Sure, if you live in South Africa, chances are you’ve either been to Stellenbosch, or you’ll eventually get to Stellenbosch. It’s kind of a no-brainer, really. But maybe you’re sitting all the way in the UK, or the USA, or Germany, and the idea of flying thousands of kilometres to a small wine-farming town in the Western Cape Province of South Africa seems a bit excessive. But I think you’ll find that these 10 reasons to visit Stellenbosch are pretty compelling.
Inspired by this post, by my friend Rob at Stop Having A Boring Life, I wanted to share ten reasons why I think Stellenbosch is well worth adding to your travel bucket list. Because wherever you live in the world, Stellenbosch is going to blow you away.
1.Stellenbosch is more than a wine farming town
Even if you don’t even particularly like wine (what is wrong with you?), you’re bound to fall for Stellenbosch. It’s got Cape Dutch architecture, views that will literally take your breath away, some of the top restaurants in the country, accommodation options that range from guest houses to luxury boutique hotels and activities that range from golf to mountain biking. Not to mention the quaint, small town vibe mixed with a university town’s energy. All this, and it’s only 40 minutes from the city of Cape Town and 30 minutes from the famous Surfer’s Corner at Muizenberg beach.
2.Stellenbosch is a great place to learn about wine
Maybe it’s because the town is always full of students, or maybe it’s because the wine farms really care about getting more people to understand wine. All I know is, Stellenbosch is the perfect place for wine novices and noobs to taste, ask questions, learn about the process and find the inner love of wine that’s been there all along.
Tasting rooms are welcoming and friendly and you’ll often find the wine maker hanging around, ready for you to taste their wines. If you’ve never known the difference between a Sauvignong Blanc and a Cabernet Sauvignon, here’s your chance to ask the experts, without fear of being judged.
I know that wine can be intimidating or even boring if you don’t know much about it, but I can promise you that once you start learning about the artistry of making wine and the complexity of tasting wine, you won’t look back. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that wine drinking is the most fulfilling hobby I’ve ever had.
3. Stellenbosch has some views you don’t want to miss
There are a lot of beautiful places on earth, and I personally want to see them all. The difference is that in Stellenbosch, you can take in the views over a glass of some of the best wine and most delicious food in the world.
Why have lunch inside four walls when you could have lunch overlooking vineyards and mountains? The best part is that you can never get sick of the views here, because their always changing with the seasons. Clear skies and lush green vines, heavy with fruit in summer, or moody grey skies and vibrant yellow leaves in winter? I’ll take both.
4. Stellenbosch is really close to so much beauty
Maybe you think that two weeks in a wine region might be a bit much for you, and you’d like to see some of the rest of the Cape. How about a surf at Muizenberg beach, famous for it’s long, easy waves, perfect for beginners? Maybe you’d prefer some shopping and a night out in Cape Town? Or a drive out to spot the whales in Hermanus? They are all close enough for you to day-trip to.
5. Stellenbosch has LOTS to do
So you’ve done a couple of wine tastings and now you’re ready for some action. You might be asking yourself “what else is there to do around here?”
I’ve been cycling, hiking and mushroom foraging in Stellenbosch. I’ve tried salt and wine pairings, cupcake and wine pairings and chocolate and wine pairings. I’ve ridden a mountain bike, a Segway and a safari vehicle through the vineyards. I’ve had lunch overlooking mountains and wine farms, under ground, in a cellar and on the floor of someone’s home in the township of Kayamandi. I’ve had cooking lessons, pottery lessons and wine blending lessons. I’ve been on art tours, ghost tours and historical walking tours. Trust me, there is LOTS to do in Stellenbosch.
6. Stellenbosch will not make a dent in your budget
If you’re travelling with Euros, US Dollars or Pounds (or pretty much any other foreign currency for that matter), you are going to be laughing your way through the winelands. Stellenbosch has always had some really competitive pricing going on, but with the Rand:Dollar/Pound/Euro exchange rate right now, they’re basically paying you.
What would it cost you to eat at one of the top ten restaurants in your country? And if you wanted to add a bottle of award-winning wine to that? In Stellenbosch, you’re likely to be spending around $66 dollars per person to eat a five course meal, paired with wine, overlooking something eye-wateringly beautiful, in one of South Africa’s top ten restaurants. I know, you want to book your ticket right now.
7. Stellenbosh has accommodation for every type of traveller
Whether you prefer understated luxury, self-catering accommodation or extreme opulence, you’ll find a place to rest your weary head (and full belly). I’ve stayed in many of Stellenbosch’s three, four and five star properties and I’ve enjoyed every one for different reasons. If I had to choose, I’d say Bonne Esperance apartments for self-catering, Oude Werf for central location and laid-back luxury, Majeka House for 5 star and Delaire Graff for something really special. I haven’t personally stayed at Delaire, but I mean, I definitely would if I had $$$.
8. Stellenbosch will blow the tiny minds of each of your individual tastebuds
I cannot stress enough how much good food there is in Stellenbosch. From the very first bite of the very first bread basket, to the very last spoonful of the very last dessert, everything I’ve ever eaten in Stellenbosch has been amazing. Granted, I’ve eaten at some very good places.
Stellenbosch has artisanal cheese and charcuterie platters, farm-to-table harvest meals, 8 course degustation menus and everything in between on the menu. With so many of the world’s great wines coming from the region, it stands to reason that there would be so many great dishes to choose from.
9. Stellenbosch is a natural beauty
The Stellenbosch mountains are an ever-changing backdrop that you somehow just can’t look away from. In the morning they’re one colour, and when you look again there’s something new to see.
The Stellenbosch Botanical Gardens, located within the heart of the town, are lush and tranquil and a central respite from any hustle and bustle. This is a great place to learn about indigenous plants or just walk off some of the calories you’ll no doubt be consuming.
The unending beauty of the vineyards will make you haul your camera from your bag hundreds of times a day. There are cycle routes that take you through the heart of the farms, and hiking routes that take you to the top of the mountains. It’s all just very pretty.
10. Stellenbosch Wine
Need I say more? Ok, just a few words then. Stellenbosch is world famous for superior quality wines. The fertile soil, high summer temperatures and hundreds of years of winemaking experience come together in this region to produce wines that consistently rank amongst the top in the world.
The best part is that a multi-award winning wine will only cost you a few dollars.
*My recent visit to Stellenbosch was part of the #Stellenblog campaign. As always, my views and blog remain completely honest and based on my experience.