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There are no prizes for guessing how South Africa’s most iconic landmark got its name. With its unusually flat peak and imposing presence, Table Mountain dwarfs the city that lies at its feet. This is the mother of the mother city, welcoming you to Cape Town with open arms – and she’s always got room at her table for visitors.
A trip to Cape Town and you can’t miss it. Much like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, or Mount Corcovado in Brazil, the giant horizontal crest of this UNESCO World Heritage Site dominates the city’s skyline. But make your way to the top and Table Mountain’s scenes really come into their own. Since the mountain’s cable car opened its doors to transport visitors to its plateau back in 1929, over 22 million people have made the pilgrimage to the top. Standing at a whopping 1,085 m high, the views of cosmopolitan Cape Town, as it spills out to the cobalt waters of the Atlantic, are unprecedented – The Shard just can’t compete with this one.
But it’s not just the views of the city bowl that make Table Mountain worth the conquest – this is a natural wonder worth beholding in itself. Literally.
Officially one of the “new 7 wonders of nature”, the mountain hosts the richest floral kingdom on earth, boasting an incredible 1,470 floral species – 70% of which are endemic. And, for anyone who – like Ross Geller – thinks that “geology rocks”, you’re in for a treat here as the rocks that form Table Mountain are over 600 million years old, making it one of the oldest peaks on earth.
With more than 350 hiking trails making the mountainside accessible, it’s well worth the walk to get up close and personal with its abundance of natural splendour and you’ll get toned while you’re at it too – who doesn’t want a peachy behind? Ranging from light strolls to testing hikes, be sure to choose wisely because it’s a long way up.
In 1998 South Africa’s most photographed landmark gained national park status and now encompasses the whole of the Cape Peninsula. Thanks to its protection, the natural beauty of around 60 km worth of the valleys, bays, beaches and mountains that run from Signal Hill to Cape Point have remained unspoiled. It’s a city that just keeps on giving.
You’ve seen it from below – been there, done that, got the picture. But now it’s time to embrace Table Mountain’s majesty - with a trip to its postcard-worthy crest.
With a 360 degree rotating floor, the Aerial Cableway was designed with passengers in mind. You always get those selfish few – particularly headstrong tourists have been known to do anything to get a good picture, which often means a whole lot of jostling and a whole little of you getting to make the most of what should be a serene and breathtaking experience.
This is where the cable car’s innovative rotating floor comes in. Once you’re in, that’s it. No need to move. Its design means that you’re able to take in both city and mountainside views simultaneously. Simple.
Or perhaps you fancy clambering your way up it to experience Table Mountain’s immensity first hand – this is one hell of a hike. Travel is as much about the journey as it is about the destination, after all.
Pause for a picnic and it will be a feast that you’ll never forget. We don’t know about you, but bog standard dining experiences don’t really do it for us, and this is anything but. Lunch with a view? Tick.
Once at the top, firstly, congratulations are in order – you’ve made it! And secondly, the exploration continues. You’ve taken in the sweeping vistas, now you want to learn everything that there is to know about the beast that you’ve conquered. With free guided tours running daily, that’s exactly what you can do.
Top tip: your legs will thank you for catching the cable car down and that way you’ll have the best of both worlds.
Cape Town is essential to any Southern Africa adventure and, as one and the same thing, Table Mountain is too. You could admire it from below, but you can’t say that you’ve truly experienced Cape Town unless you’ve conquered Table Mountain. To experience the ‘top of the world’ feeling that this icon induces, simply select either the Classic or Garden Route base itineraries in the itinerary builder. A ticket for the hop-on hop-off bus tour of Cape Town is included in both of these base packages – just jump off at the Aerial Cableway and let the fun begin.
The most famed point of the mountain range that runs along the Cape Peninsula, Table Mountain can’t be missed – it backdrops the city and overlooks the bay. Table Mountain National Park runs from the city all the way along the peninsula until reaching its dramatic end at Cape Point, encompassing a number of natural attractions along the way.
As a natural landmark, it has no specific opening times as such but it is sensible to use the cable car’s running times as a guideline as the last thing that you want to do is get stuck at the top of the mountain – it might just ruin the magic. In winter the first car up is at 8.30am and the last car down is 6pm, whilst in summer you can begin your adventure at 8am and won’t have to make your way down until 9.30pm.
Tickets to the Aerial Cableway cost R293 return and, of course, hiking is free but a ‘wild card’ must be obtained from a tourism office to give you roaming rights. If you’re planning on catching the cable car to the top, it’s worth booking your ticket in advance to avoid wasting precious travelling time stuck in a queue.
There’s no dress code here but it all comes down to common sense. If you’re planning on making the hike, make sure that you have good walking boots or suitable trainers. A hat, suncream, water and a snack are also a good idea – it can get hot up here.
But oh how things can change – when the cloud descends over the mountaintop, locals call it the “tablecloth”, a very cold and wet tablecloth may we add. The solution? Layers, layers and more layers. Weather changes are swift and dramatic on the mountain.
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