Sometimes known as 'Eikestad' (Town of Oaks), Stellenbosch is the oldest town in South Africa after Cape Town, a forty five minute drive away.
Founded in 1679 by governor Simon van der Stel, the Stellenbosch Wine Route may be the country's oldest and arguably the most acclaimed. Having been set up in 1971, today it boasts 106 cellars in the wonderful Jonkershoek valley.
Modern Stellenbosch is a lively town inhabited by students, academics, business people and their familys. Do not miss Dorp Street, a national monument with among the longest rows of historically conserved buildings - which includes Georgian, Cape Dutch and Victoria architecture - in South Africa.
With many open-air cafes, restaurants, galleries, retailers, hotels and guest houses - several housed in these historical properties - it's the ideal base for a cape winelands adventure. And then there is the wine route itself, with about 130 wineries and 5 sub-routes, renowned for their wine production - especially Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinotage and Chenin Blanc. The five sub-routes are Bottelary Hills, Greater Simonsberg, Helderberg, Stellenbosch Berg and Stellenbosch Hills.
Half and full day wine excursions are very popular and may be arranged with the tourism office. As an alternative, you're more than welcome to drive yourself to any of the wine estates even though that would mean the driver missing out on sampling any of the wine.
There is a wide range of lodgings being offered in Stellenbosch with everything from camp sites, youth hostels, B&Bs right up to luxury hotels. The needs of just about every type of visitor are catered for in Stellenbosch which is excellent for the independent tourist to use as a base to check out the many interesting attractions of the Western Cape.
The most effective means to orientate yourself in Stellenbosch would be to join one of the regular walking tours that depart from the tourism office at 11am and 3pm each and every day. As an alternative, you can easily explore alone and footmaps can be obtained.
As Stellenbosch lies in a valley, there are also walking routes outside the town which help you to experience some of the fantastic scenery and nature of the Cape Winelands.
Written and contributed by ratherton