South Africa was certainly one of the most different countries I’ve visited thus far on my route! South Africa was my longest visit in one country so far, I spent a week in Cape Town and a week in the Johannesburg area (separate post). I had an entire post written up about how much I loved South Africa, and I did, but I will say one thing: I spent too much time there.
As a traveler, if I’m going to recommend one, certainly Cape Town is the more tourist friendly destination. During my time in Johannesburg, I spent more time doing day trips than actually in the city.
In Cape Town, my trip revolved mostly around hiking. My first day I spent hiking up Lion’s Head, the mountain that forms a part of the City Bowl and faces the iconic Table Mountain. The hike is incredibly beautiful, and a lot of fun – you’ll climb up a series of ladders, iron rungs, and chains on your way to the peak. The hike took me about two hours each way and was totally free!
The next day, I did another hike within Table Mountain National Park. I hiked the hidden gem, the Tranquility Cracks. This hike, while beautiful, is very long and not at all marked. About 7 hours round trip, the hike is not for the faint-hearted. However, it is well worth it – if you can find the hidden trail leading to the cracks! If you attempt the hike, I followed the guide here, but it was not as helpful as I would’ve liked and I relied on the other (few) hikers that I saw along my journey up.
My next excursion is an absolute must for anyone visiting Cape Town, a trip to Stellenbosch to experience the incredible wine vineyards that the city has. My favorite wine was definitely Chenin Blanc so make sure to give it a try!
I had a nice day to relax (comparably!) with a bike ride to the beaches by Camps Bay. One thing I definitely suggest, is to walk around the neighborhoods at Camps Bay. The houses are absolutely stunning, and seeing them with the ocean in the background is any sunset lover’s fairytale!
Another neighborhood worth exploring is Bo Kaap, if you have extra time. An islamic dominated neighborhood at the foot of Lion’s Head, the streets are lined with very colorful homes and plenty of stores have wonderful spice markets that are beautiful and wonderfully aromatic.
If you have more extra time, spend it at the Kirstenbosch National Botanic Gardens. I wouldn’t rank this as a necessity in Cape Town, but if you find yourself with a day where you don’t have anything planned – it’s certainly a nice excursion. Be aware that getting there and back is fairly expensive compared to other places in the city and there is an entrance fee, unlike other places in Table Mountain National Park. The canopy walk is certainly the highlight of the park.
Another Cape Town must – visit Boulders Beach and the Cape of Good Hope/Cape Point. Boulders Beach is home to a large colony of African penguins. Much smaller than more southerly penguins, they are a nice (and cute!) midway point between Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope. The Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point are known as the most southwesterly point of the African continent. While Cape Point is more beautiful, dramatic cliffs jutting out into the ocean with a lighthouse on top, the Cape of Good Hope is obviously the more famous one. If I were to do the day over, I would have done it without a tour group as we didn’t get very much time at each stop. If you do, do it though, make sure you have an international data plan though because you’re unlikely to find wifi to call an uber at Boulders Beach.
All in all, I really enjoyed Cape Town, but if I were to do it over again, I would’ve cut out my time spent in the Johannesburg area, and shaved my time down to maybe 4-5 days in Cape Town. I think 4 – 5 days would be an ideal amount of time in Cape Town and some of the “must-do’s” I would say are Lion’s Head and/or a hike up Table Mountain, a day in the Stellenbosch wine region, and a visit to one of the many beaches.
While I enjoyed my time, I would have much rather cut South Africa down to a week at most, and spent a week in Namibia instead. While Namibia is not on my route this time, I’ve met loads of people along my route who’ve been there and they all agree on one thing: Namibia stole their heart. I guess I’ll just have to make my way there sometime in the future!