Solo travel: why Stellenbosch is a great place to visit alone

Posted by Melanie van Zyl on 2 October 2017

Being from Johannesburg, I’ve had very few experiences in the Cape wine regions, but Stellenbosch has always been high on my destination list.

I waited, but received no wedding invites and none of my friends studied in Stellies. So, fresh out of excuses, it was time to explore beautiful Stellenbosch solo – and it’s so much easier than you think.

Also read: Explore a different side to Stellenbosch.

As someone who often travels independently, I know it can be lonely, but more often than not travelling alone is incredibly rewarding. Solo travel is also a growing trend, especially among women. This Contiki article puts it perfectly, ‘Today’s female travelers are independent, unafraid and looking to explore new and authentic destinations their own way.’ Hear, hear!

Here are five things to do by yourself the next time you visit Stellies:

1. Learn about wine

Stellenbosch-Solo-Melanie-van-Zyl

Playing master wine blender at Middelvlei Wine Estate with Ben Momberg, a third-generation wine farmer.

Stellenbosch is a short drive from Cape Town and home to a ton of incredible wine estates – over 200! It can be overwhelming. The best way to learn about wine is to make some at Middelvlei Wine Estate. What a wine maker does in six to seven years, you can do in just over an hour.

It starts with a cellar tour and then you get three components to create your own, unique red wine. First, get a taste for the wines. Do you prefer pinotage or merlot? Wooded or not? Slightly sweet? Your best blend is a matter playing wine scientist: taste and practice. It’s a whole lot of fun and at the end, you even get to cork it too.

The lekker lunch spread at Middelvlei Wine Estate is a braai feast in a delightful farm setting.

After all that hard work, it’s absolutely worth indulging in their delicious braai spread (R180), which includes the best, cheesiest braaibroodjie you’ll ever eat, fresh breads, salads, divine pumpkin fritters (like my gran used to make) and generous portions of meat, like kebabs, wors and chops.

Cost: R135 to blend and take home your own red wine. It also comes with freshly baked potbrood served with a glass of Middelvlei Pinotage Merlot.

When: Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11:00 and every last Saturday of the month.

 

2. Go hiking

A hike from Dirtopia at Delvera, just outside of Stellenbosch.

Although I was blown away by the enormous variety of wine farms, there are other ways to get outside, like hiking with Dirtopia.

Set off on the Delvera Vineyard Trail and soak up some Stellenbosch sunshine. The trail is 9,7km and takes about 2,5 hours to complete. Set off through sprawling vineyards and end with epic views from Klapmutskop. There are shorter routes on the wine estate, but the views from the top of the koppie make it worth the climb. This is also a very popular trail running location so pack your takkies if you’re training.

There’s a patch of unexpected forest that’s cool and beautiful as you climb to the top of Klapmutskop.

If you’re worried about safety, it’s possible to join a group event. Plan your trip around the monthly full moon hikes, which follow the same route and costs R100.

Cost: R40 for a day permit.

Also read: 14 destinations for women who travel solo.

 

3. Vinegar tasting

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All the flavours and fragrances used in the vinegars at Rozendal are displayed for visitors to see. The cellar is filled with oak barrels full of the wine, just waiting to transform into a beautiful botanical vinegar.

As you’re here by yourself, there are only so many wine tastings you can drink and drive safely away from. The suburbs of Stellenbosch halt abruptly at this organic wine farm, where you can taste the gorgeous Rozendal Vinegar instead.

It may seem obvious, but all vinegar is made from wine and wine naturally wants to turn into vinegar. Rozendal vinegar is made from a blend of red wine cultivars and activated by an indigenous ‘mother’ culture originating from the farm’s first vinegar, which was made back in 1988. This is then fermented in small oak barrels and results in delicious balsamic-style vinegar.

The botanically-infused Rozendal vinegars: Green Tea, Fynbos, Lavender and Hibiscus – all of them delicious!

The tasting is unusual as you have to swig a shot of vinegar, swirl it around in your mouth and wait for saliva to neutralise the acidity. That’s when you can start to taste the botanical infusions. Hibiscus, lavendar, buchu and rooibos are just some of the flavours you’ll pick up. The tour is a fascinating look at the other side of wine farming.

Cost: Vinegar tastings are free!

Also read: 20 things to do in the Winelands for under R100.

 

4. High tea and luxe living

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Airy settings and an amazing high-tea spread just for guests at the Life & Leisure Guesthouse.

Although it’s an easy drive from Cape Town staying over in Stellies makes it a true solo adventure. I stayed at the Life & Leisure Guesthouse. The trendy accommodation is not only stylish and spacious, every day there’s an indulgent high tea, spread out for guests near the pool area.

There’s free Wi-Fi (good enough for Netflix) and if you really want to make the most of being by yourself, book some guilt-free pampering. After all, travelling solo means you can be a little selfish.

Slick interiors at the Life & Leisure Guesthouse. I also loved the complimentary fresh fruit left in the room.

Cost: From R600 per person (in low season, which ends 30 September).

 

5. Get social at Tiger’s Milk

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Tiger’s Milk in Stellenbosch is a spacious restaurant and trendy bar in town.

After all that alone time, end off your adventure with a festive vibe at a local hangout. Tiger’s Milk is less than a kilometre away from the guesthouse. Here you can bank on great, affordable food and good vibes. The thin-base pizzas are great and I can never go without ordering the delectable croquettes.

Cost: Bacon and jalapeno croquettes are R59; the rosemary and parmesan pizza is R75 and the local brew, Tiger’s Milk Lager, is R35.

 

 

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