Capetown Activities Sightseeing Festivals

THINGS TO DO IN CAPE TOWN

Cape Town is home to a lively, diverse culture brimming with adventure. You can enjoy restaurants offering a multitude of cuisines as well as theatre, music and much, much more. Cape Town has something for everyone, so let go and lose yourself its rich cultural experience.

With stunning beaches on the Atlantic and Indian coasts to choose from and seemingly endless sun, sand and surf you can metaphorically, though hopefully not literally, melt away into Cape Towns charm.

There is breathtaking scenery everywhere around Cape Town. Whether you want to climb, kite, surf, bike or just sit back and relax with a cocktail in hand, you will enjoy an awe inspiring experience in its naturally beautiful and culturally important surroundings.

Table Mountain

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Table Mountain is probably the first thing most people think of when they think of Cape Town. It dominates the skyline of the city and is often attended by its own private cloud (the Tablecloth). It also has its own national park, Table Mountain National Park.

When you visit you can choose to hike to the top of Table Mountain, or take the cable car if you don’t fancy the trek up and just want to enjoy the absolutely stunning views from the top. There is no access by car.

The level plateau at the top of the mountain is the highest point in the Cape Floristic Region, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The plateau is approximately two miles from side to side with dramatic cliffs on all points and amazing view across the Cape Peninsula. It’s also home to plenty of rare and beautiful wildlife including South Africa’s national flower, the protea, and some entertainingly cheeky little lizards.

Table mountain is flanked by other mountains; to the west is Lion’s Head and to the east is Devil’s Peak. Together, these peaks create the stunning, world famous backdrop to Cape Town.

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens

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Kirstenbosch was founded in 1913 to preserve the country’s indigenous plants. It is the most famous of the nine National Botanical Gardens created to protect and preserve South Africa’s unique combinations of flora (biomes).

Nestled at the eastern base of Table Mountain, the garden it was the first botanical garden in the world with this ethos. You can see beautiful gardens exhibiting plants from many different regions, including karoo, fynbos, and savanna, with the prime focus being on plants native to the Cape region.

There are several trails leading from Kirstenbosch up into the mountain which are very popular with mountaineers and hikers, you can truly get lost in the serenity of this splendid place. (That is lost in serenity hopefully not lost in the mountains). Skeleton Gorge is one of the routes hikers use to summit Table Mountain, and was the route we choose for our kite surfing adventure on top of Table Mountain.

Two Oceans Aqurium

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Located at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town, the Two Oceans Aquarium was opened in 1995 and encompasses seven galleries with large viewing windows.

What makes this particular aquarium unique is its geographical location, being in close proximity to the point where the Indian and Atlantic oceans merge. Famous local fauna include Great White sharks (known to the locals as Johnnies), Orcas (killer whales), Southern Wright Whales, the Cape Fur Seal and Cape Penguin.

There is a lot to see as the Aquarium showcases an AfriSam Activity Centre, Cape Fur Seal Exhibit, Atlantic Ocean Gallery, Predator Exhibit, Indian Ocean Gallery, I&J Ocean Exhibit, Sappi River Meander Exhibit and Kelp Forest Exhibit.

LOCAL ATTRACTIONS

Fugard Theatre

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Named after one of South Africa’s greatest playwrights, Athol Fugard, the Fugard Theatre is a superb 280-seat theatre located in the heart of the once infamous but now famous District Six. Both the building itself and the surrounding are rich in history and stories, making the theatre worth a visit even if you don’t have time to see a show.

If you do have time, the Fugard is Cape Town’s premier theatre offering world class shows and casts covering diverse genres, including the plays of Fugard himself. Here’s a list of what’s on at the Fugard Theatre.

If you’re thinking of visiting, seating can be reserved via Computicket or by calling the theatre’s box office on +27 21 461 4554

Marine 5 Big - Day Boat Trip

Capetown Activities Sightseeing Festivals

An adventure like no other, spend a whole day on the water viewing whales, whale sharks, great white sharks, penguins, cape fur seals and more. You will leave from Gansbaai and head out towards Geyser Rock and Dyer Island. Have your camera at hand as at any moment southern Wright or humpback whales can make an extraordinary breach for that picture perfect moment.

