Top Tips for visiting Table Mountain, Cape Town

You cannot visit Cape Town in South Africa without visiting Table Mountain. This enormous brooding hulk dominates the landscape across the peninsula, changing moods with the weather.

Table Mountain Cape Town South Africa

As we flew into the city we had an amazing birds eye view seeing it postcard style out of the window with the classic table shape clearly defined.

Table Mountain Cape Town South Africa

Everyone had told us we had to take the cable car to the top - I'll admit I was not that keen as despite my hot air ballooning history I am slightly  completely terrified of heights, and after a knuckle whitening ride on a swaying, swinging German mountain cable car some years ago had vowed to avoid them until the end of time.

Table Mountain Cape Town South Africa

But there was no avoiding this. Even I knew that I could not come to Cape Town and not visit the mountain.

Oh and I am so glad I did!

Table Mountain Cape Town South Africa Cable Car

The ride was actually quite enjoyable. Although the mountain is high you drive most of it so the actual cable car ride, although from a distance looks long actually isn't - literally a couple of minutes.

The cable cars are round, partly glazed and rotate as they climb which sounds terrifying but actually I found made it easier and is very fair as everyone gets a great all round view.

As to the part glazed bit - I really didn't want to be anywhere near the open windows but actually that refreshing gust of mountain air really gave you a sense of where you were and was particularly welcome on the hot day we visited.

Once back on terra firma we got a scale of how vast this mountain is. We walked around for an hour and only saw a tiny fraction whilst still getting some amazing views of the entire peninsula. We cold have spent much longer up there.

Table Mountain Cape Town South Africa

Here are my top tips for visiting Table Mountain.

  • Check the weather forecast. You ideally need a clear day as even when it is sunny down in the city if cloud (or the tablecloth) is covering the mountain you will see diddly squat!
  • Dress for different weather. Although we were very lucky and had a warm day where it was possible to wander round in shorts a T-shirts, I am told this is rare and you should always take layers as it is highly likely to be windy and cold at the top.
  • Book ahead. This is especially advisable if you, like us, you have only a couple of sunny days doing your stay as every other tourist will think the same as you and allocate that day for Table Mountain. You can book online (even when you get there as the whole mountain has free wifi!) get the tickets on your smartphone and jump the queue of people waiting to buy tickets at the kiosk. We waited half an hour just to do that.
  • Choose your slot. You buy tickets for a morning, 8am-1pm or afternoon 1-close slot. The morning ones last until 1pm
  • Take snacks and drinks. There is a beautiful restaurant at the top of the mountain along with clean and smart toilets and baby change facilities but it can get very crowded and of course is priced as per the location. If you are walking you will need water especially as the day is hot.
  • Wear sensible shoes if you want to explore properly. Lots of people were heading up in flip-flops but unless you want to stick to the wheelchair/pushchair friendly laid path which only covers a small area you should wear trainers or similar.
  • Take a camera!

I was so glad I swallowed my fears and took the cable car. I would allow at least two hours to explore the mountain and obviously longer for a proper exploration.

You can take one of the free guided tours, all designed to be easy so pretty much anyone can access them and learn all about what you can see and the fauna and flora on the mountain. We chose to just wander around and read the many information posts dotted around.

Table Mountain Cape Town South Africa

If you are a more seasoned hiker you can walk up the mountain but for a number of safety reasons tourists are advised to book a guided hike - you can find these online direct from the official site or via third party sites. I would personally book from the official site.

As for ticket discounts- you can get seniors' concession rates in Friday only with a South African ID and student concessions also only on a Friday. Children under 4 travel free and children aged 4-17 get a discount. We paid R255 each which at the exchange rate we got equates to just over £30 for both of us.

Table Mountain Cape Town South Africa