A holiday to Africa is, for many people, a once-in-a-lifetime adventure – and one of the continent’s most thrilling destinations is the South African city of Cape Town. Brimming with attractions, the urban environments of Cape Town are a treasure trove of cultural experiences but also represent a gateway to a wider landscape of natural wonders, which stretch along a coastline straddling the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
Situated on the south-western tip of South Africa, Cape Town is dominated by the dramatic Table Mountain, a three kilometre-wide sandstone plateau visible from almost every point in the city. Table Mountain can be conquered on foot or by cable-car: the aerial cables rise over 700 metres to the towering, flat summit and offer passengers unforgettable views of the city. The natural appeal of Cape Town extends to its numerous pristine beaches, dramatic backdrop, gardens and museums.
Cape Town is a thriving urban environment: designer shops do business across the city alongside stylish bars and restaurants which offer the best food and drink in the region. The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is a particularly popular social centre and hosts an observation wheel, the Two Oceans Aquarium and the Chavonnes Battery museum. The waterfront is also the departure point for ferries to Robben Island – the facility built to hold South African political prisoners as far back as the 17th century. Robben Island closed in 1996 – after the release of its most famous inmate: former South African president, Nelson Mandela. The past is preserved on Robben with a quiet dignity, but the island’s beauty is still visible, not least in its healthy populations of birds, penguins and seals.
Beyond Cape Town itself, are opportunities to venture into the verdant Cape region and the coastal trail known as the ‘Garden Route’ – including the lush Tsitsikamma National Park, the sparkling lagoon of Knyssa, and the arid plains of the Karoo. Traditional Dutch settlements, such as Swellendam and Oudtshoorn, are scattered along the coast but those communities are dwarfed by spectacular natural landmarks like the Huis River Pass, the Breede Valley and the Langeberg Mountain Range.
Explorations into the wider Cape region bring visitors to the idyllic fishing village of Hout Bay, the historic naval base of Simon’s Town and the quaint Boulders Beach where a colony of African penguins have lived for decades. Coastal journeys often end at the Cape of Good Hope, which is home to a diversity of plant and animal life, or at the nearby Cape Point, where the Cape Lighthouse has guided ships through the transitional waters of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans for over a century.
Bringing to life the bold, colourful spirit of modern South Africa and evoking the beauty of an ancient natural world, Cape Town is an unmissable stop on any tour around the incredible African sub-continent.