The Garden Route & the Cape Winelands are iconic South African destinations. However some places are rather crowded and, to be honest, more tourist traps than fantastic experiences. In this itinerary, we’ve excluded these and focussed on the things that these icons do best: exceptional nature experiences, good food & wine and unusual wildlife. You will explore both well-known destinations and hidden gems. All accommodation is 3-4 star, and picked for its unique locations as well as comfort.
The West Coast is still a relatively unknown destination for international visitors, and we like to call it a hidden gem (a very overused word, but in this case a true description). Here, small villages dot the coast where white, sandy beaches meet the crystal clear waters of the Atlantic. Small, whitewashed houses huddle together and most people still support their families through small-scale fishing. Many of those that live here are descendants of the first inhabitants in Southern Africa: the Khoi-San.
The tour ends in Cape Town, or the Mother City as the locals call her. Considered one of the world’s most beautiful cities and one of those places that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. You will not be disappointed.
From Port Elizabeth, head west towards the world renowned Garden Route. Stop just outside Storms River Village to take a walk in the Yellowwood forest. Here, you will find some of the largest remaining individuals of South Africa’s national tree, some of which are close to a thousand years old. Continue a short drive to Storms River Mouth, an area that is proclaimed both a land and a marine National Park. You can walk through the indigenous forest, and across the river mouth on giant suspension bridges. We recommend a seafood lunch at the restaurant which overlooks the rugged coastline.
Now it’s about an hour and a half drive to your final destination: Knysna. Check in to your cosy guest house and make your way to the waterfront to do some window-shopping, have a drink and a nice dinner. Knysna is famous for its oysters, and we definitely recommend a platter for starters. They are delicious, and very well priced.
Transport: about 350 km
After a leisurely breakfast, continue towards Oudtshoorn, the ostrich capital of South Africa. You will see large farms with hundreds of birds along the route. Once you have crossed the Outeniqua mountain range (the name means “abundant honey” in the KhoiKhoi language) you have arrived in the large semi-desert Karoo. This is also a KhoiKhoi word which means “place of thirst”, and the area is over 400,000km2 in total.
We recommend a visit to Cango Caves, where you can do a guided walk and see the beautiful limestone formations. There is also a possibility to visit an ostrich farm if you are interested (although we usually only recommend it for families). Tonight, you will stay at a lovely eco-lodge just outside town. You can hike, fish, get a massage or just enjoy the peace and quiet. Let’s hope for a clear night: Karoo is well/known for its spectacular starry skies!
Transport: about 150 km
One of the big attractions, apart from the ostriches, in this area is the meerkats. In the reserve adjacent to your lodge, a scientist has spent years studying their behaviour and they have grown accustomed to human presence (they are not tame, but they tolerate us if we keep our distance). Before sunrise, you make your way to their den and put out your folding-chairs. It is magical experience to see when at first one, then the whole pack of meerkats come up to soak up the first rays of sunshine.
Back at the lodge, you have a hearty breakfast before heading towards new adventures. The road stretches out in what seems like eternity in front of you (remember how large the Karoo is), and the landscape is barren but strangely beautiful around you. Slowly, you get closer to the mountain range that separates the Karoo from the winelands and the vegetation get lusher and lusher. Franschhoek is considered South Africa’s gourmet capital, and you will be staying at a lovely guest house in the centre of this historic town once funded by French Huguenots who arrived here in the late 1600’s.
Transport: about 400 km
Activity: Meerkat safari
Spend the day visiting some of the vineyards in and around Franschhoek. We recommend The Wine Tram, so that you don’t have to drive. The town also has plenty of shopping, and if you want to take a hike in one of the beautiful nature reserves surrounding Franschhoek this can also be arranged.
From Franschhoek, you’ll continue through the wine district Paarl towards a small fishing village called Paternsoter. Along the way, you pass the Victor Verster prison where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated during the final time of his 27 years in prison. It was from here that he walked through the prison gates a free man, hand-in-hand with his then wife Winnie Mandela. A statue commemorates the event.
