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Around Cape Town. Things to do.

We visited South Africa during a 3 months roadtrip through southern Africa
(South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland).
October - December 2014.

Average Exchange rate: 1€ = 14 Rands 


Your visit to Cape Town will be incomplete if you don´t go to the surrounds. Just for the landscape, specially around the coast, you have to go! 
Very scenic drives following the coast from Cape Town to Cape Point and from Sommerset West to Stony Point heading to Hermanus. And the possibility of seeing pengouins (even for free).
Add Cape Wineyards, in the Sommerset-Helderberg-Stellenbosch-Franschoek area. Beautiful old estates where you can taste the wines (cheap!) in quiet gardens surrounded by mountains.

It´s better if you have your own transport. But there are many tourist tours in the area. And it´s possible to reach Stellenbosch and Simon´s Town by train. Or you can try to hitch-hike or share with other tourists with car around!

You can check the area in this map.



Take your time. There are many stops on the way.
We did it in 3 days: one for Cape peninsula, one for the Cape Wineyards and one heading east to Hermanus.



   CAPE PENINSULA   

Follow the coast south of Cape Town. Really beautiful. On of the tops around Cape Town. A must-do

It´s much better if you have your own transport. But there are buses from Cape Town to Hout Bay. And then you can try to hitch-hike (the area is safe, many tourists around).


Cape Peninsula is a fantastic day ride from Cape Town, the complete tour (return) is around 140 km.

Detail distances:
Cape Town- Cape Point: around 70 km. 
Cape Point-Simon´s Town (pengouins): 25 km 
Simon´s Town- Muizenberg: 15 km
Muizenberg-Cape Town: 25 km

  Things to do:  
  • From Cape Town to Cape Point: enjoy the views on the way.  The scenic road is really beautiful. 
The places you will cross are:
          - Sea Point
          - Clifton
          - Camps Bay and the 12 apostoles view (stop and have a look from the beach).

          - Llandudno
          - Hout Bay
          - Kommetjie (wild beaches).

From Cape Town to Hout Bay, it´s a populated area, with expensive houses, beaches, mountains.The road is quite narrow, not many places where you can stop to take pictures. Drive slowly.
Then south of Hout Bay it becomes wilder.
The road is tarred and good. Famous with bike riders.

Warning: south of Hout Bay, there´s a toll (38 R, cash, almost 3 €) for the 10 km long Chapman´s Drive (too much for such a short ride! But...). The road is beautiful, like all the complete way. There´s a view point where you can stop.
If you don´t want to pay the toll, from Hout Bay you have to go inside to Constantia and then to Kommetjie. Longer and may be not so interesting.

In all this area, there are beaches where you can swim (rough sea in average). And many trails in the mountains (part of the Table Mountain National Park, free). 

  • Cape Point National Park  or Cape of Good Hope: walk around the lighthouse.
    There´s an entrance fee (110 R, 8 €, included with the Wild Card).  Open from sunrise to sunset.  It´s part of Table Mountain National Park sanparks
Complete information: www.capepoint.co.za
Lots of tourists, buses, cars. Really crowded. They say it´s the place where Atlantic and Indian oceans mix. 
Roads are tarred. It´s around 13 km from the entrance gate to the cape parking.

It takes around 3 hours to walk the main loop, if you want to do the walks from the main parking to the lighthouse, the Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope (cliffs and beaches). It´s up and down.
They give you a map. Easy. 

If you don´t want to walk up from the main parking to the lighthouse, there´s also a funicular (one way 45 R, return 55R).
And another tarred road heading to a parking just behind the Cape of Good Hope.
Also other walks and beaches if you are going to spend a complete day there in other areas.




  • See the pengouins colonies in Simon´s Town. Even for free!  
In Boulders Beach (part of Table Mountain National Park), there´s an entrance fee.
Price: 60 R (included with the Wild Card). Closed at 18:30.
There are wood platforms from where you can see many pengouins. Funny animals.  There are many!
This place is very touristic, all the buses, cars and tours stop here on the way to or from Cape Point, so many people around. 
The visit is not too long, just a short walk from the parking (there are 2 parkings and 2 view platforms, with the same ticket).
We recommend you to go there late (17:30 - 18:00), just before the closing time, when there are just a few tourists.

