11 Reasons to Visit Cape Town in 2013

With so many amazing destinations to choose from, it can be difficult to choose where you’ll spend your vacation time each year. For those of you who are still working out where you’ll go in 2013, we’d like to suggest you take a serious look at Cape Town, South Africa.

For many travelers, the trip to South Africa is a long one, which means it ends up getting relegated to “once in a lifetime” status and often gets put off in favor of trips to places closer to home. But Cape Town – and, indeed, all of South Africa – warrants more than one visit. Not only that, if you keep putting it off, who knows when you’ll ever get there.

That’s why we’re encouraging a trip to Cape Town this year – but don’t just take our word for it. Check out these 11 excellent reasons why you should be visiting Cape Town in 2013.

1. Table Mountain is one of the New7Wonders

Table Mountain view

View from the top of Table Mountain

There are plenty of great reasons to have getting to the top of Table Mountain on your list of must-do activities while you’re in Cape Town – including the spectacular views over the city, the 360-degree cableway ride up and down, and the ability to check off “see the world’s smallest floral kingdom” off your life list. But as of 2012, there’s an even newer reason – Table Mountain was named one of the New7Wonders of Nature. After a years-long process of worldwide voting, Table Mountain turned out to be one of the big winners, and was officially inaugurated in December 2012.

2. You can go from wine snob to adrenaline junkie in 24 hours

Cape Town Constantia wine region

Constantia wine region near Cape Town

The diversity of landscapes and experiences one can have in South Africa is tough to beat, but you don’t even have to leave the Western Cape to run the gamut of vacation moments worth writing home about. Take a day trip from Cape Town into the wine region around towns like Stellenbosch and Franschhoek to sample what winemakers do with South Africa’s unique varietal (pinotage) – and spend the next day kicking your heart back into high gear with activities like kitesurfing, quad-riding, wakeboarding, or even shark cage diving.


3. Penguins? Yes, penguins.

Cape Town penguins

Penguins!

We’re used to getting excited for the big game we expect to see on a South African safari, but penguins? In Africa? Oh, yes. The little African penguins that call Cape Town’s Boulders Beach home are one of the city’s most squeal-inducing attractions (pay particular attention to the parking lot warnings about checking under your car for penguins before you drive off), but for these funny little birds to really leave a lasting impression you’ll need to plan ahead for a stop at the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB). The fine folks at SANCCOB work to rescue and rehabilitate seabirds, and you can even adopt a penguin chick to help their efforts.

4. It’s home to the world’s trendiest hotel

Cape Town has its share of fabulous hotels – the luxurious Cape Grace on the V&A Waterfront comes to mind, as does the funky Daddy Long Legs Art Hotel – but only one Cape Town hotel was named the world’s trendiest by TripAdvisor travelers in 2012: the Villa Zest Boutique Hotel. With only seven rooms, there’s a real emphasis on high-end and unique furnishings (mostly with 1970s-style decor). The location in Green Point gives guests easy access to the V&A Waterfront as well as plenty of great restaurants, clubs, and bars.

5. Nelson Mandela turns 95 this year

One of the most iconic figures in South Africa’s history, Nelson Mandela is rarely in the public eye anymore – but his legend looms large over the whole country. There are many cities in South Africa that lay claim to some aspect of his story, including Cape Town. No visit to the city is complete without a trip to see Robben Island just off the coast, where Mandela was held for 18 of his 27 years in prison. There are regular Robben Island tours, during which you can see Mandela’s prison cell and hear from other people who were imprisoned there with him.

6. You can visit the (almost) southern tip of Africa

Cape Peninsula

Cape Peninsula

The tip of the Cape Peninsula – Cape Point – isn’t quite Africa’s southern tip, but it’s close. And the entire peninsula is part of the Table Mountain National Park, so it’s a stunning natural setting as well. There are extensive hiking and mountain biking trails at Cape Point, some beaches (including a few only reachable by hikers, making them much less crowded), and a commanding viewpoint at the Cape Point Lighthouse. Be on the lookout for wildlife, too, including zebra and baboons, although you’ll definitely want to give the baboons a wide berth (they’re not afraid of people, and they’ll bite!).


7. One of the world’s greatest restaurants is a short drive away

Hidden away in the wine region town of Franschhoek is one of the greatest restaurants in the world – Le Quartier Francais’ Tasting Room. The LQF is a boutique hotel, and the Tasting Room is its internationally acclaimed menu-less restaurant. You simply make a reservation and eat each surprising and imaginative course that’s presented. Of course, to get in you’ll have to book months in advance, so this is something to plan for, foodies. If you can’t get a reservation (or can’t afford the dining splurge), book a table at LQF’s Common Room restaurant instead – it’s run by the same chef, though much more casual (and there are actually menus).

8. You can take a safari in the Western Cape

Cape Town safari elephants

Elephants

You might have heard of Kruger National Park, the most famous game reserve in South Africa, but did you know you can go on a safari right in the Western Cape? The ideal safari experience is at least a few days, but you can make it a side-trip from Cape Town rather than feeling like you need to head to the opposite side of the country. What’s more, the animals you’ll see in the Western Cape (and, if you want to venture a bit further, along the Garden Route) are different than the ones you’d see on safari in the eastern part of South Africa. Head home with the ability to distinguish between different kinds of zebras just based on their stripes, and you’re certainly armed with unique cocktail party conversation.


9. You can party like a rock star

All this talk of fine wines, historic monuments, and safaris is great, but what does one do at night in Cape Town? Party with the locals, of course. The city’s nightlife is legendary, as is the penchant Cape Town’s residents have for embracing every opportunity to enjoy their city until the wee hours. There are nightclubs on beaches, hot new bars on rooftops, and clubs lining Long Street in the city center. If you’re a night owl, you’ll love this chance to bond with others just like you. Just plan to sleep in the next day.

10. You’ll see and be seen on the beautiful beaches of Clifton

Camps Bay, Clifton

Camps Bay, Clifton. Photo credit: Graeme Churchard via Flickr.

Cape Town’s beaches are beautiful, but they tend to be more for looks than activity – that water is really cold. Still, the Clifton neighborhood in Cape Town has some of the loveliest beaches in the city – so it’s not surprising that it’s also one of the ritiziest neighborhoods. For visitors, this is an ideal setting for any day spent at the beach. You don’t need to worry about how you’d pay the mortgage on that beachside mansion, you just need to enjoy the gorgeous views coming at you from all sides. Plenty of Cape Town’s locals head for Clifton’s beaches, whether they live there or not, so you’ll have lots of great company on a sunny summer day.

11. Cape Town will leave you hungry for more of South Africa

Like any good appetizer, Cape Town will satisfy as it simultaneously whets your appetite. There is so much more to South Africa – the glorious Garden Route, the historic city of Port Elizabeth, the subtropical beach city of Durban, the wildlife reserves of KwaZulu-Natal, and more. Whether you take the time to explore it all in one trip or you plan to return, South Africa will always have great surprises in store for you.

11 Reasons to Visit Cape Town in 2013 Cape Town , featured , South Africa

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