The best time to hit Cape Town is between November and April while the sun is shining and it’s nice and warm. If you visit in the winter there’s a big risk of rain so you might as well just be in England! As the second biggest city in South Africa it has established itself as a bit of a backpacking hub not only in South Africa but for the whole continent. It is head and shoulders above Johannesburg due to its more natural surroundings, better climate and generally safer conditions.
The city’s main draw is its natural features, Table Mountain being the stand out feature which wows backpackers time after time. It can also provide the more adventurous travellers with a challenge as a hike to the top is a possibility if you’re feeling energetic. If you’re feeling a bit lazy then you can always hop on the cableway and enjoy the amazing views without the physical strain! Once you’ve tired yourself out with that you can go and take your pick of the beaches to relax a bit and enjoy the lovely summer weather. Cape Town benefits, in a similar way to Rio de Janeiro, from a variety of beaches that are all easily accessible but all have different atmospheres depending on what you’re after. If you’re not scared of being overrun by other tourists then Clifton has a beautiful stretch as well as offering a variety of bars, restaurants and other entertainment. However, if you’re looking for a slightly more natural escape then head over to Boulders Beach where you might even get a glimpse of some African penguins. If you’re there slightly earlier (August – November) then you can also head out on whale watching trips and maybe catch a glimpse of some Humpbacks during breeding season.
It’s not all about the natural attractions either, the city is steeped in cultural history and if you go backpacking on the lookout for a taste of the local culture and to soak up some of the architectural heritage then there’s plenty of options. The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront is probably the most popular tourist attraction where visitors can watch ships coming and going through the Nelson Mandela gateway on the way to Robben Island as a break from their shopping trip. Or if it’s the different architectural features that have drawn you in then get over to Constantia and check out the old government buildings for an example of some Cape Dutch style which combines the architectural traditions of Netherlands, Germany and France.
As the World Cup approaches, the popularity of backpacking around South Africa is only going to explode and now is as good a time as any to go on a visit. Whilst worries about safety remain if you apply the same backpacking rules as you should at any destination then there shouldn’t be anything to worry about. One thing’s for sure, there’s certainly plenty to see and do.
Why not add some more of your own tips in the comments, i’m sure i’ve only touched the surface here.
Get more info on other places for backpacker travel in Africa
Or you could even invest in the hard copy: South Africa Lonely Planet Guides