Want to see pengouins for free? Yes, it´s possible. Just walk down from the main parking to the beaches. We saw them so close.
       
    Boulders with fee... next beach for free and so close!

    NOTE: You can see another big pengouins colony at Stony Point on the way to Hermanus, costs only 10 R. And not too many tourists.

    There´s a train station in Simon´s Town (3 km west from the pengouins) connected to Cape Town, if you don´t have transport.

  • False Bay: long beaches
After Simon´s Town and Fish Hoek, it´s a flat area with long beaches, between Muizenberg and Sommerset West (neighborhoods of Cape Town area). Total distance of False Bay is around 40 km.
Many campsites in the area. Surfing.

This area is well connected by public transport to Cape Town.

Here you can go back to Cape Town´s center (this is what we did), or head to the Cape Wineyards or follow the coast to Hermanus. 


   CAPE WINEYARDS   

The Cape wineyards are located near Cape Town, in different valleys around Sommerset-Helderberg-Stellenbosch-Franschoek-Paal area.

It´s much easier if you have a car but if not, many tours from Cape Town and also public transport to Stellenboscha and other towns.
But most of the wine estates are spread out, on the valleys.

Detail distances:

Cape Town- Stellenbosch: 40 km
Stellenbosch-Sommerset West: 20 km
Stellenbosch- Franschhoek: 30 km

Many wine estates are open to the public (free entrance), offer wine tastings (fee) and also have restaurants, shops and accommodation. Some are really old, founded in the 17´s century.

You can find complete guides at the Cape Town tourist offices (free).



   Things to do in Cape Wineyards:   
  • Visit the wine estates.  Our favourite ones were the oldest ones, with manoirs and old white buildings. Usually the entrance is free, you pay only fos tasting wines.Just choose a few ones.

    You have many options to choose: 
    - The closest place to Cape Town is Constantia, just behind the other side of the Table Mountain (20 km from the center). Groot Constantia is the most famous wineyard in this area. We did not go, expect many people.
    - Stellenbosch: many wine estates around. University town, with many coffee shops and relaxing feeling in its cente, with a few old buildings. Quick visit. Many tourists around. Otherwise it´s a quite big commercial town.
    - Franschhoek. Beautiful valley surrounded by mountains and nice road from Stellenbosch (30 km away). Small tourist village.
    - Somerset West -Helderberg. With beautiful mountains in the surrounds but less estates. Vergelegen is one of the most famous ones but there´s a 10 R entrance fee!

    We visited these 3 wine estates:
    Blauuwklippen (between Helderberg and Stellenbosch). Old buildings. Beautiful property. 
    Boschendal (between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek). Nice views. Big picnic restaurant area.
    La Motte (in the Franschhoek valley). Old estate. Big tasting room with old style.

  • Wine tasting.  Usually all the wineyards have wine tasting. The prices depends of the estate, but we found it really cheap. The normal price for wine tasting (at least in the estates we visited) is:  35 R for 5 wines, 50 R for 7 wines. 

   WHALE ROUTE ... TO HERMANUS  

Another plan to do around Cape Town is head further east. This route from Cape Town to Gansbaai (around 200 km) its very beautiful through Cape Overberg, following the coast from Gordons Bay to Hermanus (without toll) with great views of the Cape peninsula and False Bay, the “whale route” (cause you can see the big animals from the coast, there are whale signs). Many lookouts to enjoy the views at the beginning of the route.

  Things to do    

  • See pengouins colony at Stony Point (Betty´s Bay).  Less crowded than the one at Simons Town and much cheaper (10 R, not included with the Wild Card). Rocky point with boards. 9:00 to 17:00.
  • Visit the Harolds Botanic gardens (18 R). All the groups stop there. Small garden just after the pengouins. We can´t recomend it because we did not enter.
  • Visit the Kogelsberg Reserve: if you want to spend time around… Mountains with walks, we did not go.
  •  See whales at Hermanus. If you want to see whales close to the coast, this is the place. From june till december. We saw them at the end of November.


