The third oldest settlement in South Africa, Paarl is steeped in history, culture, natural splendour and a centuries-old tradition of winemaking. Paarl, Western Cape is just over an hour’ drive from the Cape Town city centre.
In 1657, Abraham Gabemma set out from the Cape in search of resources. On his journey he came across a giant granite rock gleaming in the distance. He called this Pearl Mountain, and the town that grew at its base eventually became known as Paarl.
This rock is significant as it is the second largest granite outcrop in the world. Called Paarl Rock, it features the Taal Monument, which was designed by architect Jan van Wijk in 1975 and is a celebration of the Afrikaans language. Be sure to pop inside, as the monument boasts an unexpectedly beautiful interior. Free guided tours are available daily.
Discovering the Paarl wine region is what most visitors do here, and for good reason. The Paarl Wine Route, which is the second oldest in the country, is known for its full-bodied spicy reds and crisp whites. Be sure to check out Under Oaks, Nederburg Wines, KWV Wine Emporium, Black Pearl Wines, Boland Kelder, Ridgeback Wine Farm, Rhebokskloof Wine Estate and Fairview.
There are plenty of tempting outdoor activities in Paarl, especially for mountain bike enthusiasts. There are numerous routes, of varying degrees of difficulty, in and around the Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve. There are also routes that take you around some of the picturesque wine farms. Bikes and route suggestions are available from Dirtopia.
Ashia is another essential stop in the Paarl area. It is a sanctuary and retirement home for cheetahs, where you can meet ambassador cats, or watch the world’s fastest land mammal go for its morning run.
A more relaxed nature experience is found at the Arboretum along the Berg River, where 650 different species of trees make for some spectacular scenery. Golf lovers should explore the greens at Boschenmeer Golf Estate, which boasts the first 27-hole championship course in the Cape region.
The Spice Route is reason enough to head to Paarl for the day. With two restaurants, a homemade ice cream shop, a tasting room, a distillery, a chocolatier, an art and glass-blowing studio, and a shop filled with hand-crafted treasures, it’s a village all on its own.
The Spice route also happens to be home to the Cape Brewing Company (CBC). Indulge in the CBC brews at the Barley & Biltong beer garden, while tucking into a selection of beef, kudu, eland and springbok biltong (our version of beef jerky – and a must try!).
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