Rugged and verdant, the Cape Winelands in South Africa produces some of the best wines in the world. Covering an area of 22,289 km2, the region enjoys warm climates with long, hot and dry summers and cool winters, allowing vineyards to thrive on its fertile soils. Within the area there are a number of charming historical towns such as Constantia, Franschhoek, Paarl and Stellenbosch, which are the essential wine-tasting stops.
Cape Town is the perfect place to start your Winelands adventure in South Africa. Constantia is only a half hour drive from Cape Town, while Franschhoek, Paarl and Stellenbosch can be reached within an hour and a half. All this means that it won’t be long until you have a glass of wine in your hand and are enjoying all that this beautiful region has to offer.
Grapes were first cultivated in South Africa in 1652. The initial crop, however, wasn’t successful. This has been attributed to the fact that the Dutch colonisers were inexperienced grape growers, since grapes are unable to grow in Dutch climates. Nevertheless, Jan van Riebeeck later produced the first wine in 1659.
In 1679, the governor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel, decided to develop the Winelands region starting with Stellenbosch. His own estate, Constantia, was also developed into a major wine producing area, and continues to be a popular stop for wine aficionados.
By the end of the 17th century, Protestant Huguenots from France, who had fled to the Netherlands due to religious prosecution, were travelling on Dutch ships to South Africa. Once arriving at the Cape, they were able to share their knowledge of grape growing and wine production to help improve the quality of the wines being made in the area. In particular, they were allocated lands in the Winelands region that later became known as Franschhoek, Paarl and Drakenstein.
Today, the Winelands region continues to be one of the world’s biggest and best producers of high quality wines that are admired by nations across the globe. As well as this, the region’s beautiful scenery attracts many visitors who long to explore the valleys while also visiting wineries for wine tasting sessions.
The Winelands valleys and surrounding mountains offer unparalleled views and stunning flora that is endemic to the region. The Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, located in the Constantia Valley, showcases excellent examples of Cape flora and is well worth a visit to find out more about the regional plant life.
To experience as much stunning South African wildlife as possible, head out on our Supreme South Africa Self-drive trip. On this tour you’ll start your adventure off in Cape Town. Just under an hour away is Simonstown, home to an African penguin colony. From here you’ll visit the coastal town of Hermanus for your chance to spot dolphins and whales in the water. Addo Elephant National Park is another great stop along the route; seeing these majestic giants in their natural habitat is a once in a lifetime experience. Finally you’ll conclude your trip in Stellenbosch – one of the most popular towns in the Winelands region, offering luxurious accommodation and glamorous wine tasting sessions.
To make the most out of your adventure in the Winelands region, stop off in multiple towns along the way to find out how different they each are and to taste all the delicious wines of course!
Spring (September to October)
Spring is dry and warm, as temperatures average around the mid 20Cs. Many people come to take advantage of the great weather in the Winelands at this time of year, so accommodation is usually more expensive during the spring season.
Summer (November to February)
Summer is the warmest season, with temperatures reaching up to the high 30Cs. The late sunsets mean that you can enjoy the beautiful valley surroundings for longer. Summer is also the peak time for visitors, so expect wine estates to be busier.
Autumn (March to May)
Autumn is the harvest season and the best time to visit the Winelands. Days are relatively warm and sunny, with temperatures hovering around 20C, so you can still wander through the vineyards before taking part in a wine tasting session.
Winter (June to September)
Winter in South Africa is chilly and rainy, but as it’s the low season, visiting at this time of year means that you don’t have to worry about crowds. Heading to the Winelands in the winter can be extra special, with fireplaces raging in cosy wine estates - the perfect place to enjoy a glass or two of wine and relax.
The best way to visit the Winelands region is by car. One of the best Winelands holiday is the Supreme South Africa Self-drive trip. The trip sees you start in Cape Town where you can soak in some South African culture, before taking a short drive to the beautiful Constantia Valley to enjoy some local wine tasting. This self-drive trip also includes stops along the Garden Route, at Hermanus and Knysna, before ending in Stellenbosch for more world-class wines. Stellenbosch is also the perfect base for you to explore the surrounding Winelands region if you wish to extend your trip.
The Winelands are famed for having incredibly luxurious accommodation options. La Residence, in the Franschhoek Valley, is surrounded by vineyards and overlooks an awe-inspiring mountain range. The estate itself is magnificent, with an opulent Great Hall, vaulted ceilings, glittering chandeliers and extravagant four-poster beds. For something more modern, but just as lavish, head to The Last Word Constantia in the Constantia Valley – South Africa’s oldest wine valley. This boutique hotel offers classically furnished rooms, a gorgeous garden and top-notch dining.
The main draw to this region is the wine! There are many wineries spread out across the valley that you can visit. Each wine estate showcases their wine specialties in stunning surroundings and encourages you to take part in wine tasting sessions – a definite must-do! Franshhoek, for example, has the added bonus of offering a hop-on hop-off Wine Tram that can take you to the best wineries in the area. This means you can drink wine to your heart’s content without having to worry about driving afterwards.