    Rocky coast with small cfiffs. There are trails around to see the whales, along 10 km. Parkings near (at the city center, you have to pay, but just a few meters away, it´s free).
    It seems that the best place to see them it´s at the end of the bay, just before the long beach (Siever´s Point and Kwaaiwater lookouts). It´s where we saw them. Just be patient. Nearly touching the coast!
  • Dare with the sharks in Gansbaai. Rocky coast (walks around De Kelders and Dangerous Point if you are staying around for a while) and long wild beaches a few km to the east, quiet place. Gansbaai is famous for the shark cages (the other place to do this activity is at Mossel Bay). The official price seems to be around 1.300 R but you can get it much cheaper, for 900 R, if you go to the port or negotiate with a backpackers in town. Differents companies. We were not interested in this activity (not too much else to do otherwise in Gansbaai).

Warning: if you want to reach Cape Agulhas from Gaansbai, there´s no tarred road (the tarred road only continues for 20 km past Gansbaai to reach Pearly Beach). And the gravel road seem to be in bad conditions. But maybe plans soon and a new direct tarred road will be completed. Right now, you have to go back to Stanford, follow the R316 and reach Agulhas via Bredasdorp.

AFRICA 2014 - 2015

8 meses (8 months)
SOUTHERN  &  EASTERN AFRICA




ROAD TRIP DE 3 MESES (3 months roadtrip)
SOUTHERN AFRICA:
South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland


5 MESES mochileando (5 months backpacking)
 
SOUTHERN & EASTERN AFRICA:
Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya 



De momento, FOTOS y algunas CRONICAS (en español).
Poco a poco, info útil de cada país visitado (en inglés). 
Para compartir con más gente, hay muy poca información útil para viajeros independientes y low-cost por Africa.

Now, just PHOTOS and some STORIES (in spanish).
Little by little, usefull information about each visited country (in english). 
To share with more people, there´s so little useful information for independent and low-cost travellers in Africa.

Cape Town. Useful Information for low cost travellers.

We visited South Africa during a 3 months roadtrip through southern Africa
(South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland).
October – December 2015

Average exchange rate: 1€ = 14 Rands

Cape Town is famous for a right reason: the location is wonderful.  If you have to visit only one town in South Africa (or in black Africa), Cape Town is probably the best choice.
Allow at least 3 or 4 days to visit this city and its surrounds (better if you have a week).

Views from the Lion´s Head. Wonderful!


      THINGS TO DO IN CAPE TOWN ... FOR FREE!       

  • Enjoy the scenery and the atmosphere! The mountains, the ocean and its changing views. Cape Town is in an amazing location. The views are top wherever you go around. 
From the northern beaches, like Melkbosstrand or Bloubergstrand, you´ll get the famous view of Cape Town. From the waterfront, from the southern beaches, from the Table Mountain and the Lion´s Head. Fantastic! Go and have a look and enjoy! And then head to the Cape peninsula and surrounds for more views.
Cape Town has a special atmosphere. It´s true you often feel you are not in black Africa, it looks more like a European city and there´s a big white population in the area. The city is organised, mixed of people, multicultural, modern ideas.  Rich areas but also big and poor townships.
  • Walk around the Waterfront. Expect to see many many tourists around you walking the V&A (Victoria & Albert) Waterfront.


Close to Cape Town´s port, recently re-new, for good and for bad.Close to the World Cup Stadium, now it´s a nice area to walk around, where all the tourists go. But ugly and huge shopping malls, mixed architecture. Fortunately there are still a few old buildings, an old bridge.
Many restaurants with terraces (prices are quite correct for the location) and many shops. There´s a big Pick n´Pay supermarket in the shopping mall. Many expensive activities (helicopter flights, tourist boats, pirate boat, etc.). 
Also a few museums to keep the organised tours busy.

  • Know about Mandela and the recent history.  Even if you don´t go to Robben Island, you can get an idea about the recent history, specially walking around the waterfront. There are 2 free Mandela´s and history exhibitions there. One at the Mandela´s Gateway, the new building where the ferry-tours jetty to Robben Island is. Another one in the old jetty house (just near the shopping mall) from where Nelson Mandela was sent to the island.



