A Gift to the Earth, Table Mountain

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A Gift to the Earth, Table Mountain

The ultimate travel guide to Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. Find out the best time to go, the best way to go, what to see and do, local tips and more!


Cape Town: a picturesque South Africa coastal city with a lot of charm and character. Table Mountain, 2010 FIFA World Cup, southernmost Cape of Good Hope, African Indigenous culture, and jackass penguin are the keywords that pop up in my mind when I was planning my visit. Of course, Table Mountain is the first on my list and I am sure everyone would tell you it’s a place not to be missed.

Cape Town - Table Mountain 5

Table Mountain

Table Mountain is a flat-topped mountain and a prominent landmark overlooking the city of Cape Town. Nelson Mandela once declared Table Mountain ‘a Gift to the Earth’, on World Environment Day, in 1998. Table Mountain (among others like Ha Long Bay, Komodo, Iguazu Falls…) is declared one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. True, Its unique shape and flat surface form a perfect backdrop to the city’s skyline. It could be seen basically anywhere in the city, even from the plane… given that the mountain is not covered by clouds.

The best time to visit, and… the Table Cloth Effect

Cape Town - Table Mountain - Table ClothOnce we landed at Cape Town International Airport, we took our rental car and in merely 20 minutes we were in the city center, checking in to the Airbnb apartment we booked. The apartment is a charming building on Strand Street surrounded by cafés (I will talk about that later) and local shops, and the highlight was a balcony with two chairs facing the Table Mountain!

It was May and Cape Town was a bit chilly when the sun was not coming out. When I was on the balcony I was thinking: “Oh, shoot!” Table Mountain was covered with thick clouds since we arrived and I had pre-purchased the Aerial cableway tickets in the afternoon online.

Cape Town - Table Mountain 6

It was my strategy: pre-purchase the ticket and go to Table Mountain the first day I arrive. Not only because the Table Mountain is the number one attraction in town, but also in case if any “accident” happens (like weather), we would still have time for a plan B. There are lots of discussions in travel forums regarding the best time going up the mountain… and honestly, my day could not turn out any more perfectly.

In summary, I have a few tips about visiting Table Mountain:

Best time of the year

Well, it’s difficult to predict weather and I am sure there’s always be a chance of a gorgeous day any time of the year. I visited in May and it was a bit chilly up there, but it wouldn’t be a problem if you are dressed warmly. I was told that December is the busiest month of the year. In general, the best time of the year would be from March to May, and from September to November (a.k.a. Autumn and Spring). These shoulder seasons boast enviable weather, fewer crowds, and lower prices.

Best time of the day

The “Table Cloth Effect” is caused by the winds from the Southeast in summer. The moisture condensed on a cold layer at the height of 1000m, forming thick clouds that cover the peak of the mountain. Actually, Table Cloth Effect could happen at any time of the day, usually in summer, depends on windiness.

The mountain’s steep and thick sandstone layer is North facing, and the “City Bowl” is located on the north side of the mountain, thus visitors would always enjoy the city view with great lighting, no matter in the early morning of late afternoon. To beat the crowds, I recommend getting there in the early morning (there are tours valid as early as 7:30 am) or late afternoon – particularly late afternoon, because the sunset was absolutely magnificent.

Avoid Fridays

The Table Mountain Cableway offers South African pensioners and students a concession every Friday – therefore it’s not the best time for tourists as the station could be quite crowded.

Pre-purchase online

Cape Town - Table Mountain Cableway 9Unless you are planning to go up the mountain on foot, pre-purchase the tickets online and it would save precious time standing in the line for tickets at the ticket office. If you are lucky, you might find special offers or discounted deals on the site from time to time.

Table Mountain Cableway website: http://www.tablemountain.net

Use free shuttle service, if parking is a bitxh

Finding a parking spot near the station at busy hours could be a nightmare. We were lucky enough to find a parking spot as soon as we arrive at the station. But in case if you have no luck, instead of driving up and down waiting for a spot, consider parking at the Lower Tafelberg Road parking and then take a free MyCiti shuttle to the station.

Cape Town - Table Mountain Cableway

Table Mountain Aerial Cableway

The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway is an easy way to go up the mountain. The cableway officially opened to the public in 1929, and it had a major upgrade and redesign in 1997, which new revolving cars were installed and each cabin could hold up to 65 passengers. Starting from the Lower Cable Station (363m), it slowly ascends to the Upper Cable Station (1067m). Don’t worry, the cabin would rotate as it goes up and so all passengers could enjoy a panoramic view from the ride.

