Cape Winelands, South Africa - Stein Travel

    • 16+ years

    • 12-15 years

    • 2-11 years

    • 0-23 months

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Welcome to Cape Winelands

The extensive and verdant beauty of the Winelands region is one of the Cape's most alluring attractions. No visit to Cape Town would be complete without having taken the time to explore at least one of the 13 wine routes in what is the largest wine-producing area in the Western Cape.

Rugged, blue-tinged mountains surround the green valleys dotted with charming, historic towns among vineyards and olive groves, where visitors can admire traditional Cape Dutch architecture, sip world-class wines and soak up the rich cultural and historical heritage. Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl are the most well known wine-producing valleys in the region, situated within easy reach of each other, while the oldest wine farm in South Africa, Groot Constantia, is located within the Mother City itself, and is part of the tiny Constantia wine route, which was developed by Simon van der Stel in the late 1600s. Other smaller wine routes include Worcester, Tulbagh, Wellington and Somerset West. With a selection of more than 200 cellars to choose from, the Cape Winelands boast some of the finest wines in the world.

In addition to savouring the fruits of the vine, visitors can sample superb culinary fare at some of the finest restaurants in the country, browse the art galleries and local craft shops, visit historic monuments and museums, and partake in an array of activities from walking, horse riding and fly-fishing to golf and paragliding. Food and wine festivals take place throughout the year and are a great introduction to the bewitching charms of the region.


The Cape Winelands experience a Mediterranean climate with weather in summer being hot and dry and winter being cold and wet. The winter months, between May and August, experience heavy rains, strong north-westerly winds and low temperatures. There is even occasional snow on the surrounding mountains. The summer months are characterized by warm, dry days with little wind in Cape Winelands. The daily temperature in towns such as Paarl and Stellenbosch can soar up to 100°F (38°C) during the hottest months of January to March. The best time to enjoy the winelands is between the months of October and February when temperatures are cooler and the heat is bearable, while the winter months provide a cosier alternative.

South Africa has 11 official languages, including Afrikaans, English, Xhosa, Zulu and Sotho. English is widely spoken.

South Africa's currency is the Rand (ZAR), which is divided into 100 cents. Money can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change and the larger hotels. ATMs are widely available (there is a daily limit for cash withdrawals) and major international credit cards are widely accepted, except in petrol stations where cash is required. Visitors should be vigilant when drawing cash from ATMs, as con artists are known to operate there. Travellers cheques and some foreign currencies are accepted at larger hotels and shops, but commission is charged, otherwise all commercial banks will exchange them.

Local time is GMT +2.

The Afrikaans Language Museum pays tribute to a unique language that is only 300 years old, created from the melting pot of nationalities and languages in the Cape. The Dutch settlers, French Huguenots, slaves from Malaysia, Indonesia, Madagascar and West Africa and the local Khoi people all needed to communicate, and so was born the language that could be used by all. The struggle to gain recognition of Afrikaans as an official language was carried out from Paarl, and the museum commemorates the people that played an important role in the process, as well as exploring the language in its diversity and learning about the people who speak it today. Conspicuously absent from the material is the integral role Afrikaans played as the language of the Apartheid oppressors. The Language Monument on Paarl Mountain was erected in 1975 to honour the Afrikaans language and is the only language monument in the world. The supposed contribution to Afrikaans from the Western world, as well as from Africa, are represented by the three linked columns and three rounded shapes respectively, while the 187-foot (57m) pillar symbolises the growth of the language.

Constantia is the origin of wine production in South Africa, and one of Cape Town's most exclusive suburbs. The Constantia wine route is the oldest yet smallest wine route in the Cape, consisting of just five wine farms that concentrate on producing few wines of international quality. The historic Cape Dutch homestead at Groot Constantia is on the oldest wine estate in South Africa, home to the first governor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel, and the valley's most recognised wine farm. The house itself is furnished with items from the period while an adjacent wine museum exhibits drinking and storage vessels in glass, silver, copper and stoneware dating from 500BC to the 19th century. Between the estates of Klein and Groot Constantia, Steenberg, Buitenverwachting and Constantia Uitsig, visitors will also find some of the most highly acclaimed restaurants in the country.

