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4 non-wine focused things to do in Franschhoek, Cape Winelands

Franschhoek has become known as the food and wine capital of South Africa.  Understandable given eight of the top 100 restaurants are located in the valley.  On our recent visit to the region we decided it was time to put our tools down, wine glasses and cutlery that is, and sample some of the outdoor highlights.  We were delighted to discover that the scenery and outdoor activities complement the gastronomy offerings perfectly;

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1. Hire mountain bikes and do a self-guided/ guided tour of the valley.  You can stick to the quiet tarred roads, get onto the dirt tracks or for a more strenuous ride, climb the mountain pass.  Admittedly, there are some steep climbs but the views from the top are worth it!   We cycled up to Café Bon Bon for coffee on the peaceful terrace overlooking their colourful gardens.  Later on in the day, get yourself into a low gear and cycle up the other side of the valley to Roca at Dieu Donne for sundowners, cocktails not wine, if the climb to the top doesn’t take your breath away, the panoramic views of the Franschhoek Valley and sunset certainly will!

The Gallery

2. Art galleries and quirky museums are scattered all over Franschhoek, simply take a stroll along Main Street and explore at your leisure, we were really impressed with the selection of artwork from some of South Africa’s finest artists.  For contemporary art head to The Gallery at Grande Provence, or dip into the history of the region at La Motte, here you can explore the Cape Dutch architecture, historical buildings and one room in the museum is dedicated to the famous South Africam artist Pierneef.

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3. Hiking is must-do in Franschhoek.  Be an early riser and join in with the locals pre-work or in the cooler months pack up a picnic and head up during the day – check the weather before you leave as it can change quickly in the mountains.   Having bought your entrance tickets to the  Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve in the Tourist Office or online at Webtickets, drive half way up the Franschhoek Pass and leave your car in the car park at the bottom before taking one of the many well–marked trails through the reserve.   There are various gradients and routes to choose from, 1 hour to 6 hours, we loved the views on the Vista Trail.

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4. Horseriding; a ride in the valley is a highlight for many in Franschhoek (admittedly, this does involve a couple of stops at wine estates so ‘non-wine focused’ is perhaps not 100% accurate in this case).  They ride Western-style here and many beginners who may have only tried the English-style of riding before often feel more comfortable in the Western saddle (we did), the saddles are larger and therefore easier to stay balanced!   Your guide and experienced horseman, Pieter will match you with your pony, his well-trained Arab horses know the mountain paths well.  Aside from the beautiful scenery and small wineries on the trail, it’s a great opportunity to learn the basics of Western riding, and Pieter is on hand to share his tips without the usual formalities of a traditional riding school.

All the above can be booked as part of your ‘Sally and Alice Travel Co.’ South Africa itinerary, we look forward to sharing our favourite finds with you.