While you enjoy the ride on a custom double decker boat an experienced biologist will offer insights into the behaviour and life cycles of the local wildlife. You’ll come back wiser and wowed, having learned a lot from the guide and seen the local sea life up close.

If you time your trip right you will be able to drink in the spectacle of the annual sardine run, the greatest oceanic feeding frenzy on the planet. Seabirds, sharks, whales and all kinds of fish depend on this marine banquet to thrive and all the big names turn up to claim their share. It’s quite a sight.

Click Here for more information.

Scuba Diving

Scuba diving around Tarifa is fascinating, with the abundance of marine life and over 1,500 shipwrecks to see. Some of these were treasure ships, others war galleons, but all are now home to a diverse range of species. Gray Robinson, our Team Leader, is a PADI instructor so whatever you want to see, he can find someone who will help you find it.

Contact Graykite Tarifa for details of the best local deals

Mountain Biking

With mountains, forests, sand dunes and flat coastal roads Tarifa offers a unique experience for mountain bikers. You can hire bikes and disappear off into the countryside or take a guided tour along some of the best local trails. Whatever takes your fancy!

Contact Graykite Tarifa for details of the best local deals

Bird Watching

The Straits of Gibraltar are the most important migratory landmark for European birds and Tarifa is the best place to watch their passage. Nearly 400 species of birds including Lammergeiers, Peregrine Falcons, Eagles, Storks and Black Kites pass every Spring and Autumn from their natal grounds in Europe to their winter grounds south of the Sahara. Birding the Straits understands the workings and timings of this wonder of nature.

Contact Birding the Straits for more information.

HISTORIC TARIFA

Tarifa is a small town with a big history. The castle of Guzman el Bueno dominates the harbour front, and the historic church of San Mateo sits at the heart of the maze-like Old Town.

Iglesia de San Mateo - St. Matthew's

Iglesia de San Mateo is a late 16th Century Gothic church with a neoclassical façade. You’ll find it in the Old Town, close to the castle, market and ferry port, and in the middle of the bustle of life in the maze of cobbled streets.

Perhaps the most unusual thing about the history of the church in Tarifa is the Gate of Pardons, a special door through which anyone who lived a year and a day in Tarifa was allowed to pass, absolving them of sin and earning them a mass of thanksgiving. That’s how dangerous Tarifa was when Spain’s Catholic kings were trying to drive the Moors back to Africa.

These days you don’t need to be quite such a hero to visit and enjoy both the church and the thriving town it serves.

Address: Calle Sancho IV el Bravo, 8, 11380 Tarifa, Cádiz, Spain
Phone: +34 956 68 44 03
Map
Website

Isla de Las Palomas

The Isla de Las Palomas (Island of Doves) is perhaps the defining feature of Tarifa. It’s a small promontory which precisely marks the division between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Also known as the Punta Marroqui, the island is the extreme southernmost point of mainland Europe, further south than Tunis and Algiers in Africa. At the tip of the island is tall lighthouse.

Walking down the causeway to the island is a unique feeling, with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Mediterranean Sea on the other. The first time we went there the Atlantic was breaking huge waves over the causeway and throwing surf high into the air, while 5 metres away the Med was as still as a millpond. You absolutely literally can’t see that anywhere else in the world. So go and see it!

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Castle Guzmán el Bueno

Guzman el Bueno (Guzman the Good) is the great hero of Tarifa’s history. In a time of complicated politics, he held the town for the King against both the Moors and the King’s internal enemies. When his son was held hostage and Guzman was offered his son’s return for control of Tarifa, he is reported to have replied:

“I did not beget a son to be made use of against my country, but that he should serve her against her foes. Should Don Juan put him to death, he will but confer honour on me, true life on my son, and on himself eternal shame in this world and everlasting wrath after death.”

Guzman kept control of Tarifa, but as far as we know his son was put to death. He later played a significant role in capturing Gibraltar from the Moors and is, unsurprisingly, a bit of a local hero. His castle is open to the public to visit for a few hours every day except Monday.

Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday 11am-2pm and 6-8pm. Sunday 11am-2pm. Monday closed.
Address: Calle Sancho IV el Bravo, 9002, 11380 Tarifa, Cádiz, Spain
Phone: +34 956684689
Map
Website

TARIFA FESTIVALS

Like many towns in Spain, Tarifa has its own unique festival traditions. Celebrate the evening of the Virgin of the Light, burn your wishes to make them come true on the summer solstice or visit the Festival of Colours. They’re all unique experiences that you’ll never forget.

La Feria de Tarifa

Every September, just when the weather begins to chill and the tourist traffic thins out a little, the people of Tarifa breathe new life into the town by celebrating their patron saint, La Virgen de la Luz (the Virgin of the Light).

For an entire week, Tarifeños host a carnival complete with rides and raffles, march in parades on horseback, and delight in sweet treats sold all across town.
The festival is held in honor of La Virgen de la Luz who was invoked by King Alfonso XI during the Battle of Salado in 1340 to protect the town against the invasion of the Moors.

In recognition of her assistance, during the first weeks of September Tarifeños transport the figure of the Virgin from her sanctuary 8 kilometers outside of the city to the Iglesia Mayor de San Mateo (Church of Saint Matthew), located in the heart of the city.

Procession and Carnival

A train of more than 400 Andalusian horses follows the procession, winding and clopping their way through the cobblestoned streets of Tarifa’s old town. Crowds of people line up to view the spectacle, ooh-ing and aah-ing at the horses and the Virgin as she passes by hoisted upon the shoulders of their fellow citizens. People of all kinds dress up for the occasion; sometimes little kids can barely play because of the fashionable constriction of their garments. Yet, the kids don’t seem to mind and actually take great care and pride in their attire.

Even later on at night, at the Carnival, people haven’t bothered to take off their suits and dresses. Little kids ride mechanical bulls in polka-dotted dresses and leather boots, diving for the floor and giggling as the platform jerks and twists underneath them. Teenagers pile themselves into bumper cars, or dance at the Caseta Municipal (main tent) where live bands play well into the night. People dance and drink in the streets too or inside other tents that feature traditional music sponsored by all types of community groups.

In the dark, the carnival is a jumble of neon lights, loud music, giggles and stuffed animal prizes. The summer may be winding down, but for Tarifeños, there’s never a bad time to celebrate.

If you’re nearby when it’s on, don’t miss it!

The Summer Solstice - The Night of San Juan

The summer solstice, also known in Spain as the night of San Juan, is one of the largest celebrations on Spanish calendars, and has been considered a magical night for as long as can be remembered. Every year, on the 23rd of July, bonfires and fireworks welcome in the beginning of summer.

Spirits, imps and magical traditions related to fire and water always accompany the shortest night of the year, a special date in which you can truly enjoy the charms of the province of Cadiz.

Traditionally, the night of San Juan in Tarifa is celebrated by lighting bonfires along almost all the beaches. The flames are reflected in the dark waters and light up the coastline. The fires become a meeting point for people to organise beach parties and barbeques where sardines and meat are grilled. Obviously music, with drums and percussion groups, dancing and smiles, also plays its part.

Burning of the Juanillos

After midnight, on Playa Chica beach, opposite the Isla de las Palomas (Island of the Doves), “juanillos” are burned. Juanillos are cloth dolls, typical of the province of Cadiz, whose burning ensures good luck in the coming months. Although everybody can make their own juanillo, if you’re not feeling particularly artistic you can simply write a wish on paper and throw it into the bonfire. They say that they come true, you know…

To attract good luck and keep the bad spirits away, kids (and big kids) often jump into the sea during the night of San Juan in Tarifa. The water might be a bit cold at this time of night, but who doesn’t enjoy an extra dose of fun and good luck!

And, when the bonfires on the beach are put out, the party continues in the bars and clubs of Tarifa. Almost all put on special events in order to celebrate this all-nighter, so don’t expect to get to bed before dawn…