You simply can't miss Table Mountain: its famous flat-topped silhouette is the first thing you’ll see when flying into Cape Town and since this iconic landmark sits at the heart of the city, it's easy to access as well.
Most visitors take the leisurely approach and catch the cable car straight to the top of this Natural Wonder of the World, but consider hiring a mountain guide and setting out to climb Table Mountain on foot. With a huge network of hiking trails, unique fynbos vegetation, secret forests, dams, waterfalls, isolated valleys and phenomenal views to discover, a day spent climbing Table Mountain is sure to be a highlight of your Cape Town holiday.
The most direct hiking trail up Table Mountain is Platteklip Gorge. This well maintained and popular route up the city-side of the mountain could easily be compared to a giant stair-master; it’s a strenuous and often sun-baked climb straight to the top, so allow frequent stops to catch your breath and admire the views of the city and glittering Atlantic Ocean.
Other popular hiking routes start in Kirstenbosch Gardens: Skeleton Gorge will have you climbing up ladders and through shady indigenous forest, while the slightly less strenuous (but longer) Nursery Ravine is often used as the downward route back to Kirstenbosch Gardens.
And that’s just the start: Table Mountain really is a hiker’s paradise with dozens of other amazing ways up and plenty of nooks, crannies, peaks and valleys to explore. We'd strongly recommend using a professional guide - not only will they take the guesswork out of a Table Mountain climb, but you'll also learn all about the environment you're in.
An effortless four to five minutes is all it takes for the cable car to carry passengers from the lower to the upper cable station. During the journey the floor slowly rotates (always a hit with kids!) giving everyone a 360-degree view of Camps Bay, Lion’s Head, Signal Hill, the city bowl, and, just as it’s about to reach the top, heart-stopping close-ups of Table Mountain’s sheer cliffs.
Once on the relatively flat ‘tabletop’ there are well maintained footpaths to explore, plenty of viewing platforms, a restaurant and bar, and a scattering of conveniently flat rocks that are perfect for picnics. If you have the time (and a pair of decent walking shoes), hike to Maclear's Beacon - at 1 086m it’s the highest point on the mountain and is a comfortable 45-minute walk (one way) from the upper cable station.
Cable Car Costs & Times: Check out the Aerial Cableway website for the latest ticket prices plus all the times for the first car up and the last car down as operating hours vary throughout the year. We’d also highly recommend you book your ticket online to avoid the queues, which can get really long during peak summer months.
Mountain Guide: Go2Africa recommends The Fynbos Guy who has 20 years in professional guiding and teaching and is well equipped to deliver a safe, informative and entertaining hike on Table Mountain and beyond.
Weather: Cape Town’s weather is notoriously unpredictable and when the summer south-east wind blows, a white tablecloth of cloud billows over the ‘table’ obscuring the view and, if the wind is strong enough, causing the cable car to close. So make the most of your first clear and relatively windless day and take that trip to the top - and even if it looks clear, take a warm jacket as it can be chilly when you’re up there.
Travel to the top of Table Mountain as part of our 5-day Luxury Cape Town City Experience, or stay at one of our favourite Cape Town city guest houses - all of which has fantastic mountain views:
Four Rosmead Boutique Guest House: sophisticated urban living is on offer at this owner-run guest house, set close to restaurants & shops in a quiet corner of Cape Town.
Abbey Manor Luxury Guest House: within walking distance of Cape Town's city centre, this grand guest house radiates a homely charm and staff will help you plan your days.
2Inn1 Kensington: clean-lined elegance & superb, personal service is what to expect at this guest house, positioned in peaceful gardens on the lower slopes of Table Mountain.
View more Cape Town central accommodation.
Written by Sandra Mallinson. Connect with her on Google+.
At a Glance
This famous flat-topped mountain was recently named one of the World's 7 Wonders of Nature. Capetonians, however, have long recognised the beauty and mystery of this city-framing mountain, whether from the cable car or from a secret hiking trail overlooking the ocean.