We recommend a stop for lunch in the little village Darling about half-way to Paternoster. Choose between lunch on a wine or olive farm, or one of the quaint cafes in the village. You’ll also find a craft beer brewery here.
Paternoster is known for its long, white beaches and its picturesque whitewashed cottages. Most people still make their living through small-scale fishing and one of their biggest catch is the West Coast Crayfish (also called rock lobster by the locals); a delicacy that is often served in the local restaurants. If you have a particular interest in food with a local connection, we can recommend a few very good restaurants.
Transport: about 200 km
Spend the day enjoying Paternoster and surrounding areas. You can go fishing or kayaking in the clear blue bay, where seals and dolphins are spotted regularly. Nearby is also West Coast National Park, well-known for its rich bird and plant life. A little further is Clanwilliam, one of the few places in the country where you can visit a Rooibos farm.
It’s time to set your sights on Cape Town! Arriving from the north affords you some of the really iconic views of the city, framed by Table Mountain.
Your home for the next few nights is a lovely b&b in Green Point, close to the famous V&A Waterfront and a stone’s throw from the popular beach promenade in Sea Point where locals and tourists alike enjoy a walk or run along the edge of the Atlantic.
Transport: about 170 km
You now have plenty of time to explore Cape Town and the surrounding areas. We will help you to plan an itinerary that suits your interests, and this is just an example of things that you can do:
• Spend a day travelling to Cape of Good Hope and visiting the penguin colony at Boulders Beach
• Visit the wine district Constantia and enjoy a picnic lunch under the ancient oak trees at Groot Constantia, the oldest vineyard in the country and home to world-renowned dessert wine Grand Constance
• Enjoy the views from the top of Table Mountain (take the cable car or hike)
• Robben Island
• Visit the home-grown market Design Shed, where local artists showcase their wares
• Do a street-art tour in the hippie neighbourhood in town: Woodstock
• Learn to cook local specialities at home with a local
A visit to South Africa is, in our opinion, not complete without a visit to one of the townships. This is not a poverty safari, but rather a chance to meet and understand how the majority of South Africa’s city-dwellers live, and learn about their challenges and dreams. Tours like this is also one of the few ways that poor people can receive a small part of the big cake that is tourism in this country. You will spend most of your time on foot together with a local guide, and you will meet people in their homes and visit many local businesses (from cafes to pottery studios and craft markets).
Accommodation, Activities, Assistance with reservations for restaurant and optional activities, Directions and information about optional activities, Maps, Meals as per program
Flights (We recommend to book night flights), Rental car
Hermanus, the world’s foremost land based whale watching destination, is a thriving holiday resort offering residents and holiday makers all modern amenities, yet retaining its fisherman’s village charm. The popular resort town of Hermanus, situated between mountain and sea, has gained world-wide recognition as the world’s foremost land based whale watching destination. This has resulted in the former fishing village showing a tremendous growth over the last few years.
An exciting adventure awaits at the Arabella Hotel & Spa. Situated in the heart of the Kogelberg Biosphere, close to Hermanus’ world-famous whale watching destinations, the hotel invites you to explore a distinctive combination of luxury and convenience. Discover contemporary accommodation and a wide range of five-star amenities, golf in world class and exciting safari.
The Garden Route is an iconic South African destination. However some places are rather crowded and, to be honest, more tourist traps than fantastic experiences. In this itinerary, we’ve excluded these and focussed on the things that the Garden Route does best: exceptional nature experiences, good food & wine and unusual wildlife. You will explore both well-known destinations and hidden gems. All accommodation is 3-4 star and picked for its unique locations as well as comfort.
During this wine tour, we visit producers who are leaders in Organic and Biodynamic wine making. We are guided by a winemaker to hear their stories and to taste their wines.
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