It wasn’t until a random Google Images search that Cape Town, South Africa entered into my radar. I wish I had a greater story for choosing this jaw-droppingly beautiful port city, but c’est la vie, it really is as humdrum as that.
And if you’re curious about any other ways I decide on a place, there aren’t any, because Google Images really is it. I mean, haven’t we all experienced the moment when we first laid eyes on something and immediately thought, I’ve got to have it! To me, destinations are no different. And I figure, if the images I’m seeing through a screen are enough to take my breath away, imagine how it’ll make me feel once I actually get there.
But for those of you still on the fence about Cape Town’s wild beauty, here are 10 reasons I hope will persuade you:
The view from Table Mountain
Accessible by cable car, hiking or rock climbing, Table Mountain is Cape Town’s most iconic landmark. One of the new 7 Wonders of the World, the flat-topped mountain rises 3562 feet above sea level and boasts sweeping views of the City Bowl, Table Bay, Camps Bay, Robben Island, the Twelve Apostles, Lion’s Head, and Devil’s Peak.
With these views, it’s hard to deny that Cape Town has one of the most beautiful natural settings of any city I’ve ever seen.
Wine tastings with a view (and $5 award-winning wine)
Even if you’re not a fan of wine (I’m one of the heretical few) there’s much to enjoy while out exploring some the Western Cape’s most famous wine-producing regions: Constantia, Stellenbosch, Paarl, and Franschhoek Valley. Don’t worry, the spotlight is definitely on the wine - and if you’ve chosen wisely, a pairing or two of chocolate and cheese - but this is an experience where the drive is not only a means to an end.
En route you’ll be greeted by vast stretches of mountainous terrain, Cape Dutch architecture, and historic estates.
And if you do happen to enjoy a glass or two? You might want to research ways to properly pack bottles in your checked bag. Award-winning wines are available for purchase at the estate it was produced for around $5. As ignorant as I am about wines, even I couldn’t resist buying Neethlingshof estate’s award-winning Pinotage (it was delicious!).
Cage diving with great white sharks
There are only a handful of places whereyou get to check this off your bucket list, and South Africa’s small harbor town of Gansbaai in the Western Cape is one of the hotspots.
I highly recommend booking with Marine Dynamics. Not only is the company founded by a marine conservationist, you get served a breakfast buffet upon your arrival, get treated to hot chocolate during your dive, and are greeted by a well-deserved meal after your trip (trust me, you’ll get hungry!).
The V&A Waterfront
South Africa’s oldest working harbor, the Victoria & Albert Waterfront is bustling with activity 7 days a week. Set against the backdrop of Table Mountain, it’s here that you can browse its many specialty shops, craft markets, theaters and restaurants, take a day trip to Robben Island Museum (where former South African president Neslon Mandela was imprisoned), visit the Two Oceans Aquarium, and book a helicopter tour.
The Cape of Good Hope
“Hey, do you mind if you took a picture of me with the sign?”
Words you’d be hard pressed to hear me say, but when you’re in the southwestern-most point in Africa, it’s OK to take a super touristy photo every once in awhile just to prove you’ve been there.
You can’t tell from this picture but there were about 50 other people waiting their turn.
If you travel solo like I do, asking someone to take a picture of you with this iconic marker is a great way to make new friends (in my case a pair of charming Irish girls from Limerick).
If you’re saying to yourself, “so… is that it?”, mercifully no, the whole Cape Peninsula is a wild and rugged national park with many spectacular views:
Endless roadside attractions
The Western Cape is the perfect place to visit even if you’re terrible at photography. It’s hard to take a bad picture! I mean take a look at the following shots; I took them from the front passenger seat of a moving van (maybe my amateur shots are obvious but they don't look half bad considering!).
And just in case you forget you’re in Africa, there are wild baboons just chilling on the side of the road.
If you’re a lover of coastlines and mountains prepare to get blown away - the Cape Peninsula boasts some of Africa’s best sky blue beaches.
One of the most scenic coastal drives in the Cape, Clarence drive connects the towns of Rooi Els and Gordans Bay, It winds down the False Bay coast and passes between the sea and foothills of the southern end of the Hottentots Holland Mountains.
Numerous viewing stops allow one the opportunity to soak up the magnificent sights.
Where else can you get this close to wild penguins? Believe it or not, these little guys just hang out here (this ain't a penguin enclosure!)
Trivia: these little guys are commonly called Jackass Penguins, because of their cackling calls, but for tourism purposes are known as African Penguins.