Friday, February 02, 2007

6-Days in the Winelands [Stellenbosch] of the Western Cape - South Africa

By Gerald Crawford

SUMMARY: The heart of South Africa's wine industry, Stellenbosch is a place of great beauty and culture that's steeped in South African tradition. The Stellenbosch Wine Route is arguably the country's most famous, and the Stellenbosch Wine of Origin area includes 106 cellars - most of which are open to the public. Enjoy a long day's wine tasting, and wine buying and you'll sip more than our great South African wines - you'll taste our South African way of life.

The heart of South Africa's wine industry, Stellenbosch is a place of great beauty and culture that's steeped in South African tradition.

The Stellenbosch Wine Route is arguably the country's most famous, and the Stellenbosch Wine of Origin area includes 106 cellars - most of which are open to the public. Enjoy a long day's wine tasting, and wine buying and you'll sip more than our great South African wines - you'll taste our South African way of life.

This is a self-drive holiday suggestion with a rental car.

Day 1:

Stellenbosch and the Winelands

We visited Stellenbosch wine attractions that boasts more than 106 cellars within a 25 km radius! We could only manage 4 in one day. Learn more through a guided cellar tour. Stellenbosch's cultural heritage is unsurpassed and is depicted in local art galleries, antique shops and the Village Museum. The town has many examples of fine Cape Dutch architecture and it is perhaps more desirable to discover "Stellenbosch on Foot". Cycle routes, hiking trails and horse-trails are found in and around the town.

Day 2:

Paarl, Wellington, Tulbagh and Ceres

The town of Paarl, is just 38 km from Stellenbosch, lies cradled in the Berg River Valley. It is renowned for its illustrious past, its unrivalled natural beauty, flourishing wine and fruit industry and gracious architecture. The 11 km long Main Street is dotted with historic buildings, shops, restaurants and charming places of accommodation, and is where the head office of the wine industry, the KWV, is situated. Drive on to the village of Wellington (11 km) and over the Bainskloof Pass, that in the days of old, was the only gateway northwards to Tulbagh (57 km) and Ceres (63 km). Tulbagh is a beautiful town that was restored to its original splendour, following the great earthquake of 1969. Ceres is essentially a fruit-growing area.

Day 3:

Strand, Gordon's Bay and Hermanus

The coastal route along the R44 will take you all the way through to Hermanus (98 km), but spend some time on the endless stretches of beach at the Strand (22 km) or stop awhile in the scenic seaside town of Gordon's Bay (29 km), with its selection of gift and shell shops, its harbour cafés and sheltered beaches. Hermanus is a holiday mecca renowned for its whale watching, particularly between June and October.

Day 4:

In and Around Cape Town

Only 48 kilometres from Stellenbosch, along the R44 and the N1, is South Africa's oldest city, Cape Town, affectionately known as the Mother City. Founded in 1652 by Jan van Riebeeck, it is the parliamentary capital with a population of over 2 million. Some worthwhile places to visit are the pentagonal-shaped Castle, erected in 1666, the vibrant Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, the magnificent Two Oceans Aquarium, a trip in the cable car to the summit of Table Mountain and the bustling "flea market" at Greenmarket Square. Kirstenbosch, the National Botanical Gardens, stretches over 560 hectares.

Day 5:

Cape Peninsula Roundabout

The Cape Peninsula coastline is renowned for its expanse of pristine beaches, coves and tranquil bays, the best known being False Bay that forms a horseshoe from Cape Hangklip to Cape Point. The more scenic Peninsula drive is from Stellenbosch, along Strandfontein to Muizenberg from where you may continue your journey along the coastline to Simonstown (60 km), the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve and Cape Point (14 km). From here it's on to the spectacular beaches of Kommetjie (15 km). The drive over Chapman's Peak to Hout Bay (25 km) offers views of unsurpassed scenic splendour. Next stop is the World of Birds, with its more than 400 species.

Day 6:

Franschhoek, Worcester and Montagu

Drive along the scenic Helshoogte Pass to Franschhoek (35 km), a town renowned for its fine wine, exclusive restaurants and sidewalk cafés. The history of this French Huguenot settlement dates back to 1688 and its history can be viewed at the Huguenot Museum. From here, a 30 minute journey via the Franschhoek Pass brings you to Villiersdorp (33 km) and on to Worcester (47 km). Visit the KWV Brandy Cellars, the Wine Route and the Kleinplasie Living Open Air Museum. A visit to the Schools for The Deaf and The Blind are rewarding outings. Drive along rugged mountain roads with spectacular scenery, through the imposing Cogmanskloof Tunnel to Montagu (72 km). Enjoy the town's hot water springs, or one of the many hiking trails.

See the wonder filled country for yourself.

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