with Stellenbosch and Franschhoek on the R45 and, because it is the lesser known of the three, tends to be described in terms of the other two towns, with little to warrant...
More info and photographs: Simondium Information
Overnight? Accommodation in Stellenbosch
The second oldest town in South Africa has fondly been called ‘Eikestad’ or city of oaks and its streets are lined with some of the most beautiful surviving examples of Cape Dutch, Georgian and Victorian architecture in the Cape...
More info and photographs: Stellenbosch Information
Overnight? Accommodation in Wellington
Wellington lies on the banks of the River Kromme at the foot of the Groenberg Mountain in a glorious valley just 45 minutes’ drive from Cape Town. To the east are the majestic Hawequa Mountains and together these quiet monoliths watch over...
More info and photographs: Wellington Information
Overnight? Accommodation in Tulbagh
Just 80 minutes’ drive north of Cape Town, at the northern edge of one of the most beautiful fertile valleys in the country, lies the historical town of Tulbagh. The village nestles in amongst the Winterhoek, Witzenberg and Obiqua Mountains...
More info and photographs: Tulbagh Information