It was a sunny day when we headed to Table Top Mountain, possibly the most famous sight in Cape Town, South Africa. Yet as so often is the case, the view from Table Mountain was covered in thick clouds.
No problem: even in the fog we had a great time at the top of this Cape Town mountain.
- Visiting Table Top Mountain
- Information on table mountain hiking trails and climbing table mountain
- Practical information for visiting table mountain
- Facts About Table Mountain
- Where to stay in Cape Town?
- Pin for later
Visiting Table Top Mountain
There are different ways to get to Table Mountain, which I'll list in the practical information at the bottom of this post. We took an Uber there from Simon's Town after we'd gone whale watching. It dropped us off at the bottom of the Table Top Mountain cable car, where you also find the ticket office, a shop, and restrooms.
We'd gotten complimentary tickets from the Cape Town tourism board and so we headed straight for the line to get into the elevator. The elevator takes you up to the platform from where the table mountain aerial cableway takes off, but you can also simply take the stairs up.
We were feeling a bit lazy and didn't realize it wasn't that far up :-)
Once we got inside the table mountain gondola, we got lucky to get a spot by the window. The “driver” got in last and before we took off, told us to step away from the sides and let go of the handlebars by the windows.
Why would that be?
We soon found out. The cable car started turning! In fact, the cable car has a round shape, and going up Table Mountain, it turns 360°. That way, everybody gets a good view of Cape Town from above.
That is, until you go through the famous Table Mountain cloth. It can be clouded on top of Table Mountain even on the sunniest day and even when it's not, the weather circumstances can change so fast that it's hard to plan your visit.
We were bummed a bit that it was clouded when we got up there, but we visited when it best fitted our program and didn't want to risk putting it off until the end of our stay without a guarantee of clear skies.
Anyway, we still had the Table Mountain trails to walk.
Walking around on top of Table Mountain
Yes, there are trails leading up and down, but even if you visit Table Mountain with the cable car, there are several options for a bit of walking around at the top.
In fact, there are three loop routes that all follow the same path, but of which the two shorter ones simply cut through the middle of the loop a bit sooner. The Klipspringer one is the longest one, followed by the Agama Walk and the Dassie walk.
We took the longest route and made a little detour getting on one of the trails that head down the mountain as well. It took us a little over an hour over mostly flat terrain, making plenty of stops to admire the Table Mountain flora and fauna along the way
Vegetation up on table mountain consists mostly out of different kinds of fynbos, with their being over 2,000 kinds of plants and flowers on the mountain.
Some animals found on Table Mountain are porcupines, lizards, snakes, and tortoises. The only animal we saw (aside from a few birds), though, was the dassie, or the rock hyrax.
In fact, we saw quite a few of these guinea-pig-like animals on our walk and because of their similarity to several rodents, I was surprised to learn later that they actually have more in common with elephants than with, for example, the guinea-pigs they look a little alike!
It was clear that the dassies at Table Mountain were used to seeing humans as they weren't shy at all. Some even came up to us, a bit hesitant but clearly hoping for a snack.
Note: you're not allowed to feed the animals at Table Mountain.
During our Table Mountain hike, we came across several information plates telling us all about the place and its geology. That was enough for us, but if you want to know more or have specific questions, you can always join one of the free Table Mountain guided walks that take place daily between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. The tours take 30 minutes and go into the history of Table Mountain and its cableway.
Information on table mountain hiking trails and climbing table mountain
The “official” route up
We'd contemplated hiking up Table Mountain but given all the other things we wanted to do as well while we were in Cape Town, we opted to take the Table Mountain cableway instead. Because of this, I can't comment personally on how to hike up Table Mountain, but I did do some research for you in case you want to do it the hard way ;-)
Hiking up Table Mountain takes between one and four hours depending on your physical condition and assuming you're taking the shortest route, which is the Platteklip Gorge route. Yes, that's a wide range and apparently, that's mostly due to the fact that the hike is rather steep.
While the entire walk from the bottom at the parking lot to the top is only 3 km, it's categorized at moderate to tough but easy to navigate. As you'll be walking on sometimes narrow paths along the slopes of the mountain, the height might add another level of difficulty if you have vertigo like I do.
