Welcome to the sixth post in the Iconic Cities series. Guest writer Clare is a travel activist and diamond entrepreneur who shares her love of travel at EarthTravelUnlimited.
No list of iconic world cities would be complete without mention of Cape Town. Recently listed at the top of Trip Advisor’s Top 25 Destinations, Cape Town has long been a favorite haunt of tourists and travelers from around the world. With clear blue skies, pristine white beaches and spectacular rocky landmarks, it’s easy to recommend solo travel to Cape Town. Allow me to introduce you to my favorite parts of this iconic city.
Perhaps the most recognizable sight, the flat topped plateau of Table Mountain towers over the city and is the landmark that welcomes you to Cape Town. Reaching a height of 1086 meters above sea level, “The Mountain” provides a fertile ground for outdoor activities. Numerous walking trails allow the energetic to walk, hike or run to the top of the mountain, but from a safety perspective, these activities are best done in groups. For solo travelers, the safest option is to take the cable car which allows you to reach the top with rotating 360° views of the city.
One of the most beautiful parts of the Cape Peninsula, Cape Point is a rugged outcrop that is perfectly safe to explore on your own. Incorrectly marketed as the place “Where Two Oceans Meet” (the Indian and Atlantic Oceans actually meet at Cape Agulhas, 170 km south east of Cape Town), Cape Point led many early explorers to falsely believe they had rounded the continent of Africa. This rugged part of the coastline showcases treacherous rocky outcrops and cliffs that rise 200 m above sea level. Solo travelers can enjoy the view from the most powerful lighthouse in Africa, laze on the beaches and swim in the tidal pools in complete peace and quiet.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens
Nestled against the eastern flanks of Table Mountain, the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens have one of the most scenic backdrops of any botanical gardens in the world. Explore the 528 hectares of rolling lawns on your own and enjoy the tranquility. Pick a park bench, read your book, or photograph some of the 22,000 indigenous plants. Two hiking trails, Skeleton Gorge and Nursery Ravine, allow access to the top of Table Mountain from within the gardens – but remember, hiking solo is never recommended from a safety perspective.
The African Penguins
At Boulders and Seaforth Beaches in Cape Town, you’ll discover the only penguin nesting sites on the African continent. Boulders Beach is the main tourist attraction and a wooden walkway takes you down to the beach itself (there is an entrance fee to access the beach). The added advantage of solo travel here is that the penguins are less intimidated by single travelers than by large family groups. You’ll also find a few displaced penguins hanging out at Seaforth Beach, where you won’t be hassled for an entrance fee.
World Class Restaurants
Cape Town is a food lover’s dream. Its coastal location means that fresh seafood is abundant and many of the restaurants specialize in it. Sushi is as fresh as you would expect and creative sushi chefs in restaurants such as Beluga serve up delectable platters of firecracker rolls and tuna crunches, which you can wash down with a Toblerone Martini or a Blood Orange Mojito. It’s not all about the seafood though. Sample award winning local cuisine in the colourful Bo-Kaap area, or dig into Indian, Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese, Cuban or Persian dishes all around the city. For great food and authentic experiences, head to where the locals hang out. Here you’ll find plenty of solo travelers sampling outrageously delicious dishes and who knows, you might find a travelling companion!
It’s hard not to be impressed by Cape Town’s beaches. Whether you are looking to swim, surf, see and be seen, tan naked, kite-surf, horse ride or watch whales, you’ll find the ideal beach. Cape Town beaches are safe, secure and frequently have life-guards, so solo travelers should have no concerns from a safety perspective. Beaches on the False Bay side of Cape Town (eg. Muizenberg, Fish Hoek) are considered “warm water” beaches, but the trendy beaches of Llandudno, Camps Bay and Clifton all sample the extremely cold Atlantic Ocean water. Horse-ride at Noordhoek, strip off at Sandy Bay and watch out for the Great White Sharks at Fish Hoek!