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The port city of Cape Town, in South Africa, is easily one of the most photogenic destinations on Earth, with its breathtaking coastlines and colorful neighborhoods. For photographers, its diverse landscapes offer no shortage of stunning vantage points — and it’s one of TPG’s all time favorite vacation spots.
So go ahead, book that dream trip to South Africa with your points and miles. These photographs of the Mother City will have followers swooning all over your Insta feed.
If you’ve ever seen a photo of Cape Town, you’ve probably noticed that rocky spire rising from the city. That iconic mountain is called Lion’s Head, and it’s one of the most popular hiking spots in Cape Town. The trail circles the mountain and takes about 90-minutes, starting as a smooth, even path and becoming tougher as you ascend. Eventually, you’ll reach areas so steep you’ll need to do a vertical climb up a ladder. It’s best to avoid venturing up the mountain in the hot South African sun, so get an extra early start and enjoy the sunrise on your way to the top.
TPG Tip: There are plenty of peaks you can sit on that give the illusion you’re hanging off the edge. You’ll look like a daredevil, but in reality, there is a platform just a few feet below. Even without a DSLR, using portrait mode on your phone is a great way to emphasize depth in your shots.
Take the tram up to the top of Table Mountain for some of the best views of Cape Town. Hiking the mountain is also an option, thanks to a number of trails of varying difficulty. The most popular trail, Platteklip Gorge, typically takes 3 to 4 hours (depending on your fitness level). The hike is more advanced than Lion’s Head, so if you’re concerned, simply ride the tram to the top. Either way, be sure to check the forecast before you go, and make sure that rain or clouds won’t be an issue. If it’s too cloudy, adjust your schedule to visit on a clearer day. Otherwise, don’t count on the #views. This is also the perfect place to enjoy a picnic brunch — just watch out for the dassies! These rabbit-like animals love to find human friends with food and may even grab a bite for themselves.
TPG Tip: If you’ve never taken a helicopter ride before, this may be the time to splurge for an unbeatable aerial view. Always wear black clothing when taking photos from a helicopter, because it won’t cause a glare in the windows — otherwise, you’ll see a reflection of your light-colored clothing in all your photos. On some days, you may be able to see the the layer of clouds across Table Mountain locals have dubbed the “tablecloth.”
The Silo Hotel
The Silo is a 28-room luxury boutique property located on Cape Town’s Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, occupying a space that was once a historic silo complex dating back to 1924. If the $1,000+ per night room rate is out of your reach (sadly, you won’t be able to cash in any award nights, though it’s a great option for the Citi Prestige Card’s fourth-night free perk), you can always stop in for a cocktail at sunset and snap a photo in the hotel’s jewel box-like lobby on your way out.
Famous for its colonies of African penguins and giant granite boulders, this sheltered beach is popular among both sunbathers and photographers. The tuxedo-wearing penguins are known for their donkey-like cries, and are actually an endangered species. So make sure to get a photo with them while you still can. (Just remember to never touch or disturb them!)
TPG Tip: Once you step foot on the beach, walk to the left to find a narrow pathway between the large boulders. It can be tricky to spot without the guidance of a local, so keep an eye out for people venturing off. You will have to climb on the rocks and tread a knee-deep area of water, but once you reach the other side you’ll find a secluded enclave with way more penguins than you can find at the tourist-filled entrance of the beach.
Woodstock is Cape Town’s version of Bushwick, in Brooklyn. The suburb has undergone a serious transformation and become a vibrant, trendy community following a period of decline. All across the neighborhood, homes and buildings have been revitalized by colorful street artworks. Take an organized tour of the area and learn the meaningful story behind each piece of art. New murals tend to pop up overnight and the pieces are constantly changing.
TPG Tip: Before exploring Woodstock’s street art scene, pop into one of the neighborhood’s hip coffee shops, such as Espresso Lab Microroasters, to jumpstart your day.
The Bo-Kaap neighborhood is pure Insta gold. The area is known for its bright-colored houses. Not only are the homes beautiful, but they carry a great deal of history. Formerly known as the Malay Quarter, the neighborhood was once home to rental houses that were leased to slaves in the 18th century. It’s said that, while leased, the houses had to remain painted white — and once slavery was abolished, the former slaves bought the properties and painted the buildings in bright colors to celebrate their freedom.
TPG Tip: Many of the families that live in Bo-Kaap have been here for generations. Be respectful while taking photos in front of the houses, and remember that people actually do live there. Luckily, many of the residents embrace the popularity of their homes. If you meet a local, introduce yourself and ask for permission to snap a photo.
Bo-Kaap isn’t the only colorful spot in Cape Town. Head to Muizenberg Beach to capture a few photos in front of the rainbow row of huts lining the shore. This beach is perfect for visitors looking to take a surf lesson or simply soak up some sun, too.
Cape Point is located on the Cape of Good Hope, the southwesternmost point on the continent of Africa (not to be confused with the most southern tip of the continent, Cape Agulhas). It takes about an hour and 20 minutes to get there by car from Cape Town. Once you arrive at Cape Point, take the tram, known as the Flying Dutchman Funicular, up to the lighthouse. Here, spectacular stone cliffs reach out to what seems like the end of the world.
TPG Tip: Whatever you do — don’t forget a jacket! The winds tend to be very strong at Cape Point.
One of the most popular paragliding spots in South Africa, I don’t suggest trying the sport for the first time while in Cape Town, because every other paragliding experience after just won’t compare. Strap in and run off the top of Signal Hill at an elevation of just over 1,000 feet. The ride could last anywhere between seven and 20 minutes, depending on the wind. While it may seem scary, gently gliding over the city of Cape Town is actually quite relaxing.
The 45-minute car ride from Cape Town to the Cape Winelands is an amazing, and beautiful, day trip. If you have time in your schedule, consider staying overnight at one of the wineries. (I recommend the Boschendale Wine Farm, which has been producing farm-to-table cuisine and wine since 1685.) Travel back in time and stay in one of the rustic cottages on the property, and enjoy a horseback ride through the vineyards or have a picnic while floating in the middle of the lake. Everything here is so scenic, you’ll have more Instagram opps than you know what to do with.
TPG Tip: Make sure to try a glass of Pinotage, a red wine exclusive to South Africa.
Gondwana Game Reserve
A safari is a must when visiting Africa. After all, you’ve made the trek halfway across the world — so, take time to spend a few nights in the bush. The Gondwana Game Reserve in Mossel Bay is a fantastic option and just a four-hour drive from Cape Town. Gondwana offers everything from luxury villas to glamping-style eco huts. From both, you could step out to your porch and find a zebra on your doorstep. Wake up before sunrise and set off on a game drive with your ranger in search of the the Big Five (lions, buffalo, elephants, rhinoceroses and leopards). After a long day of off-roading, kick back and enjoy a sundowner before continuing on for a nighttime adventure. The lions, especially, love to come out after dark.
TPG Tip: Purchase a zoom lens for your DSLR camera to capture animals farther off in the distance. You’ll be glad you did.
If you’d like to see what it was like to hike Lion’s Head at sunrise or see real-life lions at Gondwana Game Reserve, follow me on Instagram at @destinationdanielle and check out the Cape Town highlight on my profile!
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