Less than an hour north of Cape Town in the Winelands, Paarl is a beautiful old town dominated by a huge granite pluton that, after rain, gleams like a pearl, and from which the town gets its name. (The Dutch word for pearl is paarl.) Paarl has one of the longest main roads in the country – at about 11km – and it’s lined with some lovely old buildings.
For a bit of a historical flashback you could visit the Afrikaans Language Museum or even drive up to the Afrikaans Language Monument – a monstrous hilltop structure that’s visible for miles. It’s an interesting place to visit and, whatever you think of the motivation of its construction, there’s a lovely view from up there.
But you’d be more likely to visit Paarl for wine. There are numerous lovely wineries, some of which also make home made cheeses and liqueur brandy. Olive farms produce olive oil and various varieties of bottled olives and Paarl is filled with lovely restaurants.
For the more active, there is an excellent paragliding launch site off Paarl Rock, which also offers excellent granite climbing and some fun rambles. You could ride up the back of Paarl Mountain, do a wine tasting horse trail, or even trundle through the vineyards in a horse-drawn cart. In summer there are early morning hot air balloon flights.
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