Tucked away on the slopes of the Hottentots Holland mountain range is a small pocket of wine estates that are often overlooked. This journey sets out to uncover these hidden gems of the Helderberg, on the fringe of the Stellenbosch Winelands, as your senses are delighted with vast beauty, sensational tastes and fascinating tales of old. 'Helderberg' quite literally means "mountains with a clear view" and on a cloud-free day, you'll enjoy panoramic vistas that stretch as far as the Cape Peninsula and the imposing Table Mountain in the distance.
It all began in 1700 when Willem Adriaan van der Stel, succeeded his father, Simon van der Stel, as governor and ventured far out to choose for himself a plot of the finest land he could find. He stumbled upon the slopes of the Hottentots Holland mountains and claimed what he believed to be the most beautiful, fertile and best-positioned land. He named it “Vergelegen” meaning remote - aptly so, as it was so remotely situated it was a three-day ox wagon journey from Cape Town - and began farming the land. Over three hundred years later, this land has been subdivided and has changed hands many times, giving us today four world-class wine estates, Vergelegen, Morgenster, Lourensford and Waterkloof. With the cool sea breeze producing the ideal climate for vines, views that are second to none and a passion for quality winemaking, it’s no wonder we have chosen these farms as the ultimate indulgence in history and wine.
Set out on a historic yet innovative taste journey to discover the view from above and taste the crisp flavours of the Helderberg region. From a wine and olive oil pairing to decadent chocolate delights and a summer picnic lunch beneath 300-year-old trees, this journey offers surprises that will leave you in awe of the legacy of historic explorers and modern-day innovators.
Indulge in a sensory experience among Vergelegen’s historic gardens.
Pair vintage Bordeaux-style wines with internationally acclaimed olive oil at Morgenster's tasting rooms.
Be enchanted by Lourensford's chocolate and wine pairing on the lush estate.
Taste the sense of origin in each sip of Waterkloof's fine minimalistic wines.
Picnic alfresco or dine in oppulent decadence at Vergelegen.
Savour the rich history and fine wines on offer at what is known as the gateway to the Cape Winelands. The Helderberg is one of the oldest wine growing regions in the country and today you’ll be able to experience the same beauty that captured the hearts of the Dutch settlers some 300 years ago.
Begin with a light and innovative pairing of three of Morgenster’s premium wines with their award-winning extra-virgin olive oil. While this may be a more widely accepted pairing nowadays, Mongenster was the pioneer of this type of pairing in South Africa in the 1990s. When owner Giulio Bertrand took over the farm in 1992 he introduced a crop of Italian olive trees and began the artisan process of pressing fine olive oil. At the time there were only 100 hectares of olive trees used for olive oil in the entire country. Today, you can reap the benefits of this pioneer as you unpack the flavour notes of one of the world’s best olive oils, along with balsamic vinegar, olive pastes and olives to compliment the wine.
Now that the wine is freely flowing and your taste buds have been awoken, travel up ancient oak tree-lined paths, to the decadence of Lourensford Estate. After a saunter through the lush gardens, you’ll be treated to a pairing of fine dark chocolate with some of their best wine offerings. Chardonnay teamed with orange dark chocolate, Merlot with cherry chocolate, Shiraz with hints of chilli and other artisan chocolate flavours. If time allows, check out the coffee roastery - just follow the aroma of a fresh batch of beans being roasted; the Abru beer brewery hidden behind the weekend food market spot; and the quirky deli, packed with freshly baked goodies and local produce.
Next up, prepare to be transported in time through the gardens of Vergelegen. Bearing the name of the original estate claimed by Willem Adriaan van der Stel, Vergelegen now pays homage to its long and deep history, with many fascinating tributes throughout the estate. Wander under the “Royal” Oak – planted from the last acorn of King Alfred’s oaks in Oxfordshire; the Old Oak – believed to be the oldest oak tree in Africa; and the popular camphor forest, planted in 1700 by Governor van der Stel himself. The residential homestead is marked as a heritage site, and the 18 historic gardens have been restored to reflect the historic eras of the farm. All in all, this magical garden makes for the perfect spot for an optional alfresco picnic lunch beneath the Camphor tree forest or fine dining in one of the two estate restaurants.
Then head up the mountain, high in the sky, to witness a touch of modern innovation married with centuries-old tradition for a union that delights the senses and taste buds alike. Waterkloof’s unique approach to winemaking is sure to wow your palate as you relax in the sleek tasting room, offering breathtaking views of the valley below through the modern glass promontory. The hands-off approach of their “honest" winemaking process produces wines that emphasize restraint, elegance and integrity. Sample six of the estate's organic wines from the Circumstance, Seriously Cool, and Circle of Life ranges paired with an indulgent cheese platter boasting typical local flavours. The perfect pairing and a well-rounded end to the day.
Set course for Cape Town by late afternoon inspired by the beauty, intensity and individuality of this often-overlooked area.
End with an evening drop-off at your Cape Town accommodation.
This trip will run exclusively for you.
Led by a local English-speaking professional tour guide.
Private transfers to included tour highlights.
There is no central meeting point for this tour. A transfer service will collect you from your Cape Town accommodation.
Local and international flights are excluded.
You are responsible for your own personal travel insurance.
You can purchase meals + drinks on tour. Restaurant bookings need to be made in advance and availability is not guaranteed.
Optional activities can be booked and paid for on tour as per price listed in the itinerary.
from ±R1200 per day
A surcharge to travel in a luxury SUV vehicle. Maximum 3 people per car.
