South Africa has over a score of recognized wine routes extending to the Karoo and way into the Northern Cape, but the area known as the Winelands is restricted to the oldest wineries outside the Cape Peninsula, within a 60km radius of Cape Town. The district contains the earliest European settlements at Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschhoek and Somerset West, each with its own wine route, on which you travel from one estate to the next to taste the wines. On the hillsides and in the valleys around these towns you’ll find a flawless blending of traditional Cape Dutch architecture with the landscape. The Winelands are best covered in a car, as half the pleasure is the drive through the countryside; without your own transport, you could take a day-trip to the Winelands with one of several Cape Town-based companies (see Tours).
The most satisfying of the Winelands towns is Stellenbosch, which enjoys an easy elegance, beautiful streetscapes, a couple of decent museums and plenty of visitor facilities. One of the region’s scenic highlights is the drive along the R310 through the Helshoogte Pass between Stellenbosch and Paarl, the workaday farming town of the region. Smallest of the Winelands towns, with a rural yet sophisticated feel, Franschhoek has the most magnificent setting at the head of a narrow valley, and has established itself as the culinary capital of the country. The major draw of the sprawling town of Somerset West is Vergelegen, by far the most stunning of all the Winelands estates.