Its hard to arrive to South Africa without high expectations, especially when your first stop is majestic Cape Town. We had no idea how much more they would be exceeded by this wonderful country. We chose to explore Cape Town first and much of the Western Cape region because it is praised by locals and tourists alike as the most scenic side of the country.
We found Cape Town to be majestic. Table Mountain, the quaint downtown, the infrastructure, the ocean and bay views make it a world-class town set in the arms of dramatic scenery. We recommend staying a little outside of town in Gordon’s Bay where the cliffs that mark the start of the Garden Route plunge into the sea.
Driving the Garden Route
In a 4.5 hour drive from Cape Town to Knysna we passed through wine country and alpine forests, rolling fields with livestock for miles, apple orchards, baboon troops, ostrich farms, all the while driving with a towering mountain chain on the Northern side of the road. Knysna is a special place with secluded beaches, mountain locked rivers and lakes, it is like Northern California, Switzerland, and European towns all rolled into one place.
The land of friendly people
At first we thought the hotel staff were out of the ordinary friendly, but we discovered people in South Africa are genuinely happy for your visit and want to share their beautiful place with you. We found service in hotels, apartment rentals and in grocery stores and gas stations to be top quality.
People take pride in their work and where they live. People stopped to see if we needed directions, gave tips for good places to eat and drink as well as made sure every detail of our stay was cared for.
Wine and Food
From Knysna we made our way back to Franschhoek, one of the oldest towns in South Africa about 40 minutes outside Cape Town. This valley sits between towering mountains of bare rock whose slopes are painted with centuries-old vineyards that offer wonderful and informal tastings. The main street of town is charming and historic, not to mention savory with some of South Africa’s best restaurants making up local businesses.
With all this Franschhoek merits the title food and wine capital of South Africa. The trend for quality food and drink stood firm everywhere we went, we found supermarkets stocked with an abundance of fresh and artesian goods like cheeses, hummus, pesto, bread and of course delicious wines. Pinotage is a local varietal whose praises we’re still singing and tasting.
A place that is ready to welcome tourists
South Africa has a great many things to be proud of. Its indigenous natural beauty, the developed society it has achieved in commerce, public works, infrastructure and the way in which its people enjoy a high quality of life. This is a highly livable place, one that offers tourists the chance to see nature like they’ve never seen it before, to enjoy great accommodations and service, food, wine and an active lifestyle at a fraction of the cost one would expect. We highly praise South Africa as a place for affordable luxury, slow travel and a place to enjoy life.