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Insider Tips for Going Up Table Mountain

A holiday to Cape Town wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the top of our beloved and iconic Table Mountain. It is now one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, not just because of its remarkable shape or its breath-taking views but also because of the diverse fauna and flora to be found on its slopes. Here are our tips for the easiest, most fuss-free way up our mountain:

Insider Tips for Going Up Table Mountain Red Bus

#1 The City Sightseeing Red Bus drops you at the cable-car station on Tafelberg Road. Parking areas can be congested so leave your rental car behind and use a convenient Red Bus or your hotel’s shuttle service instead. The bus works on a ‘hop on/hop off’ basis so you can take your time exploring the mountain. Just ensure you check its schedule so you know what time you need to hop back on – you don’t want to be left behind! 

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The city & sea view before The View...
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... at the bustling cable station.

#2 The views are awe-inspiring even before you get up the mountain – the Cape Town city centre lies before you like a mini-metropolis with Lion’s Head and Signal Hill to your left and brooding Devil’s Peak to your right. Head over to the ticket office to purchase your tickets. In summer, the queue can sometimes stretch right down Tafelberg Road so to save time and money (and avoid being in the strong sun), pre-buy tickets online. Table Mountain National Park’s website is also useful for checking if the cable car is open, what the weather at the top in like and when the first and last trips of the day are. The cable station closes in high winds, thick cloud and mist or heavy rain and be sure to take both sunscreen and a jacket as Cape Town is notorious for its changeable weather.

Insider Tips for Going Up Table Mountain - car

#3 The cable cars have open sides and take up to 65 passengers at a time – in December 2013, the previous record was broken when 120 318 visitors took the cable car in a month; that’s nearly 4 000 a day! The revolving floor ensures everyone gets a great view of the city, the mountain and the glittering Atlantic Ocean before you. 

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Smooth & steady...
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... perfect for happy snaps of the views!
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Standing at the open windows isn't for the fainthearted...
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...but it does make for superb photographs!

#4 Take your camera as the photo opportunities are endless. Try photographing the cables as you ascend with the city spread out below – their angle will give you a good idea of how steeply the cable car rises several hundred metres in just a few minutes.

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A bronze 3D relief map allows you to get your bearings.
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Take your definitive holiday snap here...

#5 Once you reach the top, use the bronze 3D model of Table Mountain National Park to get your bearings. There are beautiful panoramas all around: on a clear day, you may be able to see all the way to Kommetjie, Noordhoek and Slangkop.

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The Shop at the Top is in a historic building.
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Tuck in under Africa's sunny skies.

#6 The Shop at the Top is located in a stone national heritage building and is a great spot to pick up a memento of your trip. Just next to it is the Table Mountain Café, where you can buy a quick drink and a snack, or sit down for a meal while enjoying the clear mountain air. The staff at the café are all smiles and pride themselves on friendly service, while all buildings are in the process of becoming as eco-friendly and water-savvy as possible. Always discard cigarettes in designated ashtrays: fire is a very real danger and cannot be easily fought or people evacuated should there be a blaze.

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Look out for beautiful scarlet crassulas...
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... while watsonias belong to the iris family.

#7 Many stone paths zigzag the top of Table Mountain among the fynbos, a type of heather whose Afrikaans name literally means ‘fine bush’. This scrubby vegetation is endemic to the region and is part of the world-renowned Cape floral kingdom. Look out too for playful dassies – or rock hyraxes – which hop along, sunning themselves on the slopes.

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#8 The sun sets over Camps Bay while visitors savour sundowners Cape Town is rightfully famous for its beautiful coral-pink sunsets. During summer, you can buy half-price tickets from 6pm and bank on a sunset from around 8pm as you join others in toasting another day in the Mother City.

Written by Sophie Smith.

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