Table Mountain, the flat-topped 3,560-foot mountain that’s become South Africa’s most iconic attraction, is one of the world’s seven natural wonders. Not only is Table Mountain National Park a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s also the highest point on the Cape Peninsula. In other words, it offers the best near-panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean crashing into the shores of Cape Town. Regularly named as South Africa’s top destination, Table Mountain has operated a functional cable car to bring tourists up the mountain since 1929. Here’s what you need to know when planning your visit to the top of Table Mountain:
Taking the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway
If you’re planning to take the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway up, purchasing tickets online beforehand is a smart idea. You can buy tickets when you get to the base of the mountain, but it could mean waiting in an additional ticket line before queuing up for the cable car. However, you don’t want to buy tickets too far in advance, because weather conditions can unexpectedly shift, closing Table Mountain for the day. The first cable car up the mountain is at 8:00 a.m. Wake up an hour before to check the weather, and if the conditions look good (i.e., not too windy), purchase tickets online and head over.
Hiking Table Mountain
Table Mountain is hikeable, and of course, trekking up to the top is a must-check-off some travelers’ bucket lists. It’s not often that you have the opportunity to hike one of the seven natural wonders of the world. There isn’t necessarily an “easy” route up Table Mountain. The least strenuous trails are moderate, at the very least. And the weather tends to shift quickly, so prepare with lots of layers, food, and water.
For a moderate hike, take Pipe Track, Platteklip Gorge, or Skeleton Gorge. Pipe Track offers the easiest terrain because the trail winds around the mountain rather than charting a steep incline to the top. The trail, just over three miles, starts at Tafelberg Road and goes to Corridor Ravine. You’ll see beautiful views of Lion’s Head and the Atlantic Ocean below.
Platteklip Gorge is the most popular trail, heading directly up Table Mountain. Also starting by Tafelberg Road, this stairs-hike is challenging but relatively quick (typically 90 minutes to three hours to the top of the mountain). And instead of descending the stairs, you can take the cable car back down.
Skeleton Gorge is a classic Table Mountain hike because it starts in the Kirstenbosch Gardens. Don’t let the name discourage you. At less than two miles, it’s not a particularly long trail, though it is a steep path up the back of Table Mountain.
Where to Stay Near Table Mountain
Because Table Mountain is centrally located, your Cape Town accommodations options are expansive. Booking a luxury hotel will also answer the question of how to get to Table Mountain. The safest option is to take a cab from your hotel. Check in with your hotel concierge about Table Mountain conditions and reserving a car if needed.
12 Apostles Hotel & Spa is a luxury property in Camps’ Bay. Part of Red Carnation Hotels, 12 Apostles sits right on the Atlantic Ocean and is 13 minutes from Table Mountain. For an alternative, 12 Apostles also offers a guided hike of Lion’s Head at sunset. The experience concludes with cocktails as you watch the sun sink, illuminating the sky with oranges, pinks, and yellows.
15 on Orange Hotel, Autograph Collection has stunning views of Table Mountain from some of their hotel rooms and suites. Just a 10-minute drive away, their hotel concierge will monitor the weather and purchase your cable car tickets online for you.
The Royal Portfolio’s Silo Hotel is on the V&A Waterfront, above the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA). While staying at the Silo Hotel, you can browse the museum’s collection—the largest display of contemporary African art in the country—and enjoy the property’s rooftop pool while looking out over the Mother City.