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With its mix of boulder-strewn beaches, bustling markets and exotic fauna and flora — which even includes penguin colonies — Cape Town offers up the perfect blend of city and country escape. The only problem? It’s often wrongly billed as a place best enjoyed during the summer (our winter).
Sure, destinations from Croatia to the Greek Islands will soon be heading into high season as (our) summer sets in, but while the masses migrate to Mediterranean beaches, destinations south of the equator are a traveler’s best-kept secret. In Cape Town, winter weather is far from the snow-and-sleet variety, with temperatures here still hovering in the 60s and 70s, making it ideal for strolling around the waterfront or hiking one of the area’s many mountain routes. Plus, fewer tourists means you’ll not only snag better hotel deals, you’ll also be able to take advantage of the city’s natural beauty and landmarks sans crowds. From adrenaline-filled activities (hello rock climbing and paragliding!) to vibrant, street art-lined neighborhoods, here are just five of the many reasons Cape Town is a good choice to visit year-round.
1. The US Dollar Is Killing It, So You Can Splurge a Little
Back in 2015, TPG ranked South Africa as one of the best value destinations to visit, highlighting the fact that you can check off some pretty big bucket-list attractions like shark-cage diving and safari adventures without breaking the bank thanks to the favorable exchange rate. Today, the current rate is still $1 to 13.37 South African rands, meaning your US dollars can go even further at the moment — and this goes for anything from hotels to high-end wining and dining.
Treat yourself to a luxurious treatment at the Spa at The Twelve Apostles, located in a Leading Hotels of the World property that sits along the Twelve Apostles mountain range and offers impressive views of the Atlantic. Travelers can zen out with al fresco treatments in the spa’s mountain gazebos starting at just 790 rands (~$59) for a 60-minute aromatherapy massage or 1,650 rands (~$124) for the signature 105-minute Apostles Touch treatment, which incorporates hot stones, a full-body Ayurvedic salt scrub and a foot ritual.
The same goes for a night out on the town. Bar hopping here won’t put you out more than $20 if you’re into cool craft cocktails and local brews. At some of the city’s best bars, like The Gin Bar and The Village Idiot, you’d be hard-pressed to find drinks that’ll cost more than the equivalent of $3.
2. There Are Tons of Outdoor Activities, From Surfing to Diving With Sharks
Home to one of the oldest mountains in the world, 600 million-year-old Table Mountain, Cape Town’s California-like coast is lined with rugged peaks, plains and a peninsula that makes the city prime for almost any outdoor activity. The best time for surfing is the winter months (June through August), with storms bringing in massive swells along Cape Peninsula and prime surf spots like Muizenberg and Scarborough Beach. Those looking for an adrenaline rush can go paragliding year-round from one of the peaks flanking Table Mountain at Signal Hill or Lion’s Head.
About two hours from Cape Town, meanwhile, brave souls can go shark-cage diving with great whites in Shark Alley near the Western Cape fishing town of Gansbaai. Of course, not all activities are exclusively for adrenaline seekers. Travelers can also take in views of the city on a hike — that can be as leisurely as you’d like — up to the 3,562-foot-high summit of Table Mountain, whether you opt for the two-hour direct route through Platteklip Gorge that’s on the easier side, or go for more of a challenge with a six-hour trek through forests and ravines to Maclear’s Beacon.
3. South African Wine — Enough Said
Think of Cape Town as South Africa’s Napa Valley, with wine routes that wrap their way around the Western Cape, which features 18 official wine routes and two brandy routes that span from Cape Overberg in the southwest into the Northern Cape. Constantia is the closest region to Cape Town, just a 20-minute drive away, while the Franschhoek Wine Valley is about an hour from the city and is considered to be the gourmet capital of South Africa.
4. New Neighborhoods Are Booming
Over the last few years, small businesses have carved out artisanal shops in new neighborhoods such as Upper Bree Street and Woodstock, adding a creative energy to the city’s spirit. Bree Street, often called “Wide Street,” since it was used in the past for oxcarts, is now lined with locally owned restaurants, bars and boutiques, making it the alternative place to shop and dine for the local set, both by day or night. In December 2015, husband-and-wife duo Chef Santi and Dominique opened a new farm-to-table restaurant, Little Saint, sourcing produce from NGO-township farming partnerships. Just next door, Culture Cheese Club is Cape Town’s version of a gourmet fromagerie, with 80 percent of its stock being handmade, locally produced cheese. Stroll down the street and you’ll come across SAM (the South African Market), a collective of South African designers of goods from jewelry and clothing to furniture, showing off their wares in displays as chic as you’d expect to find in a New York City gallery.
Not far from the docks of Table Bay, meanwhile, lies the up-and-coming Woodstock neighborhood, which is one of the oldest suburbs in the city and in the process of being revitalized — there’s also a funky street art project that’s bringing in local and international graffiti artists like Know Hope and Faith47 to transform the walls of its former warehouses.
5. You Can Snag Free Stays at Points Properties
Cape Town is home to a number of points properties, meaning that your budget can stretch even further thanks to free award stays. Lay down your head at one of the four- or five-star Protea Hotels, which are now part of Marriott — the Category 4 Protea Hotel Fire & Ice Cape Town sits five minutes away from the Victoria & Albert Waterfront and just 15 minutes from the beaches of Clifton and Camps Bay (rates start at about $106 or 20,000 Marriott Rewards points per night). The recently refurbished Westin Cape Town, meanwhile, is a favorite of TPG because of its breakfast spread and open wine bar — stocked with South African selections, of course. It’s located slightly out of the city center but offers sweeping views of Table Mountain and Table Bay (rates at the SPG Category 4 hotel start at about $149 or 10,000 Starpoints per night).
Have you ever visited Cape Town? Share some of your favorite experiences with us in the comments, below.
Featured image courtesy of Cape Town Tourism.
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