Price to go to Robben Island: 250 R (around 20 €) for the ferry crossing+bus+prison entrance, tours last around 3,5 h. Departures depending on weather (9:00, 11:00 and 13:00 usually) from Mandela´s Gateway in the V&A Waterfront. www.robben-island.org.za




  • Enjoy the Beaches.  There are many beaches around Cape Town. The ocean is rough. Famous surfing beaches north of the city. The sea is cold. There are many tidal pools (free) on the beaches to have a safe swim.
          Complete information about beaches: www.capetown.gov.za

  • Climb the Table Mountain, the icon of Cape Town.A must-do in Cape Town.
Views from the Table Mountain
If you like hiking or want to save same money, you can go by foot. It´s free (the Table Mountain National Park has no entrance fee, except Cape Point and Boulder´s pengouins). 
Really recommended!  
The Table Mountain is high, around 1.000 m. Bring warm clothes. It´s really cold and windy up on the mountain, all year round.
We had to wait 3 days in november, as the Table was cloudy. It´s quite often like that. It worth waiting!  Complete information of the national park: sanparks,  www.tablemountain.net



The shortest and most used track is  via Platterklip Gorge (other routes are in the back of the mountain, from the Botanical gardens area, longer, less people). 
We were up in 1h40. In total (with the walk on the Table to enjoy the views & up and down way) it´s around 4h30
It´s quite steep, lots of steps. Your body will be sore in the next days (ours was even if we are quite fit). Very well signed and many people climb every day.


The track starting point is on Tafelberg Rd, just left of the lower cable station.  There´s a big parking near the lower cable station  or you can park your car on the side of the road (just in the track area). It´s safe, rangers and police are always around. Also public and tourist bus reach the lower cable station. Tafelberg Rd is now closed a few km up.

You can check with google maps all this area. Here´s the detail map we´ve done.





Price for  cable-car to go to the Table Mountain:
Long queues for the cable car. Booking on line is a bit cheaper but also long queues to jump on the cable. One way or return tickets (around 8 €/ 15 €).
215 R/110 R (return/one way) and 205 R/ 105 R (online), 172 R/ 88 R (Wild Card).




  • Climb the Lion´s Head. Fantastic views all over the trek, 360 degrees views. Even better than Table Mountain ones in our opinion, and easier.You won´t regret it! Really recommended!
Views from the Lion Head

The trail is very well marked. Last meters are rock climbing. Around 2h30-3 h return. Access by Signal Hill Road, there´s a parking or you can park on the sides of the road where the track starts (it´s safe, controlled by rangers and police). It´s also part of the Table Mountain National Park (free), there´s an information cabin.  There´s also another trail from Signal Hill.Many people climb the Lion during full moon nights. 


 

The views from Signal Hill, where the road ends, are also good. The tourist bus reaches this place.
From Signal Hill, they shoot the Noon Gun, every day, free (we did not go).


  • Walk around the center. The City Bowl (center) is quite compact so perfect to walk around.   
You can do free walking tours in the center if you want. www.capetownfreetours.com. We saw the guys with the umbrellas.Note: on the week-ends, the central area is less crowded, quite empty streets. Parking right in the center is not free, but just go a bit further and you will find free ad safe places to park your car.



Not so many beautiful things around. It´s more for the atmosphere. You can walk around the commercial area, Adderley Street (Railway Station) and Long Street, with pedestrian streets and stalls (Green Marquet, St George´s Squares), many souvenirs shops, pubs and a few old Victorian buildings.
Visit the Company´s Gardens and colonial buildings, some government buildings and also museums, and Jewish area (we did not visit the museum). The National Library is free.


Walking around, you can find maybe free exhibitions.

Walk around Bo-Kaap, the malay muslim neighbourhood. If you have time and nothing else left to do, go on the slopes of Signal Hill to see this district. Steep streets with colourfull houses, small mosques, but not too much more. For us nothing very special.

Waterkant, between the center and the waterfront is the gay friendly neighbourhood. Not many areas  like this one in Africa.
  • Visit the Woodstock Market, along Albert Road. Industrial neighbourhood now becoming an alternative and creative place with antiques shops, galleries, etc. Around Old Biscuit Mill. Market on Saturday morning (till 14:00), very crowded.
  • See the Old Victorian houses at Tamboersklo. We loved this area.We visited this part of the town because we lived there, we enjoyed the quiet residential place. Great views of the city and Table Mountain. Also some small hostels, but not so cheap. Nice area.Small steep streets on a hill with old victorian houses.

        THINGS TO DO IN CAPE TOWN... PAYING     

You have many more activities to do in Cape Town, paying.We didn´t do any, just walk around the places, but the references and prices are:

  • As mencionned before, Robben Island (around 20 €) and the Table Cable-car (around 15/8 € return/one way).