Cape Town - Table Mountain Cableway 8

The top of the Mountain is well paved with walkways that cover different sides of the mountain. The Lion’s Head, Signal Hill, Robben Island, City Bowl, Table Bay, and Devil’s Peak could be viewed on the north side; and the “Back Table” (a rugged plateau that is an extension on the south side of the Table Mountain), and the Twelve Apostles, could be viewed on the south side. In between, is home to a large array of fauna and flora.


Cape Town - Table MountainThe Table Mountain is part of the Cape Floral Kingdom and home to an astonishing 1,470 plant species in an area of 57 square kilometers: Blue Disa, Cluster Disa, Erica, Watsonia, Yellow Margaret, Cape Reeds and more. More, it is also home to a variety of fascinating animals which depends on each other: like southern rock agama, black girdled lizard, klipspringer, Verreaux’s eagle, rock kestrel, and of course, the rock dassie – and absolutely adorable creature freely roaming in the Table Mountain walking trails.

I mean, really.
No joke. I mean I did meet bassies, witness sunset, have a great city panorama, and have fun in the cable car… 🙏🏻 It was a humbling experience ☺️ #take-my-breath-away

Lion’s Head and Signal Hill

Cape Town - Lion's Head 2 SunsetComing back down from Table Mountain, we also visited Lion’s Head and Signal Hill, right on the west side of the Table Mountain. These mountains are very close to the city center and they are part of the city’s dramatic backdrop. There, we enjoyed an intimate sunset at the Atlantic Ocean, while watching the adventurous ones went for tandem paragliding.

Cape Town Table Mountain Lion's Head

Giant Yellow Frames

To honor this New 7 Wonder of Nature, the city of Cape Town placed giant yellow frames at 7 different locations in the city to “capture” the beauty of the mountain from different angles – it is part of Cape Town’s World Design Capital 2014 project and it hopes to help visitors capturing this enormous monument from different part of the city. These yellow frames could be found in V&A Waterfront, Signal Hill, Cape Town Station, District Six, Silo District, Blouberg (Eden of the Bay), and Khayelitsha Lookout Hill. Try to look for these frames as you are exploring different parts of the city!

The first day in Cape Town was fulfilling and filled with wonders. Up next, we explored a lot more in the city of Cape Town, and experienced the untamed beauty of the Cape of Good Hope, Boulders, Silvermine, and more! Stay-tuned ~

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37 thoughts on “A Gift to the Earth, Table Mountain

  1. I would love to go to Capetown and have my photo taken with those giant yellow frames! What a brilliant idea.

  2. The Table mountain indeed looks like a gift to the earth. No wonder it is among the new 7 wonders of nature. Normally the wildlife of South Africa overshadows its many other attractions and probably the Table Mountain is one of those.

    1. Thanks Sandy. That’s true that South Africa has impressive wildlife in their national parks; and there are other places to explore as well!

  3. I have not been to South Africa yet but when I do go, Table Mountain is right at the top of my list. Nice tips about when to go and prepurchasing a ticket. I imagine the optimal time of the day to visit may depend on the month of the year and other factors. No one right solution for all.

  4. I would love to visit Table Mountain. Everyone I met in Johannesburg was singing it’s praises. Thanks for the great practical info.

  5. Great tips on visiting the Table mountain. We were hoping to go this August – it might be still winter there. Will keep in mind about the Fridays and try to find a couple of the yellow frames.

  6. Table Mountain would also be my number one thing to see. I’d go for the online tickets because I hate queueing for ages to just get a ticket. I think I’d be happy to visit in the shoulder seasons too and try the cable car ride. I’m scared of heights but it would be a brilliant view. I was planning on South Africa in the next year or two so fingers crossed I get there! Thanks for all of the great information and tips

  7. My parents have been to South Africa twice and couldn’t say enough good things about it. Table Mountain is so dramatic and the views from there are amazing. Thanks for including tips on experiencing the mountain and on parking. I so want to see a rock dassie! Love that name!

  8. OMG! perfect timing to read this blog, My friend just posts pictures on Facebook that she was there and now I learn more about it! Very nice descriptions! Hope to visit that one day!

  9. Table Mountain seems like a great gift indeed. Good advice about avoiding Fridays and I have to say those rock dassies are pretty dang cute. The cable cars appear to be in great shape and an incredible way to get up the hill.

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