The ubiquitous fog hovering over Table Mountain, waves crashing against surfboards and carpets of rolling wineries: these are quintessential images of Cape Town. Blessed with one of the most distinct and varied landscapes in Africa and pleasant weather year-round Cape Town offers an exciting experience to lovers of the great outdoors and anyone looking for a cosmopolitan yet relaxed city to visit.
The city’s infectious energy summons even the most jet-lagged traveller to head out into the outdoors, and as Capetonians do – either hit the water to ride some waves or hike up Table Mountain. History buffs booking flights to Cape Town should reserve a tour of the infamous Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for two decades.
Exploring Cape Town’s diverse neighbourhoods is a great way to get to know the city. Wander the cobbled streets of Bo-Kaap – the historic home of the Muslims whose ancestors were brought as slaves over from Indonesia, India and Turkey. From there the glitzy beach towns of Camps Bay and Clifton are within reach.
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Cape Town climate
On a peninsula between the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, Cape Town has mild winters and warm summers. Winter temperatures range from seven to 12 degrees (C) between June and August. Spring is unpredictable and can have pleasant, sunny days or days when the Cape Doctor, a southeast wind, blows up to 75mph. Summer can be very warm from December to March with temperatures reaching the 40s, but the Cape Doctor keeps it bearable. March to April and early May have the best weather and gentle winds. Rainfall is moderate throughout the year.
When to fly to Cape Town
With its mild climate, Cape Town is popular year-round so cheap flights to Cape Town can be found with advance planning. The peak travel season is from November through January. The area is particularly crowded during school holidays, especially the South African summer vacation period from December 1 through January 15, so plan Cape Town flights and accommodations ahead of time. Easter is another popular vacation time, as are July and August.
February through March and October are excellent times to visit because the weather is nice but the city has fewer crowds. This is also a good time to find cheap flights to Cape Town and discounted hotels because tourism is low and the city is looking for visitors. If you will be visiting for at least a week or so, winter generally has glorious days mixed in with the gloomy cold ones, and winter is when you can find the best deals.
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Getting around Cape Town
The best way to get downtown after your Cape Town flight is by hopping aboard a taxi or bus at the airport. In the city’s centre, the cheapest option to get around is Cape Town’s public bus system. Save some money by buying your tickets ahead of time and in bulk – books of ten tickets are sold. But be careful if you’re on a tight schedule. Posted drop-off and pick-up times are just estimates, and you don't want to get stranded. If you’d rather take a taxi, you’ll be spending more money, but saving time. If you feel like doing the research, the tourism centre offers shuttle buses to popular tourist attractions such as the Table Mountain Cableway.
Cape Town insider information
- Table Mountain towers over the city and can be seen as the backdrop no matter where you are. If you’re planning on hiking instead of taking the cable car, investigate the different routes are available as they cater for very different fitness levels. One of the most popular routes starts at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden – to reach the top from here will take approximately four hours. It’s wise to bring food with you. Though there are restaurants and cafés at the top, the prices are extortionate.
- The Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock is home to a weekly organic market called the Neighbours Goods Market. Held every Saturday between (9am-3pm), it has more than 50 vendors selling locally produced goods including vegetables, cheese, meats and cakes and arts and crafts. It’s also the place to meet locals and feel a part of the thriving “creative community”.
- An increasingly popular tourist activity is a tour of the townships. You’ll get shown around some of the most desolate areas of the city by a local (which should guarantee safety) and see the side to it that is normally hidden to foreigners. Lots of tours are now available, but try to book one that puts your money back into the township, rather than to a big hotel.
- All around the city are vineyards that produce South African wine. A weekend spent exploring the countryside on a wine route in the Western Cape also lets you see some magnificent countryside. Each route is well marked with its own logo that appears on all the roads. Some of the most popular areas are the Constantia, Durbanville, Darling, Stellenbosch and Walker Bay winelands.