Western Cape Tourist AttractionsThe Helshoogte Pass
Helshoogte Pass, one of the most loved and travelled roads in the Western Cape, links Stellenbosch with the Drakenstein Valley, a scenic pass that transports one over the saddle that separates Simonsberg from the Jonkershoekberge and wends its way past fruit farms and vineyards en route.
Where? Stellenbosch to Pniel and Cape Winelands
When? Best during daylight hours
How much? Free
The beauty of the route with towering mountains all round easily encapsulates the essence of the wine region. If there is one route all visitors should drive, it is this.
Helshoogte or 'hell's heights', also known as the R310, links the wine districts of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek and passes through the little villages of Kylemore, Johannesdal and Pniel. Pniel in particular is worth a stop before becoming caught up in the many other opportunities to sample wine, scenery and good food.
Pniel lies surrounded by vineyards and mountains, initially established as a mission settlement for the landless and homeless slaves released after slavery was abolished in the Cape in 1842. Quaint houses, a 160 year-old church, and oak lined streets form part of a tour given by locals.
One of the oldest passes in the Cape, built in 1854, Helshoogte Pass is also popular with cyclists who regard the ride this pass offers as safe, particularly since the upgrade in 2010. The climb is steep and it is not for the faint hearted, but the views from the top are well worth the effort and downhill is obviously a lot easier.
Die Burger Cycling Tour uses Helshoogte Pass as part of its route. But it is the scenery along Helshoogte Pass that steals the show every time.
You can join the R310 either from Stellenbosch, or from the R45 that links Stellenbosch with Paarl.