It is the country's second oldest town, after Cape Town. Stellenbosch's mountain panorama is made up of the Helderberg, the Stellenbosch, the Jonkershoek Valley, Twin Peaks, Botmaskop, and Helshoogte - names that bear testimony to the many influences that made their mark on this town.
Simon van der Stel explored and opened up this area, now known as one of the famous "winelands" regions. Fresh produce supplies were needed for passing ships, and the defences of the tiny settlement had to be strengthened.
Once van der Stel had founded the town in the Eerste (=First) River Valley, he gave the European settlers farms. Soon the first settlement was established, and it flourished. As the oak-bordered streets still testify today, Van der Stel encouraged the extensive planting of oak trees.
Old buildings in this quaint town have been meticulously restored. Return to the 19th century as you stroll down the streets - see Cape Dutch architecture jostling with Georgian, Regency, and Victorian facades and Cape Dutch Revival.
Visit the theological seminary, which was eventually founded in 1859 after years spent seeking permission from the authorities. Today there are well over 12 000 students enrolled at the famous university. The town is graced with academic institutions, and students on bicycles are friendly, informative and active in cultural and environmental activities.
The climate is Mediterranean, with dry sunny summers; winters can be crisp and cool. The annual Food and Wine Festival takes part during the last week of October. Be sure to sample the traditional fare and award-winning wines of this region.
In September each year the Stellenbosch Festival highlights chamber music, and attracts a host of national and international artists. Experience the Brandy Route, or visit the ostrich farm; view this fertile valley from a Hot air balloon or enjoy a hike up one of the numerous wilderness trails, passing horseback riders on their way to further-out majestic mountain passes; enjoy the great outdoors, then return to one of the many places where you can choose your preferred accommodation and restaurant.
It is just as easy to join a tour or hire a self-drive car and explore to your heart's content as you discover quiet, out-of-the-way wine farms or step out at the top of one of the many magnificent passes. Stellenbosch - most definitely not to be missed!
See Stellenbosch Wine Estates and Hotels
By Zola Miller