  • Kirtstenbosch Botanic Garden: entrance fee 50 R. 10 km from the city center (behind the Table).

  • Museums around Company´s Gardens. A few streets south are the Castle of Good Hope (military museum inside) and District Six Museum (Apartheid museum in Cape Town, around 40 R fee).

A few streets south are the Castle of Good Hope (military museum inside) and District Six Museum (Apartheid in Cape Town), but we did not visit (around 40 R fee).

 Turkish baths (around 50 R/h) in Long Street.
  • Museum Bo-Kaap, 30 R. 
  • Township tours: we don´t agree with this kind of things... Tourists paying to go and see how poor people live. Allthe way to the airport, you will see the townships... and all over South Africa.
In the surrounds of Cape Town you have many things to visit, and you need extra time. Read the other article (menu sidebar) with complete information.

   WHERE TO SLEEP IN CAPE TOWN ?   

Many lodges, backpackers, etc. in different neighbourhoods and surrounds. Cape Town has not the cheapest prices of South Africa, but competition is hard.
Most of the places have websites so it´s easy to find information online.

If you are looking for a cheap place in Cape Town, you can check Cape Town Magazine or the backpackers  guides like Coast to Coast.


Many backpackers lodges in Cape Town, some will allow you to camp in the garden (the cheapest option), A dorm costs around 130-180 R in average (10-12 €).
Check for exemple this cheap place. African Heart Backpackers


There are also campsites, usually on the coast. There are 13 municipal campsites, many in False Bay (prices/site 2people, between 120 and 200 R, depending of the season), so not in a central location, more than 20 km away. Complete information on www.capetown.gov.za
Views from Ben´s House. Amazing. Thank you !!!


Couchsurfing in Cape Town:

There´s a big CS community. The city is very spread out so some hosts live 10 km or more from the center.

We stayed with Nic in Century City, and with Ben in Tamboerskloof and Pieter in Somerset West. Thank you very much !!! Great!



  FOOD IN CAPE TOWN   

Many restaurants, pubs, all kind of foods, very big offer. Prices are usually quite correct, even around tourist spots like the Waterfront.

If you want to save money, cook yourself. Most of the backpackers have kitchens.
This is what we did, in the couchsurfing houses.

There are many supermarkets all around the city. You will find all the South African supermarkets brands in Cape Town. Prices are OK.

 Water is safe to drink in the city. But ask before just in case.


   PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN CAPE TOWN   

Public transport is quite good, specially compared with the rest of South Africa.

BUSES:
New buses and routes, MyCiti, new system similar to Bogota´s Transmilenio. www.myciti.org.za
You need a smart card (no cash on the bus), which costs 35 R, that you charge (also valid for cable car). Price per km, quite cheap. The main hub is Civic Centre (Railway station in the center). 
Also serving the airport and Table Mountain and as far as Hout Bay on the peninsula and the surrounds.



TRAINS:
Also trains around Cape Town and the area (great to go to Simon´s Town, Swellendam). Ask for the schedules as many stop the service quite early. 
www.capemetrorail.co.za 

TOURIST BUSES:
Also “hop on- hop off buses”. 170 R/day or 250 R/2 days (online booking). www.citysightseeing.co.za
Many tourists use them, as also going to the surrounds.
And shuttle vans...

BY CAR:
Driving, parking in Cape Town:

We did not use the public transport as we had a rental car (www.rentalcars.com). So we drove around, easy and safe. 
There are no toll highways or road around Cape Town, except the tourist Chapman´s Drive in Cape Peninsula.
Many rental car companies in Cape Town. It´s a good place to rent a car in South Africa.Good roads and highways, good signs. Easy. 

Parking. Except at the city center and the waterfront where you have to pay, parking is free and easy to find a place. If climbing to Table Mountain (cable or walk) and Lion´s head, there are free parkings on the road.

We also found Cape Town and its surrounds safe. No problem to park your car, just put your stuff in the boot and take your valuables.


   Free wifi in Cape Town  

At the informations centers, like in the city center (near Green Market Square), in the Waterfont, etc., all around the city, good information for tourists (maps, accommodation, tours, etc.) and they have free wifi.
Company´s Garden are supposed to have free wifi but it did not work.