With fewer than 195 000 inhabitants, Paarl remains a small, but significant, member of the Cape Winelands. It is the third-oldest town in South Africa and the largest member of the Winelands. Thus, its historical import and natural beauty have set Paarl apart as a wonderful tourist destination, particularly for those with a penchant for great wines.
“Paarl” is Afrikaans for “pearl” in reference to the massive round rocky outcrops of the surrounding mountains, which loom over the little town and its vineyards below. These vineyards and the farms associated with them have been producing top-notch wines for international export for generations, and have earned this little hub global recognition and respect amongst wine enthusiasts.
The town of Paarl is only about 60 kilometres from the heart of the Mother City, Cape Town. Approximately halfway between the two is the Cape Town International Airport. This makes this wine hotspot particularly accessible and convenient for travellers from all over the world. During the peak tourist season (between the summer months of December and March), Cape Town’s accommodation providers may be fully booked. But Paarl is close enough that visitors are able to base themselves in Wine Country and have easy access to the surrounding towns, including Cape Town and its many tourist attractions.
Touring the wine farms and their cellars is an absolute must for anyone visiting Paarl. This provides an insight into the wine-making process, from grape to table. These tours also allow the guests to sample some of the locally made wines, which range from sparkling wines to light, crisp whites and intense, bold reds. The soil and climate of the Western Cape is, in fact, ideal for yielding just about any wine variety.
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The wine farms in this area are as varied as the people that have shaped them. They range from organic farms that only use natural processes and products in the creation of some unique flavours to world-class farms that make use of top-end technology and skills. Some of the best known of these farms and wine labels include Backsberg Estate, Avondale, Boland Kelder and Fairview (also famous for its cheeses). Most of these are set within magnificent surrounds, against the massive mountain range and the greenery of the Western Cape. This means that, even for those that do not often indulge in wines, the farms are a delight to explore.
Paarl is also the capital of the Afrikaans culture, and those wanting to discover more about its history and culture will have plenty to see and do. The Afrikaans Language Monument is an impressive memorial dedicated to the roots of this South African tongue. Other popular tourist attractions include the arboretum, Limietberg Nature Reserve and the Paarl Bird Sanctuary.