To the East of Cape Town surrounded by a semicircle of picturesque Boland mountains are the Cape Winelands. Dotted about in the fertile lush green valleys of the region are the vineyards of the Western Cape, the towns and villages everyday words to wine connoisseurs throughout the world. Here you will find Paarl, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch and many other world famous names. French Huguenots brought the art of wine-making to the Cape in the late 17th Century and it was here that the first experiments into finding out the best cultivars were carried out.
There are a number of tours that have been set up for the visitor to sample the superb wines of the Cape Winelands, to view the homesteads that have been handed down from generation to generation and to witness the wine-making process. The Cape Winelands are bordered by the Hottentots Holland, the Franschhoek mountains and in the North by the Wemmershoekberg. The former two mountain ranges form part of the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve and the only way to see this reserve is to hike through it on the Boland Hiking Trail. Shorter hiking trails are available in the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve just east of Stellenbosch. This mountain reserve harbours one of the richest and most diverse populations of indigenous wildflowers in the world, and it is known that there are more than 35 threatened species in the region. The dominant vegetation in the reserve is fynbbos with patches of the original forest dotted about on the upper slopes. Leopard, caracal and genet have been seen in the area.
Butterfly World, just off the N1 on the R44, is well worth a visit, especially for the kids.
Franschhoek was originally known as the French Quarter or le Quartier Francais as it was in this region that the original Huguenots settled to escape religious persecution in Europe. The town has now become known as the food and wine capital of the Western Cape, and visitors flock here from all over the world to sample its products. The town houses a Huguenot Monument and museum.
Paarl in the Cape Winelands is known as the Pearl of South Africa and gets its name from the vast round granite rocks at the summit of the mountain overlooking the town, where Die Afrikaanse Taalmonument is located. The name Peerleberg or pearly mountain was give to the berg by Abraham Gabbema in 1657 because of the way the mountain glittered in the sunlight after a shower. The town was established in 1720 with the building of the first church. The Afrikaanse Taalmuseum houses the press where the newspaper de Zuid-Afrikaan was once printed.
The Cape Winelands town of Stellenbosch is the second oldest town in South Africa after Cape Town, and was founded in 1679. The town is famous for its wines, its university and its Cape Dutch architecture which can be seen in its many historic buildings, such as those found at the Burgerhuis Museum. The town is also known as Eikestad (Oak Town) because of its numerous oak trees. The university has produced six South African prime ministers and several Springbok rugby captains. Stellenbosch houses a Brandy Museum where many examples of old brandy stills can be seen. A food and wine festival is held here in the last week of October each year. Musical concerts play every summer at the Spier Summer Festival.
The town of Wellington in the Cape Winelands region lies in a valley known as Val du Charron, or Valley of the Wagon Makers after the trade of many of the early French Huguenots who settled in the area at the end of the 17th Century. There are several excellent wine cellars in the Wellington area where the visitor can enjoy wine tasting. Wellington offers the visitor a magical and captivating atmosphere and friendly people. Wellington was originally named Limiet Vallei or the Frontier Valley, but the name was changed in 1840 in honour of the Duke of Wellington and his defeat of Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo. There are several cellars in the area that offer wine tasting.