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Cape Winelands & Breede Valley

Klein Constantia  © Chris Eason, License

Cape Winelands & Breede Valley

To the East of Cape Town surrounded by a semicircle of picturesque Boland mountains are the Cape Winelands. Dotted about in the fertile lush green valleys of the region are the vineyards of the Western Cape, the towns and villages everyday words to wine connoisseurs throughout the world. Here you will find Paarl, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch and many other world famous names. French Huguenots brought the art of wine-making to the Cape in the late 17th Century and it was here that the first experiments into finding out the best cultivars were carried out.

There are a number of tours that have been set up for the visitor to sample the superb wines of the Cape Winelands, to view the homesteads that have been handed down from generation to generation and to witness the wine-making process. The Cape Winelands are bordered by the Hottentots Holland, the Franschhoek mountains and in the North by the Wemmershoekberg. The former two mountain ranges form part of the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve and the only way to see this reserve is to hike through it on the Boland Hiking Trail. Shorter hiking trails are available in the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve just east of Stellenbosch. This mountain reserve harbours one of the richest and most diverse populations of indigenous wildflowers in the world, and it is known that there are more than 35 threatened species in the region. The dominant vegetation in the reserve is fynbbos with patches of the original forest dotted about on the upper slopes. Leopard, caracal and genet have been seen in the area.

Butterfly World, just off the N1 on the R44, is well worth a visit, especially for the kids.

Franschhoek was originally known as the French Quarter or le Quartier Francais as it was in this region that the original Huguenots settled to escape religious persecution in Europe. The town has now become known as the food and wine capital of the Western Cape, and visitors flock here from all over the world to sample its products. The town houses a Huguenot Monument and museum.

Paarl in the Cape Winelands is known as the Pearl of South Africa and gets its name from the vast round granite rocks at the summit of the mountain overlooking the town, where Die Afrikaanse Taalmonument is located. The name Peerleberg or pearly mountain was give to the berg by Abraham Gabbema in 1657 because of the way the mountain glittered in the sunlight after a shower. The town was established in 1720 with the building of the first church. The Afrikaanse Taalmuseum houses the press where the newspaper de Zuid-Afrikaan was once printed.

The Cape Winelands town of Stellenbosch is the second oldest town in South Africa after Cape Town, and was founded in 1679. The town is famous for its wines, its university and its Cape Dutch architecture which can be seen in its many historic buildings, such as those found at the Burgerhuis Museum. The town is also known as Eikestad (Oak Town) because of its numerous oak trees. The university has produced six South African prime ministers and several Springbok rugby captains. Stellenbosch houses a Brandy Museum where many examples of old brandy stills can be seen. A food and wine festival is held here in the last week of October each year. Musical concerts play every summer at the Spier Summer Festival.

The town of Wellington in the Cape Winelands region lies in a valley known as Val du Charron, or Valley of the Wagon Makers after the trade of many of the early French Huguenots who settled in the area at the end of the 17th Century. There are several excellent wine cellars in the Wellington area where the visitor can enjoy wine tasting. Wellington offers the visitor a magical and captivating atmosphere and friendly people. Wellington was originally named Limiet Vallei or the Frontier Valley, but the name was changed in 1840 in honour of the Duke of Wellington and his defeat of Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo. There are several cellars in the area that offer wine tasting.

The Cape Winelands and Breede Valley regions in South Africa are renowned for their stunning landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and world-class wine production.

Here are ten things to do and see in these picturesque areas:

1. Wine Tasting Tours: Explore the numerous wine estates dotted throughout the Cape Winelands and Breede Valley, sampling a variety of award-winning wines. Enjoy guided tours of the vineyards, cellar tours, and wine tastings, experiencing the distinct terroir and grape varietals of the region.

2. Historic Wine Estates: Visit historic wine estates such as Boschendal, Vergelegen, and Groot Constantia, which boast centuries-old Cape Dutch architecture, beautifully landscaped gardens, and fascinating heritage museums.

3. Scenic Drives: Take leisurely drives through the scenic countryside, winding your way through picturesque valleys, rolling vineyards, and majestic mountain ranges. The Breede Valley offers particularly breathtaking vistas along routes like Route 62, the longest wine route in the world.

4. Outdoor Adventures: Embrace the natural beauty of the region with outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Explore the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, Helderberg Nature Reserve, or the majestic mountains of the Breede Valley.

5. Culinary Experiences: Indulge in gourmet dining experiences at acclaimed restaurants and farm-to-table eateries throughout the Cape Winelands. Sample delicious local cuisine paired with fine wines, showcasing the region's culinary diversity and artisanal produce.

6. Historic Towns: Discover charming historic towns like Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Paarl, each with its own unique character, colonial architecture, and cultural attractions. Explore art galleries, boutique shops, and local markets showcasing handmade crafts and artisanal products.

7. Cultural Heritage: Immerse yourself in the cultural heritage of the Cape Winelands by visiting museums, galleries, and cultural landmarks. Learn about the influence of Dutch, French Huguenot, and indigenous cultures on the region's history and traditions.

8. Family-Friendly Attractions: Enjoy family-friendly activities such as picnics, strawberry picking, and animal encounters at farms and attractions in the Breede Valley. Visit petting zoos, fruit farms, and adventure parks offering entertainment for visitors of all ages.

9. Hot Air Balloon Rides: Experience the breathtaking beauty of the Cape Winelands from a different perspective with a hot air balloon ride. Float gently over vineyards, valleys, and mountains, enjoying panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

10. Wellness Retreats: Unwind and rejuvenate at luxurious spa resorts and wellness retreats nestled amidst the tranquil surroundings of the Cape Winelands. Treat yourself to indulgent spa treatments, yoga sessions, and wellness activities designed to promote relaxation and holistic wellbeing.

Whether you're a wine enthusiast, outdoor adventurer, history buff, or simply seeking relaxation and culinary delights, the Cape Winelands and Breede Valley offer a wealth of experiences to satisfy every traveler's palate.

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