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Autumn in the Cape Winelands, South Africa

stellenbosch south africa

45 minutes inland from Cape Town, is a little corner of South Africa called Stellenbosch, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever clapped eyes on. Never heard of it? No worries, me neither.

After Cape Town, it’s the oldest settlement in South Africa, and not longer after people arrived, grapes were planted, making it one of the main wine growing regions in the country, meaning I was likely already going to like it.

Personally, when I think of South Africa, I had never thought of wine. Or even mountainous countryside. My images were more animal-oriented. Lions. Sharks. Gazelle. So my mind was reeling by the time we got out of the car in Stellenbosch for a day trip from Cape Town. To me it could be New Zealand or even La Rioja, Spain; the wine-growing region in the north where I used to live.

Stellenbosch South Africa

Stellenbosch South Africa

Stellenbosch South Africa

But the best part?

It was May when we visited and since I was still in the Southern Hemisphere, which you guessed it, meant beautiful red, yellow and gold vineyards for as far as you could see. Pinch me, I had died and gone to Cabernet heaven!

As you guys already probably know, I am mildly obsessed with autumn. It’s one of my favorite seasons, and I think it’s the absolute best time of year to visit wine countries around the world. I have the most amazing memories of autumn amongst the vines in northern Spain where I used to live, when the whole countryside changes color. The days get crisper and the skies are clearer – I love it!

I briefly mentioned Stellenbosch when I first introduced you guys to South Africa here, but now I thought I’d dig a little deeper and share what really tugged at my heart about this place.

Stellenbosch South Africa

Stellenbosch South Africa

Stellenbosch South Africa

I didn’t really get a touristy vibe when I was in South Africa. It is such a big and diverse country, and there is so much to do and see, I think it’s relatively easy to get off the beaten tourist track, if there is much of one at all.

Visa asked me to be a part of a project called #notatourist, and over the next few months I’ll be sharing some of my best travel secrets for exploring beyond the usual landmarks. All of my cards are Visa which is a bonus if you travel as much as I do! They have great benefits for travel and different card types to suit your needs. Also, if your card is ever lost or stolen, you can also get a replacement, wherever you are in the world.

When I think of places in South Africa to travel not like a tourist, the Cape Winelands immediately sprang to mind. South Africa is much more than safaris and up-and-coming cities, and it’s definitely much safer than we are led to believe. And there is nowhere that makes you truly feel at home than heading out and exploring Stellenbosch and its surrounds.

Stellenbosch South Africa

Stellenbosch South Africa

Stellenbosch South Africa

Our first stop was lunch out at one of the prettiest wineries I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying something because WINE.

Delaire Graff Estate is a must on any trip in South Africa and May is the perfect time of year to visit. It’s still warm enough to sit outside in a t-shirt and drink chardonnay on the patio and the colors of the vineyard are at their finest.

In between courses I snuck away from our table to explore the gardens and property. It’s not fair to ask me to sit still in such a beautiful spot. I roved between the vines, took about a million photos and had more than my fair share of wine, obviously. When in Rome, right? And when you aren’t driving, double right?

Stellenbosch South Africa

Stellenbosch South Africa

IMG_3188 copy

It was definitely a highlight for me on my trip in South Africa, and my only complaint is that we weren’t there for longer. I am already thinking of how I can come back and stay the night and maybe bring my parents because I know they would love it.

As they dragged me kicking and screaming from the estate (just kidding, I am classier than that) we headed over to explore the nearby town of Franschhoek in the late afternoon.

A small colonial French village bursting with adorable shops and cute cafes and delicious eateries, I realized this was the kind of place I would enjoy on a mellow vacation. Meandering through the shops I picked up trinkets like local candles and jewelry to take back with me. What can I say? I’ve become a nester. Who would have thought?

Stellenbosch South Africa

Stellenbosch South Africa

Stellenbosch South Africa

As the sun started to dip towards the horizon and the fall colors grew even more stunning, we made our way back to Cape Town, which to be honest, could be worse. While I was sad to say goodbye to a little region that tugged at my heart and felt undiscovered, Cape Town is pretty freaking awesome. It’s a great place to be based to explore the Cape Winelands.

We did make one last quick stop at the Drakenstein Correctional Centre, for a photo and a brief history review. While a prison might not seem like your average stop on a wine tour, it’s actually an important place. It’s where Nelson Mandela spent his last few years in prison for campaigning against apartheid.

The complex depth of history and culture in South Africa never ceased to amaze me. It’s a country that no matter how much you think you have it figured out, it will continue to surprise you. You just have to go with it and stick along for the ride.

Have you been to South Africa? Do you think of it as a wine destination? Is it on your travel list?

Stellenbosch South Africa

Stellenbosch South Africa

Stellenbosch South Africa

Many thanks to Visit South Africa and Visa for hosting me in South Africa – like always I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own, like you could expect less from me!

For more tips from Visa on exploring the world like #notatourist, visit Travel with Visa.

31 Responses to Autumn in the Cape Winelands, South Africa

  1. Sarah September 11, 2015 at 6:58 pm #

    Again, the photos are incredible! You captured autumn so beautifully! (I’m also an obsessive about autumn and it’s amazing colours).

    South Africa has always been on my bucket list, but I’ve never so much as tried to even research to change that. You’ve shown another great side to it.

