Wanderling Guide to

Cape Town, South Africa

Jenn Vargas

Curated by Jenn Vargas

Cape Town is a seemingly hidden gem at the bottom tip of the African continent. Simultaneously benefitting and suffering from being a decent plane trek from most other major cities, Cape Town has everything you could want in a travel destination: mountains, beaches, amazing food, friendly people, and even city life.

South African Rand
Ideal Trip Time
At least a week if you really want to make the most of the long flight.

Great for...

The exchange rate in South Africa is in favor of Americans, Brits, and the Euro, but unless you're able to rent a car, most activities in the area will be unreachable without paying for a tour. This may put Cape Town out of the range of a strictly minimalist backpacker, budget and luxury travelers alike will find fantastic options for exploration and accomodation.

Cape Town is perfect for nature lovers, foodies, wine-enthusiasts, surfers, and is super family-friendly.

Getting Around

If you're staying within the general city area, you can easily get around using Uber. The average ride (as of March '16) is under $3 and might go up to $5-6 if you're going clear across town. If you'd like to leave the city (which you should!), you're going to need a car. Renting a car is pretty straightforward and most places will accept your home drivers license. Just keep in mind most rental cars will have a manual transmission and driving happens on the left side of the road.

If you can't get a car, there are plenty of tours that will take you around the Cape in a bus or van. There's also the hop-on hop-off bus tour that is pretty popular and lets you have more control over your schedule. There are 2 different routes, including one that will take you to Kirstenbosch Gardens.

Must Do

Table Mountain

Table Mountain

You really can't miss Table Mountain. It's visible from nearly everywhere in the city. Take the cable car up and down for about $16. I recommend going for sunset, but it's gorgeous on any clear-ish day. Just be sure to check their website before you go. Weather conditions such as wind and cloud cover will shut down the cable car system.

Boulders Beach

Boulders Beach

Boulders Beach is a magical place where humans get to coexist with penguins in the wild. Climb over and around the boulders just past the main beach area and you're right in the heart of a real penguin colony. You can swim with the penguins or just hang out with them and play paparazzo. Protip: Keep an eye on the tide!

Chapman's Peak Drive

Chapman's Peak Drive

One of my favorite roads in the world, Chapman's Peak carves along the side of the mountain with breathtaking views of Cape Town. It's reminiscent of the Pacific Coast Highway in California. It's a toll road, but totally worth it. Pull off to the side for lots of photo ops.

Hike Lion's Head

Hike Lion's Head

The Lion's Head trail is rarely more than an uphill walk with amazing views along the way. Great at sunset, but most Capetonians go early in the morning to avoid the tourist crowd. Be sure to take the "recommended" route lest you find yourself scaling a vertical cliff face with chains and hooks.

Must Eat

Cape Town is jam-packed with amazing food options, a lot of which are super healthy and delicious, but don't miss out on a good braai or bunny chow!

  • Jason Bakery — Great for breakfast. On the weekend they have amazing pastry options including Nutella Balls and a weekly "doughsant" creation.
  • Eastern Food Bazaar — Absolutely no-frills, but amazing, cheap food of varying origins. Find your Bunny Chow here in addition to lots of other amazing Middle Eastern and Indian flavors.
  • Neighbourgoods at The Old Biscuit Mill — This is one of the places that made me fall in love with Cape Town. Part weekend craft fair, part food bazaar, it's my go-to on Saturdays. There's no shortage of amazing food and snacks, live music, and when you need to walk off some of the calories, great little shops to browse.

Don't forget to pack...

It depends on the season, but you won't really have to worry about snow. There are a lot of outdoor activities, so good hiking/walking shoes will help.

Key Phrases

While South Africa has eleven official languages, if you speak English, you're in luck!

While you're there...

The Cape Town region is pretty huge and you'll have plenty to do there, but if you have the time, head north or east. While you're in the area, maybe consider sneaking in a quick safari!

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Cape Town

New York City or Washington DC to Cape Town, South Africa for $623 roundtrip