South Africa's "Mother City," Cape Town is dominated by Table Mountain and surrounded by the wild Atlantic Ocean, giving it an unquestionably jaw-dropping backdrop. It was once described by Sir Francis Drake as "the fairest cape in all the circumference of the earth," and since the 16th century, seafarers have been drawn to its dramatic coastline and strategic location on the southwestern tip of the African continent. Cape Town leads South Africa in developing attractions to appeal to visitors, and it is now one of the world's top travel destinations.
Cape Town's highlights include the historical center, cutting-edge museums, the famous Constantia wine estates, and Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. There is also a variety of trendy restaurants and nightclubs, as well as some of the best shopping opportunities in Africa.
Beyond Cape Town, a stunning coast road winds its way around the Cape Peninsula as far south as Cape Point, where there are pristine beaches, quaint seaside villages, and marine wildlife such as penguins and seals. The Winelands is South Africa's oldest and most beautiful wine-producing area, and the scenic valleys are covered by the vineyards of historic estates that have been cultivating grapes for more than 300 years. The southern coast is dubbed the Whale Coast, and it claims to have the best land-based whale-watching in the world. In season, sightings are almost guaranteed from the clifftops in Hermanus.
Cape Town's appeal also lies in its fascinating mix of nationalities and identities—African, European, Asian— and its history is compelling, too, from the early hunter-gatherers to the arrival of the Europeans, the Boer War and the breakdown of apartheid. In fact, it's Cape Town's mix of culture and lifestyle that makes it one of the world's most vibrant and cosmopolitan cities.
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