    I’m also looking forward to this series you are doing 🙂

    • Liz September 12, 2015 at 5:09 pm #


  2. Hannah September 11, 2015 at 9:42 pm #

    Beautiful photos Liz! I visited Stellnbosch back in 2008 although I wasn;t much of a wine drinker then so it was a little wasted on me. Parents definitely enjoyed it though!

    • Liz September 12, 2015 at 5:10 pm #

      I know my parents would love it!

  3. Melanie September 12, 2015 at 2:03 am #

    I’ve never commented before, but had to say this looks so beautiful. South Africa, and specifically this winery, are definitely on my list now!

    • Liz September 12, 2015 at 5:10 pm #

      Thanks! It’s an amazing place to visit!

  4. Sher September 12, 2015 at 2:40 am #

    I literally just got back from South Africa and absolutely loved it. Stellenbosch is beautiful! I also went to Paarl, Franshoek and Boschendal – everything is just so pretty with the mountain backdrop and the endless vineyards.


    • Liz September 12, 2015 at 5:11 pm #

      I loved it too, I can’t wait to go back!

  5. Katie September 12, 2015 at 4:48 am #

    I also loved Stellenbosch and Franschhoek – such a beautiful part of South Africa. But you are right, it is hard to beat Cape Town too – one of my favourite cities in the world

    • Liz September 12, 2015 at 5:11 pm #

      Cape Town is awesome!

  6. Kelly September 12, 2015 at 7:12 am #

    I never in a million years would have guessed this was South Africa! Fall is my favorite season too–I’m going to be in Central America throughout this entire fall, which means no fall weather for me 🙁 I’m actually so sad about it!

    • Liz September 12, 2015 at 5:11 pm #

      I would be so sad so miss fall!

  7. Amanda September 12, 2015 at 8:45 am #

    It totally has a New Zealand-y vibe to it! Looks gorgeous – the fall colors are getting me excited for autumn here in the US!

    • Liz September 12, 2015 at 5:11 pm #

      Doesn’t it?

  8. Lindsey September 12, 2015 at 8:48 am #

    This looks beautiful! I was just in Cape Town in December but had no idea about this spot! I guess it’s just an excuse to go back!

    • Liz September 12, 2015 at 5:11 pm #

      Definitely go back!

  9. Victoria | Girl Tries Life September 13, 2015 at 12:00 am #

    Oh my gosh! I’ve visited this exact region a couple of times, as I was once lucky enough to be the MC for a friends wedding near here. Such gorgeous countryside and really lovely people. Good wine, too! I loved that most of the shops had that unique, boutique-y feel. This area was not big on chains. Sigh, must go back!

    • Liz September 13, 2015 at 9:29 am #

      I love it too!

  10. Taylor September 13, 2015 at 6:54 am #

    Hi Liz!

    When I lived in New Zealand, my host family was originally from South Africa.

    I was really surprised, too, that they have such great wines. And I love their Amarula. If you havent tried that, make it a point to find some!

    Thanks for another great post! Love your site.


    • Liz September 13, 2015 at 9:30 am #

      I will add it to the list!

  11. Ron September 13, 2015 at 7:21 am #

    Nice vineyards they seem to have a magnetic attraction for you. Is it the color of the leaf or grape that are you really interested in? haha. Wines are overrated in my opinion I guess serious wine connoisseurs can tell the difference between a $3.00 bottle of Traders Joes cabernet sauvignon and a $50.00 premium brand but I can’t. Watched a wine tasting test on TV a few weeks ago. Tasters were given wine bottles with cheap looking label to evaluate. Results: all tasters’ gave them low ratings. The test was repeated with the same wine but cheap labels were replaced with expensive looking labels. You guessed it all testers were pleased with the taste.

    The last three weeks were the most physically painful in my life – even prescription pain medication was useless. I considered a few liters of German Riesling but was disapproved by my drug interaction instructions.

    • Liz September 13, 2015 at 9:30 am #

      70% for the leaves haha

  12. Kerjan @ Backpack Babe September 13, 2015 at 1:41 pm #

    These photos are GORGEOUS, liz!! loving your photography skills 😉 Autumn really is the best time of the year! I’m going to be in Colorado soon for the fall foliage and this post is getting me so excited about it 🙂 xx

    • Liz September 14, 2015 at 9:33 am #


  13. Brock September 13, 2015 at 5:19 pm #

    I was in SA many moons ago, too young to go wine-tasting. I would love to go back an experience all that the country has to offer. Looks like it would be a blast!

    • Liz September 14, 2015 at 9:33 am #

      so much fun and so beautiful!

  14. Rebecca September 14, 2015 at 4:47 am #

    One of my favourite places in South Africa! How gorgeous is Stellenbosch – and how cool is Cape Town??!! And cheap – it was hard for us to limit ourselves to buying just a few bottles of wine to take home with us when the prices were so great.

    • Liz September 14, 2015 at 9:33 am #

      Definitely agree!

  15. Fashion Matters September 15, 2015 at 4:01 am #

    This is gorgeous!! I hope to have a change to visit SA one day 🙂

    • Liz September 17, 2015 at 8:26 pm #

      It’s amazing!

  16. Nicole@Treasure Tromp September 28, 2015 at 4:21 pm #

    ah, I love Franschhoek so much!

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