Just a 45 minute drive away from Cape Town lies one the best wine regions in the world. Of course, many travelers get caught up with names like Bordeaux, Tuscany, and Burgundy, but don’t forget about the fantastic New World wine regions in the Southern Hemisphere.
The wines around the Western Cape are just as quality and at a fraction of the cost. South Africa has many crown jewels, and the stunning Stellenbosch wine region happens to be one of them. The wine region has a rich heritage, splendid landscapes, a lively university, and of course fine restaurants paired with beautiful wine. Here is why we loved Stellenbosch so much, and some of the best things to do in Stellenbosch.
The Best Things to do in Stellenbosch
It’s hard to pinpoint exact favorites as the whole region is fantastic, but for my fellow winos an outdoor enthusiast out there here are some of my favorite things to do in Stellenbosch.
Go on a wine and food pairing extravaganza
This isn’t the land of wine and cheese pairings, this is the land of everything pairings. Wine and biltong? Check. Wine and salt? Of course. Wine and cupcakes? Definitely! Try searching around for any food type that may suit your fancy here. Or read about our six favorite wine and food pairing options in South Africa.
Enjoy a night at one of South Africa’s finest restaurants.
For a taste of luxury then a visit to Delaire Graff Estate is a must. The whole property overlooks the Stellenbosch valley providing absolutely breathtaking views. At $1000/night a stay at Delaire Graff may not be viable for some, but a night out at the world-class restaurant Indochine is! For $50, diners can experience a fantastic seven course Asian infused dining experience.
If you’re not in the mood for a complete seven-course meal then we found great quality food at Makaron Restaurant. Makaron Restaurant is part of the Majeka House right off Houtkapper Street. They have a fantastic three-course wine pairing every night from 6:30pm-8:30pm set in their cozy yet modern restaurant. The menu changes every night but we assure you that you won’t leave disappointed. We had an awesome meal here kicked off with beef tartare, followed by slow braised lamb, and finished with vanilla creme brulee.
Take a Walking Tour of Kayamandi
Kayamandi is a developing township in the Stellenbosch area. The township is massive with over 5000 inhabitants, but don’t let that intimidate you! The people are friendly and inviting, and the township is buzzing with energy.
After just a day of delicious food and wine, we desperately needed a workout. We decided to hit the town with Adventure Shop Stellenbosch on a historical bike tour around Stellenbosch.
Go on a Segway
I had always thought that Segways were a little nerdy, however, after our tour of Spier farm with Segway Spier I have a new love for the personal transporter. We took to the paths and got lost through the rolling, organic farms of Spier without breaking a sweat.
Enjoy Downtown Stellenbosch
When you don’t want to do anything, but relax the downtown Stellenbosch area is the perfect place for that. There are numerous cafes to pop in and out of, a lovely promenade, and the Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden. The botanical garden is free to the public and a good place to come for those looking to escape the noise and be among nature
Where to Stay in Stellenbosch
We called the peaceful Rozendal Farm home for a few days while we explored the Winelands. Auberge Rozendal is conveniently located just outside of Stellenbosch town in the forested slopes of the Jonkershoek Valley. The farm is family owned and has 16 quaint rooms with a large patio facing the surrounding mountains.
Breakfast at Rozendal was our favorite part of waking up each day. The farm is all organic so we were treated with fresh eggs, fruit, and vegetables every morning. Usually, we are in a rush to finish breakfast, but we never wanted to leave here as the firewood cracked in the large fireplace.
As if a quiet farm stay and organic food weren’t enough, Rozendal is home to award-winning vinegar. Visitors and overnight guests can take part in their daily vinegar tasting tour where everyone can try their signature Hibiscus, Fynbos, Green Tea, and Lavender vinegar. We decided to go home with the Hibiscus, which won the Best Vinegar at the SOFI Awards.
This South African wine region was a great place to kick back, relax, and get a tiny bit drunk on some fantastic wine after a week on safari. Whether you have a day or a week, Stellenbosch will not disappoint!
Why is Stellenbosch the Best Wine Regions in the World?
South Africa produces over 959 million liters of wine each year, making the country the seventh-largest wine producer in the world. There are over 200 wine producers in the Stellenbosch valley contributing to that figure. I won’t claim to be a Master Sommelier, but I do know a good wine when I taste one. So, I was delighted to spend five days in Stellenbosch trying out some seriously delicious wine. Stellenbosch is seated at the base of the Cape Fold mountains, which provides the rich soil needed for their exquisite wines. They also have that whole Mediterranean climate thing going for them, with hot dry summers and cool wet winters making for well-seasoned grapes with good character. Stellenbosch’s signal variety is their Pinotage wine, that gives consumers earthy and smokey flavors with a deep red color. It will be hard to avoid Pinotage on any trip to Stellenbosch.
