Paarl is the third-oldest town in South Africa (after Cape Town and Stellenbosch). The name was derived from Parel, meaning Pearl in Dutch and refers to the huge granite boulders to the west of the town.
The town's main road is 12 km long and has many interesting coffee shops, restaurants, stores and beautiful houses. This used to be the old wagon route to the north.
In 1688, the French Huguenots arrived in the Cape and some were given property in this area also known as the Drakenstein area. One of their most important influences was their knowledge of the wine industry.
Today the headquarters of the South African wine industry, the KWV, is to be found on one of the earliest farms (La Concorde) to be granted by Governor Simon van der Stel.
The Paarl Wine Route is much more than wine these days with many of the farms making superior cheeses and olive oils.
Annual festivals showcase these farms and the other attractions to be found in the area.
Afrikaans Language Monument
Standing tall on the mountain is the Afrikaans Language Monument, a monument for the Afrikaans language. With all the steps and lawns, children will enjoy all the freedom to run and climb in the area around the monument.
At the Volksmond Coffee Shop you can enjoy light snacks or you can browse the curio shop.
Paarl Mountain has been declared a Nature Reserve in 1977. The picturesque landscape of fynbos vegetation is dominated by massive rounded granite rocks set among ancient wild olives, rock candle woods and wagon trees.
There are several viewpoints which offer panoramic views toward Table Mountain and the sea in the west and the Boland Mountains in the east. A network of paths make it an ideal area in which to walk.
Local schools have laid out the Klipkers Nature Trail for which a guidebook is available. The circular route starts at the Language Monument and takes roughly 2 hours.
The Jan Phillips Mountain Road is kept in good repair, although not tarred, as well as the road leading to the Bretagne Rocks with its spectacular viewpoints.
How to get there:
Take the N1 from Cape Town and travel approximately 60km and then take the first turn-off into the town of Paarl (R45). Travel along this road and shortly after the KWV buildings on the right, look for a signpost towards the Jan Phillips Drive on the left.
Take the Jan Phillips Drive on the left. Follow the road up the mountain until a T-junction where one turns right towards the Millwater Wild Flower Garden. Entrance to the mountain Reserve is a short distance past the garden.
At the Millwater Wild Flower Garden, you can see up to 15 species of protea.
Enjoy a quiet moment in the 45 hectares of paradise with its 140 different species of birds. This reserve area offers a mixture of wetland and mountain bird-watching. The higher ground and its scrub hold interesting species such as the ground woodpecker, jackal buzzard and the often difficult to find Protea canary.
A good gravel road allows access to all parts of the Sanctuary as well as a number of hides overlooking the open water.
How to get there:
33° 41' 28.90" S
18° 58' 36.74" E
Follow Main Rd until you get to Berg River Boulevard, where you turn right. Follow the road through two traffic circles past Paarl Hospital.
At a T-junction with Optenhorst Street, turn right. Over the bridge the road becomes Oosbosch. Turn Left into Drommedaris and follow the signs to the sanctuary.
Image: Gordon Richardson
The Berg River that flows through the Valley is its life artery. It is also the starting point of the annual Berg River canoe marathon.
On the eastern bank of the Berg River, you'll find The Paarl Arboretum which is 2.8 km long and occupies approximately 31 ha.
Divided into 6 "continents" a unique feature is that trees and shrubs are grouped according to continents of origin. In excess of 2 600 trees and shrubs and 650 different species can be observed.