Western Cape Travel Guide - South Africa

The Western Cape is arguably the most beautiful and varied of South Africa's nine provinces. It has just about everything that the entire country can offer, from endless beaches and indigenous forests to historic wine estates and scorched semi-desert.

The Breede River Valley is best known for its farming, with isolated settlements tucked away along the banks of its river. It's dotted with vineyards and fruit orchards and the peaceful country roads make a pleasant alternative to the N2 highway en route to the famed Garden Route. Further east lie the parched plains of the Karoo, their shimmering horizons peppered with craggy mountains and lonely farmsteads.

Hemmed in by impressive mountain ranges crossed by spectacular mountain passes, the Little Karoo offers hiking, the popular Cango Caves and, of course, ostriches, who peer over every fence around Oudtshoorn. The southern coast begins with Walker Bay, which claims to have the best land-based whale watching in the world; in season, sightings are almost guaranteed from the clifftops in Hermanus. Further south the waters around Gansbaai are home to seals, penguins and great white sharks, while the lighthouse at Cape Agulhas marks the most southerly point of Africa.

Far less visited is the west coast, north of Cape Town: a wild area of fynbos-covered sand dunes, sun-bleached beaches and remote fishing villages. Inland, the undulating landscape of wheat fields and low grassy hills are tinged with colour during flower season, while the higher mountains attract snow (and curious Capetonians) during winter. Further north the Ceder-berg Mountains are a rugged range with ancient San rock art and some of the best hiking in the country.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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