It must be something in the wine because the people in Stellenbosch take hospitality to a new level. We went on a plethora of wine and vineyard tours, and at each establishment, we were met with a friendly smile.
Whether you have access to a vehicle of your own or not, it’s very easy to get around Stellenbosch. I know it sounds massive with over 200 wineries; however, they are spaced close together and are all within 10 minutes of each other. For those without a car, Vine Hoppers, offers a “hop on hop off” experience with all the major vineyards in route – no need for any DD! Uber is also prevalent in Stellenbosch and makes for an easy and affordable option to get from point A to point B. While Stellenbosch’s proximity to Cape Town, only 40 km away, makes it a great day trip destination.
I mentioned before that Stellenbosch is located at the foot of the mountains surrounding it. So when it is decided that enough wine is enough, there is always a spectacular mountain to be hiked!
Anyone coming from North America, Australia, or Europe can be prepared for an exceptionally good time in Stellenbosch. The cost for a glass or bottle of wine is more affordable than a daily cappuccino at Starbucks. A glass of red wine will cost all of $3 at a restaurant, or go big and get a bottle for $6. Yes, I’m serious, even the fine wines here are cheap in comparison to America.
Quick Travel Tips for South Africa
- Languages Spoken: The most widely spoken language is Zulu, then Xhosa, followed by Afrikaans. However, just about everyone speaks English.
- Capital: South Africa has no legally defined capital city. Instead, there are three South African capitals. They are Pretoria (executive capital), Bloemfontein (judicial), and Cape Town (legislative).
- Currency: South African Rand 4 (ZAR) – $.
- Visa: Some nationalities are issued a 90-day visa on arrival. Check with your embassy for the best information. The visas are consecutive, not concurrent, don’t be like us and get kicked out.
- Weather: Hot and humid especially during the summer months.
- What to Pack: Depends on the season and where you are at. Definitely bring hiking shoes, a bathing suit, and a jacket.
- Malaria: Not a major threat in South Africa. In the rainy season, areas around Kruger and the north are at mild risk of malaria.
- Stay Connected: Vodacom, Telcom, OneCell, and MTN are the cell phone and internet providers. Check here for more information.
- Tipping: This is a tipping country and visitors should expect to tip for anything from a lunch out, to gas station attendants, to security guards in parking lots. Tips to car guards can be anything between 2 and 10 ZAR while 10% is the norm for waitstaff.
What to Pack for South Africa?
We don’t travel without travel insurance and neither should you. You never know what can happen in a foreign country and it’s best to be prepared. HeyMondo offers excellent short and long-term travel insurance policies.
Overland Tour in Africa
Traveling Africa on your own can be daunting to many travelers. However, there is no need to fear overland tour companies can show you the ropes and ensure you have a great time. You can check out some of them here to compare the different companies and possibly score a discount.
Travel Water Bottle
Plastic pollution is a problem in Africa so it’s best not to contribute to the problem of buying plastic water bottles everywhere. The tap water in Tanzania is generally not safe to drink, but a water purifier, like the Grayl water bottle, works well!
However, we also love filtered water bottles in areas we’re uncertain of the water supply. Read more about our favorite water bottle for travel in our post.
Chances are you’ll want a camera for your trip to Africa. Our favorite pocket-sized point-and-shoot camera for quick trips is the Sony RX100V. It takes fantastic photos and videos and is the size of your palm.
A good hat is both stylish and functional. In peak dry season there is little to provide shade, UV rays are intense and can easily burn the unsuspecting traveler. Check out our full breakdown of the best safari hats here!
Lightweight pants that are made from synthetic material are tremendous to have in your pack. It’s what we wear most days when traveling around Africa as they’re comfortable, antibacterial, and protect our legs from mosquitos (malaria).
We recommend neutral-colored pants as they’re great at hiding dirt and can match most shirt colors. What’s great is they’re useful beyond Africa as they are a travel staple and we pack a pair everywhere we travel.
You’ll want a safari shirt while on safari. They are lightweight and keep the bugs away. Plus they look ideal in photos and blend into the environment around you!
Sometimes it’s nice just to have a real book in your hands when traveling. We recommend picking up a Lonely Planet to get you through the wireless nights. Are you going on safari? We always carry our Robert’s Southern Africa Bird Book and a good mammal guide.