Only about 45-minutes’ drive from Cape Town, you’ll find the wine-making epicentre of South Africa: the Stellenbosch Wine Route. Comprising over 140 wineries, this is not only the Cape Winelands’ most prolific wine-producing region, but also the country’s oldest wine route. And that’s not even counting the berry, cheese, and olive farms interspersed along the route.
Because of its vast size, the Stellenbosch Wine Route has been divided into five sub-routes. The Stellenbosch Valley and Stellenbosch Berg route are known for cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, and Spier and Lanzerac are the must-visit estates here. Moving north toward Paarl, you’ll find the Greater Simonsberg route (nicknamed ‘Cabernet Country’), while the Bottelary Hills route in the direction of Cape Town is known for South Africa’s signature cultivar: Pinotage. Both whites and reds are well-represented on the southern-laying Helderberg route.
Stellenbosch’s Mediterranean-like climate (sizzling-hot summers and soggy-wet winters) and diverse soil (ranging from gravel to clay) have made the region well-suited for wine production. The French Huguenots who settled here in the 1690s spotted this quality very early on and - thanks to their knowledge of viticulture – put into motion a wine-making history which has lasted well over 300 years.
We've taken the liberty to answer everything you may need to know about visiting the Stellenbosch Wine Route.
It's very easy. Coming from Cape Town, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek's main towns are about one hour's drive from Central Cape Town and about 30 mins from the Airport. We recommend renting a car in this area, as it is the easiest and most convenient way to explore the area. Alternatively, we can suggest transfer services in this area too.
The Winelands is pretty much a year-round destination, with each season having something special to offer. In wintertime, it's cosy with fireplaces and warm comfortable settings. In summer, you have fantastic weather and crisp clear skies. During autumn you have dramatic scenery with vivid colours of orange and red.
It would be ideal to have 2-3 nights as this would allow you to explore the area thoroughly and at a relaxed pace. This is the magic of the Winelands, you can relax on a wine estate for hours, and easily lose track of time.
While much of the attraction of the Cape Winelands resides in the region’s delectable cuisine and drool-worthy wines, there is also a range of activities to pair with the experience.
Ballooning in Paarl
The Paarl Wine Valley is primarily known for its noble red wines. A little known secret is that they pair wonderfully with a morning hot air balloon ride across the Winelands if the weather is on your side. You don’t want anything less than the perfect day when attached to a giant balloon!
Franschhoek Wine Tram
For the best way to get between wine tastings, look no further than the Franschhoek Wine Tram! Between the charming old-fashioned open-side tram and the open-air tram bus, guests can take in the mountainous scenery at their leisure while going through a loop of wine stops that include excellent dining options. Tickets include two complimentary tastings, and you can hop on and off as you please.
A Historical Tour of Stellenbosch
The town of Stellenbosch offers a delightfully sophisticated blend of history and first-class wine. Before plotting your preferred route of vineyards dotting the surrounding slopes, you may wish to embark on a walking tour, the best way to take in the second oldest European settlement in the country.
A Bit of Hike in Constantia
Although it is unlikely you will need to work up an appetite for wines from one of the world’s best winegrowing regions, you may wish to take a detour into the magical leafy seclusion of the Constantia Green Belt. Nine trails weave and interlink among creeper adorned trees and lances of light breaching the canopy above—a rare treat so close to a city centre!
A tour of the treetops in Elgin
Just an hour from Cape Town and reached via a scenic drive along the N2 that climbs Sir Lowry’s Pass before descending into a fertile valley of vineyards and orchards, Elgin is still a relatively well-kept secret. You can soar with the eagles via the Cape Canopy Tour zip lining experience and then settle down with a glass of something splendid.