The Swartland, Western Cape
Did you know?
Many of the Swartland vines grow under dryland conditions and are thus of exceptional quality.
The Swartland means the 'black land' in Afrikaans and was named after the hardy endemic rhinoster bush that dominates the landscape, its dark leaves turning black after the rains.
The Swartland lies 50km north of Cape Town, bounded by the little town of Darling to the west, Piketberg in the foothills of the Piket Mountains to the north, and to the east by the trendy villages of Riebeek West and Riebeek Kasteel. The wide central plain is a huge wheat farming area, sometimes called the bread basket of the Western Cape.
The Swartland Wine & Olive Route is a must-do. The route starts in Malmesbury, the Swartland's largest town, established over 265 years ago on the banks of the Diep River. But before you take a sip of the local wines at the Swartland Wine Cellar, pay a quick visit to the town museum, once a synagogue and now a heritage site.
The Swartland Wine & Olive Route also includes the famous vineyards and cellars of Allesverloren, established in 1860 on the slopes of the Riebeek Valley. Then you're right next door to the tourist heart of the Swartland – the enchanting twin villages of Riebeek Kasteel and Riebeek West.
In Riebeek Kasteel check out the beautifully restored Cape Dutch and Victorian houses before running amok in the arts and craft shops, potteries and galleries thronging the main square. Then time for a well-deserved coffee and snack at one of the many coffee shops and restaurants in the town.
If it's local history that fascinates you, then just 3km north of Riebeek West you'll find the original thatched house – now a museum – where one of South Africa's most famous statesman, Jan Christian Smuts, was born.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)22 487 2989
How to get here
Take the N7 north from Cape Town to Malmesbury and follow the R46 to Riebeek West and Riebeek Kasteel.
Best time to visit
Any time, although the golden wheat fields are spectacular in late summer. In spring, the little town of Darling is surrounded by colourful carpets of wildflowers.
Around the area
The Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area, renowned for its strange rock formations, is one of eight separately protected areas of the Cape Floral Region and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Hiring your own car would be best so you can explore the area at your own pace.
Where to stay
Accommodation, ranging from a historic hotel and luxurious Victorian villa to welcoming B&Bs, is widely available in the area.
The Riebeek Valley Olive Festival takes place annually in May. The Swartland Show, held annually in September in Moorreesburg, is the biggest agricultural show in the Western Cape.
Olives and speciality wines of the area such as shiraz, pinotage, chenin blanc and port. Riebeek Kasteel is full of arts and crafts shops where you can buy pottery, paintings, ceramics, furniture and jewellery.