Also known as 'Eikestad' (Town of Oaks), Stellenbosch stands out as the oldest town in South Africa after Cape Town, a 45 minute drive away. Founded in 1679 by governor Simon van der Stel, the Stellenbosch Wine Route may be South Africa's earliest and arguably the most acclaimed. Having been established in 1971, today it boasts 106 cellars in the magnificent Jonkershoek valley.
Today Stellenbosch is a lively place populated by students, academics, business people and their families. Do not overlook Dorp Street, a national monument with probably the longest rows of historically maintained architectural structures - which includes Georgian, Cape Dutch and Victoria architecture - in South Africa.
With scores of open-air cafes, restaurants, galleries, retailers, hotels and guest houses - most housed in these old structures - it is the perfect starting point for a winelands of the western cape experience. Then there's the wine route itself, with around 130 wineries and five 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 extremely popular and can be arranged at the tourism office. As an alternative, you're more than welcome to drive yourself to any of the wine estates although that would mean the driver missing out on sampling any of the wine.
You will find there's wide range of accommodation to be had in Stellenbosch with everything from camp sites, youth hostels, B&Bs right up to luxurious hotels. The requirements of each and every type of traveller are catered for in Stellenbosch which is great for the independent tourist to use as a starting point to explore the various visitors attractions of the Western Cape.
The recommended approach to orientate yourself in Stellenbosch would be to join one of the normal walking tours that head out from from the tourism office at 11am and 3pm each day. As an alternative, you'll be able to check out by yourself and footmaps are available. As Stellenbosch lies in a valley, there's also backpacking routes outside of the town which permit you to absorb some of the marvelous landscapes and nature of the Cape Winelands.