South Africa has over a dozen designated wine routes. The most popular -- comprising the routes of Helderberg (Somerset West), Stellenbosch, Paarl, and Franschhoek -- are contained within the area known as the Winelands. While the towns are all within easy driving distance, there are hundreds of estates and farms to choose from, and first-time visitors are advised to concentrate on those that offer a combination of historic architecture, excellent wines, and/or views of the vineyard-clad mountains. True oenophiles should spend the day with an expert who can tailor a tour to suit their specific interests. You can treat the Winelands as an excursion from Cape Town or base yourself here -- no more than 30 to 75 minutes from the bright lights of the city, this is a great area if you want to immerse yourself in rural peace, superb cuisine, and fine wines. Accommodations are generally superb, and some offer better value than their Cape Town counterparts. If you have time to concentrate on only one area, make it Franschhoek, the prettiest (though most touristy) of the Winelands valleys, with the best selection of award-winning restaurants; or Stellenbosch, which has a charming historic center and the densest concentration of estates. This is also the area that produces the highest concentration of great wines, particularly reds. Both are within easy driving distance of one another, via the scenic Helshoogte Pass.
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