Since the beginning, working as a guesthouse manager 13-years ago, I have been involved in creating personalised experiences for people in the travel industry. It has grown into my work passion and I love being able to create tailor-made experiences for people that they will remember for the rest of their lives. In between doing that, I create my own memories and experiences by spending time with my family (usually on the beach), attending festivals and capturing it all with my camera.
Click terms for more details.
Full amount required to reserve or confirm a booking.
Children are welcome on private tours. Some activities will have age limits and alcohol may only be served to adults over 18 years of age.
11 official Languages Spoken
Afrikaans – English – isiNdebele – Sepedi.– Sesotho – Siswati – Xitsonga – Setswana – Tshivenda – isiXhosa
How to say hello?
Molo – Xhosa
Sawubona - Zulu
Hallo - Afrikaans
Dumela - SeSotho
Electricity – Volt & plug
The South African electricity supply is 220/230 volts AC 50 HZ. Most plugs are 15 amp 3-prong or 5 amp 2-prong, with round pins.
WiFi/Internet Access on tour
WiFi can be found at most accommodations, restaurants and airports, however, the download speed is often slow and many connections limit your data usage. In short, you’ll be able to stay connected with home, but don't expect to watch HD movies in your spare time.
When to go
South Africa is blessed with a mostly mild climate, but different areas will yield different temperatures throughout the year. Summer in South Africa is usually peak season, lasting between November – February, however Easter time (March) is often still considered peak season too. Temperatures range from 25ºC in coastal areas to high 30ºs in inland areas. Cape Town has ideal weather during this time and Durban sports warm beaches and humid air, Johannesburg experiences hot clear days and often an afternoon thunderstorm.
Shoulder season is April and May, as well as September and October. Surprisingly, the weather in Durban is often at its best during this time, and other areas simmer down from their scorching highs. Prices are lower and crowds are smaller. September and October see eruptions of flowers and blooms all around the country.
Winter is beautiful in most parts of the country. Cape Town experiences winter rain and is often a little cold and miserable, but still crisp and beautiful. Because of the warm Indian Ocean, Durban has spectacular weather in winter, often hovering around 20-25ºC with clear blue skies. Inland areas get quite chilly and the odd snowfall is not uncommon (it only lasts for a day though!). Prices are at an all time low and it is an ideal time for game viewing, as the animals are more active in the cooler weather.
Best time to go
Jun-Jul = Safari
Jan-Feb = Beach
With the possible exception of Christmas Day and New Year's Day, most tourist services and attractions are open on South African public holidays. In addition most city shopping centres, restaurants and entertainment venues remain open.
|1 Jan||New Year's Day|
|21 Mar||Human Rights Day|
|30 Mar||Good Friday|
|2 Apr||Family Day|
|27 Apr||Freedom Day|
|1 May||Workers' Day|
|16 Jun||Youth Day|
|9 Aug||National Women's Day|
|24 Sep||Heritage Day|
|16 Dec||Day of Reconciliation|
|17 Dec||Day of Reconciliation Holiday|
|25 Dec||Christmas Day|
|26 Dec||Day of Goodwill|
Visa & Travel docs
Travellers from most Commonwealth countries (excluding New Zealand), most Western European nations, Japan and the USA receive a free, 90-day visitor's permit on arrival. These travellers do not need a visa to enter South Africa. A valid passport is essential with at least two empty pages. You generally will need to show return or onward travel arrangements. Children aged under 18 must show an unabridged birth certificate (showing both parents details).
Some countries do, however, need a visa. Visas are not issued upon entry, they must be attained beforehand. It is advised that you clarify this before you leave, the Department of Home Affairs office has a comprehensive list of countries that do not require visas. http://www.dha.gov.za/index.php/immigration-services/exempt-countries
What to pack
We're generally laid back in South Africa, so no need to haul out your best silks and diamonds when you head to our shores. Here's some clothing advice when in South Africa:
Health & Safety
There are no compulsory vaccinations required to enter South Africa with exception of a yellow fever vaccination if you have been in a yellow fever area within the last 12 months.
The only major health risk you might face in South Africa is malaria, which is confined to small areas in the north-eastern parts of the country. Small pockets of the northern parts of the Kruger National Park fall under this area but the risk here is considered extremely low and it is not always necessary to take anti-malaria tablets. Remember as a precautionary measure to check with your accommodation what is recommended.
South Africa may have high crime statistics, but if you conduct yourself wisely, most tourists enjoy the country without any incident at all. Ensure that you lock away your passports and travel documents in a safe, which is usually provided by your accommodation. Don't flash around valuables and keep an eye on your belongings at all time. Majority of South Africa’s crime is opportunistic petty crime, so if you are vigilant about your belongings you should not have any problem.
South Africa has 3 world-class airports that receive international flights every day; Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. Most international airlines will have flights into one or all of these airports daily.
There are numerous budget carriers that offer domestic flights between the major cities for very reasonable rates; this is the fastest and safest way to span large distances, especially between Johannesburg and Cape Town, which is a 2-hour flight.
From the airports there are numerous shuttles and taxis that you can pick up upon arrival, there are also many different car hire options at each airport and in all major cities. Uber is another reliable and affordable option.
Our currency in South Africa is the South African Rand. You can easily convert your currency to rand at a bank or Forex Bureau, the airports and larger towns often have many different Forex options. You can also withdraw from an ATM, banks are available throughout South Africa. Be sure to check what international bank charges you will incur for withdrawals before you arrive. Major credit cards are usually accepted in hotels or restaurants, however, there may be a surcharge. It is advisable to have small amounts of cash for curios and tipping.