Fleeing religious persecution in France in the 1700s, more than 200 French Huguenots arrived in the Cape and were settled in the valley that soon became known as Franschhoek (French Corner), which is today situated in the heart of the Cape Winelands region. Many of the settlers were experienced wine producers and they soon recognised the potential of the region for wine and fruit production, establishing wine estates throughout the spectacular Franschhoek Valley in surroundings of magnificent scenery and towering mountains. Today the town is famous not only for its splendid wines and beautiful vistas, but also as the gourmet capital of South Africa, boasting the highest number of award-winning eateries in the country. Restaurants such as Le Quartier Français, La Petite Ferme, Haute Cabriere and Boschendal are among those that are internationally acclaimed and some of the top restaurants in South Africa. The Huguenots did not only bring their viticulture and French culinary flair however, they also left behind a rich legacy of arts, architecture and hospitality, which are still visible today.

A major tourist attraction in the Franschhoek valley, the historic Huguenot Monument was erected in 1938 to remember and honour the French Huguenots who arrived in South Africa in 1688 after fleeing persecution in their home country. The nearby museum documents the history of the settlers, from their flight from France to their arrival and successful establishment of the Franschhoek wine region in the Cape of Good Hope. The museum contains a variety of Bibles, documents, furniture, utensils and artefacts, which illustrate the life of the Huguenots in the Cape.

This famous Stellenbosch institution is a shop set back in time, where a huge variety of interesting products can be purchased from shelves crammed with sweets, dried fish, wine, clothing and tobacco. It is well worth a look, if not to buy anything, then to experience how locals traded 200 years ago.

Situated at the foot of the second-largest granite outcrop in the world, the town of Paarl in the picturesque Berg River Valley is the biggest town in the Cape Winelands, and features some of the most superb examples of Cape Dutch, Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco architecture. It has a rich history, boasting the Drakenstein Prison where Nelson Mandela spent his last years in captivity, and overlooking the town from the slopes of the Paarl Mountain is the Language Monument, which symbolises the birth of the Afrikaans language. Along with its historical background, Paarl is also known for its award-winning wines, particularly its reds, which can be sampled along the world's first 'Red Route'. Paarl's wine route includes over 40 cellars, among them Nederburg and KWV, and many of them also make a variety of delicious cheeses.

Not only one of South Africa's most famous and most popular wine estates, historic Spier is also an internationally renowned cultural resort that offers luxurious accommodation, conference facilities, shopping, fine dining, and a variety of recreational activities, including golf, horse riding, picnics, and a cheetah park. An outdoor amphitheatre traditionally presents a variety of music, theatre and dance during the Spier Summer Arts Season that also seeks to promote, showcase and develop emerging South African talent. Situated in the heart of the Stellenbosch winelands region, Spier also boasts world-class wines in what is the oldest working cellar in South Africa, and together with its other facilities, is the most unique development in the wine world.

At the heart of the wine industry is the pretty town of Stellenbosch, the second oldest town in South Africa and regarded as the wine capital of the country with over 110 cellars in the area. The Stellenbosch vineyards were established by the Dutch governor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel, who arrived in 1679 and noted that the combination of rich soil and ideal climate were perfect for viticulture. In 1971 the first wine route in South Africa was opened, and today the Stellenbosch wine route is perhaps the best known and finest that the country has to offer, producing award winning wines from estates such as Morgenhof, Kanonkop, Warwick and Zewenwacht. Spier Estate is renowned as a unique cultural resort that is famous for its Summer Arts Festival, and boasts the oldest working wine cellar in the country. Stellenbosch is also steeped in South African history and Afrikaans culture and was settled by the Dutch East India Company to produce food for passing ships. Old oak trees line the streets where Cape Dutch architecture, museums and national art collections are a reminder of the town's heritage. The town also boasts the world's only Afrikaans university, a premier educational institute, which has produced many great sporting heroes, including more than 155 Springbok rugby players.

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