In the Cape Winelands, the air is fresh and vineyards roll out into the distance, until, of course, they are interrupted by one of the towering mountain ranges in the region. As you might imagine, an area surrounded by wine farms and mountains offers endless opportunities for all manner of fun. For this reason, the Cape Winelands are a destination not to be missed. Many people are aware of this fact so winelands accommodation is very popular.
The Cape Winelands make up a relatively small section in the South of South Africa’s Western Cape province. The area has no defined boundaries but is generally acknowledged to encompass the main wine-producing regions, including towns such as Robertson, Stellenbosch, Wellington, Paarl, Franschoek and their surrounding areas. From this region come a myriad of award winning wines from estates such as Allee Bleue, Vergelegen, Meerlust and Tokara – just a handful of wine estates open for wine tastings.
It goes without saying that wine culture is a big part of any itinerary in this region of the Western Cape, and most activities will somehow lead you back to wine. The most obvious activity is wine-tasting, while eating is a very close second! This region is known as the culinary capital of South Africa, with Franschoek at the front of the pack. A number of world-renowned chefs head up the scenic winelands restaurants, such as Margot Janse of The Tasting Room and The Common Room in Franschoek. It is inevitable that while the cuisine in each establishment varies from traditional winelands cooking culture to African infused dishes and strictly organic, seasonal-based menus, all dishes, including dessert have excellent wine pairings to accompany them. In some cases this extends as far as ice-cream and wine pairings! Another thing winelands eateries are likely to have in common is the setting – either outdoor tables scattered on a veranda over-looking the estate garden or on a balcony overlooking the vineyards and mountains. Either way, eating in the winelands is bound to be a delectable experience.
For the more active nature lovers among us, this area offers a huge variety of outdoor activities from pootling along on a bicycle through the vineyards, to hiking in the surrounding mountains and surfing the beaches near Stellenbosch, there is something for everyone. This region offers more advanced mountain bike routes too and Paarl Rock and the mountains outside of Robertson have some great rock climbing routes. Less active but still a good way to kill an afternoon, various nature reserves and estate gardens make excellent picnic sites.
While wine and nature are pivotal to the identity of the winelands, the regions towns are also brimming with culture. Apart from some very stylised architecture, like the Cape Dutch style so well preserved in Stellenbosch, the small towns just are great places for the curious traveller and people who like to take it slow. There are many small art galleries tucked away in these towns, as well as fascinating, but unassuming museums. For example, the Afrikaans Taal museum in Paarl showcases the language’s wide range of influences and deep roots.
In addition to the year round activities, numerous festivals also happen at different times though out the year. Franschoek celebrates its French Huguenot heritage annually with the Bastille Festival while various harvest festivals and food and wine shows are also worth planning a trip around.