Experience the Magnificence of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa

If you’ve ever been to Cape Town, people will tell you that the first thing you must do is ascend Table Mountain. This iconic flat-topped sandstone mountain looms majestically on the city’s edge, standing sentinel and casting its shadow over everything below. A question I often encounter is: Is it worth going up Table Mountain? If I have only one day in Cape Town, should it be a top priority? And when is the best time to ascend Table Mountain?

Exploring Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa

After three visits to this miraculous place, I feel equipped to answer all these questions and more.

Planning Your Visit to Table Mountain

If you have only a day to explore the highlights of Cape Town, you can join a guided tour to see penguins, visit the vibrant Bo-Kaap, take the cable car up Table Mountain, and drive along the picturesque Chapman’s Peak Drive; all easily achievable in a single day.

One of the cool aspects of Table Mountain is its proximity to Cape Town’s city center. In fact, after exploring the highlights, we took an Uber to the starting point in Cape Town, which only took 15 minutes. You can also hop on and off the bus, getting off at Table Mountain—an activity my mom and I did on our first visit to Cape Town a decade ago.

Much has changed since my last ascent a decade ago. The views remain the same, but the mountain’s infrastructure seems to have undergone an upgrade.

I remember on my first two visits, there wasn’t as much infrastructure. Now, there’s a restaurant, a café, and several paved paths.

Once you reach the cable car station, you’ll showcase your ticket—adult prices starting from $18—and queue for the rotating floor cable car. When we arrived, there was no queue, so we could board directly.

While the Table Mountain cable car has a history dating back to 1929, the current cable car has been in operation for 25 years.

The ascent is fast, taking less than 10 minutes, and it’s smooth. The cabin has a rotating floor, allowing you to see the scenery from every angle.

Once at the summit, you can explore various paths, offering different perspectives of Cape Town.

But what if you’re afraid of heights? You should be fine. The summit is 3,563 feet above sea level, with hardly any steep cliffs. Each viewpoint is protected by walls and railings.

Coming to Cape Town without visiting Table Mountain would be like going to San Francisco without seeing Alcatraz or vacationing in Athens without visiting the Parthenon; skipping this iconic place would be a tragedy. If that doesn’t entice you, perhaps the breathtaking views will.

If hiking is your thing, you can climb Table Mountain (quite challenging). Alternatively, you can take the cable car up and hike down via the Platteklip Gorge (much easier). If you choose the latter, you’d want to allow yourself enough daylight time.

How Cold Does It Get on Table Mountain in South Africa?

Table Mountain is known for its unpredictable weather. It might be cloudy below and sunny on top or clear in Cape Town and windy on the mountain. You never know what you’ll get.

So, how cold does it get on Table Mountain in South Africa?

I always recommend bringing a jacket. Every time I’ve been to Cape Town, the temperature on the mountain has been around 10 to 15 degrees cooler than below the cable car station, prompting me to layer up.

What’s the Experience Like on Table Mountain in South Africa?

However, I always suggest carrying a jacket. Every time I’ve been to Cape Town, the temperature on the mountain has been around 10 to 15 degrees cooler than below the cable car station, and I always find myself needing an extra layer.

So, when is the best time to go up Table Mountain?

In my view, the best time to ascend Table Mountain is during the late afternoon sunset. It seems people always gather there in the morning, so I prefer the evening.

Moreover, the golden hour is not something you can enjoy early in the morning.

Pro Tip: If you plan to visit Table Mountain, avoid peak hours. Opt for the last cable car up in the day; not only does it allow you to escape the crowds, but the light during sunset is truly amazing.

Operating hours vary by season, with the last car in winter months (May to August) at 4 p.m. and peak summer (September to December) departures until 8 p.m. So, make sure to plan your trip accordingly and check the last car’s time before heading out.

Further reading

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