Other routes up Table Mountain
Aside from the route above, there are plenty of other hiking trails up Table Mountain. If you include climbing routes, there are actually more than 900 trails that can be tied together into different kinds of routes leading up to the summit.
That's way too many to mention here, so I'm going to pick one and that's the route starting from the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens. The Smuts Track is a good option in summer as it lies mostly in the shade, whereas Platteklip Gorge route does not.
Practical information for visiting table mountain
Some answers to questions you may have about how to visit Table Mountain.
Where is table mountain located?
Table Mountain lies in the center of Cape Town city and can easily be reached both from the coastal neighborhoods and from the Waterfront and the City Bowl.
How much do table mountain tickets cost?
You actually don't pay for the park, but you do need to pay for Table Mountain cable car tickets. Rates vary depending on the time of the day.
There's a permanent discount for kids and a discount for seniors and students who come on Friday and buy their tickets at the on-site ticket office.
Check the website for up-to-date ticket prices.
!IMPORTANT: there are different rates in the height of summer, from December 15 – January 15.
Where to buy table mountain tickets?
You can buy tickets at the ticket office on-site or book Table Mountain tickets online.
The benefit to getting your tickets online is that they're valid for seven days from your chosen date and can also be refunded. That means that if you're in Cape Town for a couple of days, you could see what the weather's like before deciding what day you'll go up the mountain.
!IMPORTANT: only online tickets bought via Webtickets, Cape Town Tourism and City Sightseeing South Africa are accepted at the cableway. There are other sites that sell tickets but these won't be accepted, so make sure to book through the right site.
What are the table mountain opening hours?
Table Mountain itself is “open” 24/7, but the Table Mountain cable car opening times depend on the time of the year:
- May – August 2017: 8.30 a.m. (first car up), 5 p.m. (last car up), 6 p.m. (last car down)
- September – October 2017: 8.30 a.m., 6 p.m., 7 p.m.
- November 2017, February – March 2018: 8.30 a.m., 7 p.m., 8 p.m.
- 1 – 15 December 2017 and 16 – 31 January 2018: 8 a.m., 7.30 p.m., 8.30 p.m.
- 16 December 2017 – 15 January 2018: 8 a.m., 8.30 p.m., 9.30 p.m.
- 16 – 31 January 2018: 8 a.m., 7.30 p.m., 8.30 p.m.
- April 2018: 8 a.m., 6.30 p.m., 7.30 p.m.
How to get to table mountain
There are different ways to get to Table Mountain:
- By hiking up from the parking lot to the summit of Table Mountain by foot
- By taking an Uber from the city center, like we did, or a taxi to the bottom of the cableway – Get €5 off your first ride by signing up for Uber via my link
- By driving to Table Mountain by car yourself – For GPS Table Mountain directions, enter “Tafelberg Road” as your destination
- By taking the City Sightseeing hop-on/hop off bus
- By taking a public MyCiti bus – Check here for the specific MyCity Table Mountain bus schedule.
When is the best time to visit table mountain?
We visited end of August (low season) and there were already quite a few people at Table Mountain so if you can, I'd recommend not going in high seasons, which is from November until February.
How long does it take to Climb Table Mountain?
One to four hours, depending on the shape you're in and assuming you take the shortest route.
Facts About Table Mountain
Table Mountain is part of the Table Mountain National Park which stretches from the north of Cape Town all the way down to Cape Point at the Cape Peninsula. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.
Here's some more information about Table Mountain and some frequent questions answered:
How high is Table Mountain?
The highest point of the Table Mountain lies 1,086 meters or 3,563 ft above sea level and is located at the eastern end of the plateau at the spot called Maclear's Beacon.
How was Table Mountain formed and why is Table Mountain flat?
Table Mountain wasn't always a mountain. Before the continent of Africa was formed, its now famous flat top was part of the ground level landscape where it was flattened during the ice age by the layers of ice.
As the continents split, the pressure built up pushed what is now Table Mountain upward, eventually creating the a little over a kilometer high mountain.
Does it ever snow on table mountain?
It does! In South African winter, snowfall does sometimes occur on Table Mountains. We're talking centimeters high, not meters.
Where to stay in Cape Town?
We spent three nights at an Airbnb in Green Point and two nights at boutique hotel Blackheath Lodge.
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We received complimentary table mountain cable tickets. The choice to go up and enjoy ourselves was entirely our own.
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