One of the New7Wonders of Nature, Table Mountain is the centrepiece of the Table Mountain National Park.
The easiest way of visiting Table Mountain is to ride up in the Cable Car, which operates every day, except in bad weather conditions. But it's a great walk, either up, down or both ways.
Platteklip Gorge, just east of the Cable Station, is a good one, as you can walk one way and take the cable car the other. Skeleton Gorge and Nursery Ravine, both of which start in Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, are also easy walks.
If you have a good map, and you really do know what you're doing in the wilds, it's a good hike from the cable car to Kirstenbosch or vice versa. It's really great to do this on a Sunday in summer, when you can walk down into Kirstenbosch and enjoy the open-air sunset concert. Organise someone to drive the car round and bring a picnic.
Other fun walks include the Pipe Track, to the west of the Lower Cable Station, and Lions Head, which is probably the most popular walk in the whole of Cape Town. It's great on a full moon night - you walk up in the afternoon and watch the sun set over the ocean and the moonrise over the distant Hottentots Holland Mountains while you enjoy a leisurely picnic. Then you walk down by bright moonlight. Despite the moon, you'll still need a torch (flashlight).
If you're really into walking; there are literally hundreds of trails on the mountain. If you're a relatively experienced hiker, get a good guidebook and head off with food, water, a mobile phone and warm clothes. Always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
This is not a city park. It is a real mountain, with steep cliffs and gorges, and the weather can change without warning. Unless you're pretty confident, it's probably a better idea to do an escorted walk. Always bear in mind, though, that Table Mountain is in the middle of a city and muggers are just entrepreneurs like any other. So walk in a big group or stay close to where there are lots of other people.
There is a fabulous multi-day hike on Table Mountain - the Hoerikwaggo Trail. You can do it in a number of ways. Pack all your stuff in a backpack and hike between the huts in the usual way, or do a number of variations on the slackpacking theme. SANParks offers a guided and/or portered hike or you could do a full slackpacking trail, with your gear taken by car from guesthouse to guesthouse while you walk over the mountain. Check out www.hoerikwaggotrail.org for more info.
Table Mountain Aerial Cableway
Tel: +27 21 424 8181
Consult the website for opening hours, current rates and to find out if its operating if the weather is bad.
Can you see Table Mountain in the stars?
Table Mountain is the only terrestrial feature on the globe to give its name to a constellation. The constellation Mensa - meaning The Table - is seen in the Southern Hemisphere, below Orion, around midnight in mid-July. The French astronomer Nicolas de Lacaille named it during his stay at the Cape in the mid-eighteenth century.
World Heritage Site
Covering only 17,000 ha, this small area supports some 2,285 plant species of which at least 90 are found only on the Peninsula, and is part of the Cape Floral Region UNESCO World Heritage Site.
'It is . . . a sacred and precious place . . . to us on Robben Island, Table Mountain was a beacon of hope. It represented the mainland to which we knew we would one day return.' Nelson Mandela