Table Mountain

Experience this Nature Icon in South Africa in Numerous Ways

The famous Table Mountain is a remarkably flat-topped mountain, and it's only 1,085 metres high. But it is an absolute icon in the world. 

Its shape, with a remarkably flat top, and its location (right near the ocean and Cape Town) is very special. In 2012, it was named as one of the new natural wonders of the world. A visit is one of the absolute highlights of South Africa.

Table Mountain and its surroundings were declared a national park in 1998.  It has unique vegetation called fynbos, and unrivalled views of Cape Town and the surrounding bays. You can visit Table Mountain in various ways. You can hike up; it is a wonderful climb. But you can also go up by cable car.

I have done both excursions and think you should do both as well. Each has its unique experience and it is relatively easy to do. These are my tips for your visit to the iconic Table Mountain.

Watch My Video

See more travel videos? Subscribe to my YouTube channel

Table Mountain Aerial Cableway

The fastest way to see a lot is to take the cable car. You are on top in five minutes. What is special is that the cabin rotates slowly, so that you can look around 360 degrees. The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway was opened on October 4, 1929, the current one was opened in 1997.

The Cable Car up Table Mountain.

The cable car up is convenient, fast and you won't get tired of it. You also have a wonderful view over the mountain, the bay and Cape Town. So make sure you sit or stand by the window. There may be low-hanging clouds, so that you suddenly rise above the clouds. And then see the peak of the mountain. Which is magical.

Climbing Table Mountain

You can experience this mountain in a very active way: by climbing to the top of the mountain. It takes about 2,5 hours, though there are longer routes. There are many tracks to choose from, but the most popular are Skeleton Gorge and Nursery Ravine. Both start at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.

Hiking to the top of Table Mountain.

Other starting points are Constantia Nek, Cecilia Park, Kirstenbosch, Newlands Forest and Rhodes Memorial. You can hike up on your own, they are quite well signposted and you can get a map at the tourist information centre. Or you can hike with a guide, who will tell you all about the vegetation and landscape.

I would go up on foot. So that you really experience the mountain. And see the plants and probably also encounter some animals. Once you get to the top you rest a bit. And enjoy the view. After which you go back to your feet by cable car. So that you can also enjoy that view.

Wildlife and Plants on Table Mountain

A rock hyrax at the top of Table Mountain. ©Corno van den Berg

If you pay close attention on the mountain you might see a rock hyrax, who live on top of the mountain. They are used to humans and easy to photograph. The best times are early in the morning or at sunset. You can check online if the cable cart is open, as it doesn’t operate if it’s too windy.

The landscape around Cape Town, which includes Table Mountain, has a unique vegetation. It’s called fynbos, and it’s a small, sturdy bush. It’s a plant with a large amount of species, which you can only find around the Eastern and Western Cape region of South Africa.

When you walk around here you can see more than 9.000 kinds of flowers, including many kinds of proteases, gladioli, but also numerous types of aloes. And of course the famous rooibos, that most of us know as a kind of tea. There are many kinds of plants here, but the best times to see flowers are in their late winter and springtime, which is from August to November in the Southern Hemisphere.

Some of the rare flowers on Table Mountain.

Blouberg: Best Photo of Table Mountain

You often see beautiful pictures of Table Mountain from a distance. Like the opening photo. These are made at Blouberg, or rather Blouberg Beach This village is located on the beach and offers a wonderful view of Cape Town with Table Mountain behind it. Just go and have a look, you will be amazed how beautiful it is.

Paragliding (or Parasailing) Off Table Mountain

Table Mountain, Cape Town and the ocean scream to be seen together from above. And a perfect way to do so is to go paragliding. There are plenty of starting points to choose from, but top pick is from Table Mountain itself, of course. But you can also start at Signal Hill and Sir Lowry’s Pass (just past Somerset West). The best time for photos is early in the morning or in the late afternoon. Ask what kind of camera you should take when you book your experience.

Abseiling Off Table Mountain

Once you’re on top of the mountain, there are several options to get back down. You can walk back, or take the cable cart. But the most exciting way is to abseil down the steep rocks. An instructor will ensure you are secured by ropes, so you’re entirely safe. Remember to take a good look around, because the views are breath-taking. Make sure you take a small (video) camera.

Best Time

Cape Town and the surrounding area can be visited all year round. Please note that the seasons are reversed. So winter in Europe or North-America is summer in South Africa. Which means that spring (with many blooming flowers) falls into our autumn.

Often it is cooler in Cape Town than people think, even though Cape Town has a Mediterranean climate. The temperatures are very variable. In January it will reach a maximum of 26 degrees, in June it can only be as low as five degrees. Now and then there is snow. In winter the wind often blows harder and the cable car to Table Mountain is closed more often.

My Tips

Show all Bucket List Tips on South Africa

Read My Tips

all 20 articles on South Africa

Show all articles