What to expect at Table Mountain in South Africa

Why You Should See Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa

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If you’re ever in Cape Town, the first thing people will tell you to do is summit Table Mountain, the iconic flat-topped sandstone mountain that stands tall as a sentry on the perimeter of the city, casting a shadow over everything below it. A question I always get is: Is it worth it to go up Table Mountain? If I only have one day in Cape Town, should I make it a priority? And when is the best time of day to go up Table Mountain?

How to Visit Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa

And after three visits to this miraculous site, I feel equipped to answers all of these questions and more.

Planning a visit to Table Mountain

If you’ve got just one day in Cape Town to see the highlights, you could take a guided tour to see the penguins, visit the city’s colorful Bo Kaap, take a cable car up Table Mountain and enjoy scenic Chapman’s Peak Drive; that’s all very doable in a day.

Should I Go up Table Mountain in Cape Town?

The cool thing about Table Mountain is that it is very close to downtown Cape Town. In fact, we were out exploring the highlights and took an Uber up to the departure point of Cape Town, and it only took us 15 minutes. You can also take the hop-on, hop-off bus and depart at Table Mountain, which is what my mom and I did on our very first visit to Cape Town a decade ago.

What to expect at Table Mountain in South Africa

A lot has changed since my last trip up Table Mountain a decade ago. Sure, the view is still the same, but the experience at the top feels as if it’s been upgraded.

What to expect at Table Mountain in South Africa
What to expect at Table Mountain in South Africa

Table Mountain in 2013 vs. 2023

I don’t remember quite as much infrastructure the last two times I went up. Today, there’s a restaurant, a cafe and multiple paved trails.

What to expect at Table Mountain in South Africa

The aerial tram up Table Mountain

Once you arrive at the tram stop, you’ll show your ticket—which starts around $18 for adults—and get in line for the aerial tram. There was no line when we arrived, so we were able to step right on.

Should I Go up Table Mountain in Cape Town?

The Table Mountain cableway has been in existence since 1929, but the current iteration of the aerial cars have been around for 25 years.

What's it like going up Table Mountain

The trip up is super quick—less than 10 minutes—and smooth, and the inside of the car has revolving floors so you get to see the perspective from every angle.

What to expect at Table Mountain in South Africa

What’s it like up on Table Mountain?

Once you’re up top, you can take the many trails to see the view over Cape Town from every different angle.

What to expect at Table Mountain in South Africa

But what if you’re scared of heights? You should be fine. The peak is 3,563 feet—the highest point called Maclear’s Beacon—but there aren’t many steep drop-offs, and there are walls and barriers protecting you at every lookout point.

How to Visit Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa

My mom hates heights, and she’s done this trip up Table Mountain twice and was totally fine on each outing.

The view of Cape Town from Table Mountain

Coming to Cape Town and not visiting Table Mountain is like going to San Francisco and not visiting Alcatraz or vacationing in Athens and failing to take a jaunt to the Parthenon; to not visit this famous site would be a travesty. And if that alone doesn’t entice you, maybe this view will.

What to expect at Table Mountain in South Africa

If hiking is your thing, you can hike up Table Mountain (extremely challenging). Or, instead, you can take the cable car up and the Platteklip Hike back down (much easier). You’ll obviously want to give yourself plenty of daylight hours to do this if that’s your choice.

What to expect at Table Mountain in South Africa

How cold is it on Table Mountain?

The thing about Table Mountain is that the weather can change on a dime. It may be cloudy down below, but clear up top. Or it could be perfectly clear in Cape Town and windy up on the mountain. You just never know what you’re going to get.

What to expect at Table Mountain in South Africa

I would always recommend a jacket, though. Every time I’ve gone up Cape Town, it’s been a good 10 to 15 degrees chillier on the mountain than down at the cable car stop, and I’ve always, always needed an added layer.

What to expect at Table Mountain in South Africa

 

So when is the best time to go up Table Mountain?

The best time to go up Table Mountain, in my opinion, is late afternoon when the sun is setting. Crowds seem to gather there first thing in the morning, so I prefer later afternoon.

What to expect at Table Mountain in South Africa

Plus, you just don’t get this kind of golden hour glow first thing in the morning.

Pro tip: If you’re planning a trip to Table Mountain, avoiding peak times and taking one of the last cable cars of the day up is not only perfect for lack of crowds, but the lighting at sunset is truly stunning.

Hours vary based on the season with the last car up at 4pm in winter months (May through August) and 8pm at the peak of summer (September through December), so be sure and plan your trip accordingly and check the time for the last car down before you go.

Planning a trip to Table Mountain in Cape Town

For more South Africa travel tips, see these posts:

COMMENTS
  • April 30, 2010

    Ah, gorgeous. We tried to go up four times, but each time the tram was closed because of wind. We’ll give it another shot in a couple of weeks.

    Looks like your weather was perfect!

  • April 30, 2010

    ok, stop with the cape town posts! youre making me so homesick! 🙁 and that gorgeous boy reminds me where all the good men are!

  • April 30, 2010

    Love these photos! I hiked the mountain when I was in Cape Town… Had great views on my way up, but by the time I got to the top, a thick fog/rain had rolled in, and I couldn’t see a thing! So your photos just showed me what I might’ve seen 🙂

    Looking forward to hearing what else you make time for there. I only had six days, too, and after staying in a village in central Africa, I pretty much used my time in Cape Town eating grapes and going to the laundry mat and worshiping electricity. I’d love to go back sometime and do everything I missed!

    Oh, one thing I did make time for: trip to Nelson Mandela’s former cell. If you’re still there, hop a ferry to the island. Worth the trip.

  • April 30, 2010

    Gorgeous shots. I especially liked the night shot over CT. I waited 2 hrs in the Q due to power problems. I should have hiked. But it is a Must do.

  • April 30, 2010

    Thank you for taking me back to one of my favorite places in the world!!! I wish you had had time for the hike. It’s an awesome one (I just wish I hadn’t had done it hungover and with someone else’s shoes, haha)! That picture of you is just gorgeous. I hope you frame it! 🙂

  • May 1, 2010

    What great photos!! I love the view from the top! But isn’t it scary or dangerous sitting there? Oh wait…you’re Kristin! The ever brave Kristin who doesn’t know danger. 😀

    I emailed this post to two of my bloggy friends living in South Africa.

  • May 3, 2010

    Awesome photos! My friend is in Cape Town now and has similarly beautiful photos. This place just looks amazing.

  • May 4, 2010

    Gorgeous! Definitely on my list for some day.

  • May 4, 2010

    Stunning!

  • December 29, 2023

    It’s been a long time since I have been on Table Mountain but everything looks that same as it was when I went there 20 years before. The one difference that I say was I think the cable car looks like it had been upgraded. The car I went up in was open and standing room only. It was a bit disconcerting. I loved the views from the top because we fortunately was there on a clear day. This trip is 100% recommended and lives on in my memory although I went up there when I was 21yo and many years have passed since

    • January 2, 2024

      Yes! Couldn’t believe both how much it looked the same but also how different the infrastructure was up top. Last time I was there, pretty sure we mostly sat on rocks, and now it’s full on paved paths and so nice!

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