What’s the Best Time to Visit Table Mountain?

One of the most spectacular geographic features on the entire planet, Table Mountain is the iconic symbol of Cape Town, South Africa.

Jun 28, 2024By Greg Beyer, BA History & Linguistics, Journalism Diploma

table mountain purple

 

At the southern tip of the African continent in South Africa, Cape Town sits on the northern end of a peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic. Casting its shadow over this city are mountains that form a round valley called the “City Bowl” in which the Cape Town Central Business District is located. The biggest and most famous of these mountains is Table Mountain, flanked on the east by Devil’s Peak, and on the west by Lion’s Head and Signal Hill.

 

Table Mountain is so named because it is flat on top. As such, it is possible to walk all over the pinnacle of the mountain without much hassle. This, of course, is a huge attraction for visitors and locals alike. Choosing the best time to do this is an important decision for any tourist!

 

Climate and Weather

Aerial view of Cape Town. Source: Wikimedia Commons

 

Table Mountain is the centerpiece of Table Mountain National Park, surrounded completely by urban development. As such it is the fourth largest urban park in the world, measuring 54,610.3 acres.The weather here is subject to the weather in Cape Town but is generally a few degrees cooler as it sits around 0.62 miles (1000 meters) above the streets of the City Bowl. Cape Town has a Mediterranean climate of mild, wet winters and dry, hot summers. The summer months can be uncomfortably hot, and temperatures can sometimes reach above 80°F (32°C). 

 

The winter months of June, July, and August can be quite chilly. Temperatures around this time are usually around the low 50s °F (low teens °C). But even if it’s comfortably warm at sea level, it’s always a good idea to take a sweater if an ascent is planned. 

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Getting There

Image from Google Earth showing the Cableway stations circled in red, as well as the roads that lead from the city to the side of the mountain. Source: edited from Google Earth

 

The mountain sits directly south of the City Bowl and the base of the mountain is accessed easily via road. The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway takes visitors up and down the mountain. Ticket prices vary depending on the age of the visitor and whether the ticket is bought online or at the station, but visitors can expect to pay in the region of around R400 for a return ticket (around $22). Students can also expect a sizable discount on ticket prices. 

 

One-way tickets are also available for the adventurous few who want to hike back down. The trail, however, is quite steep, and most of the top of the mountain is bordered by steep 90-degree cliffs that can easily claim the lives of those who don’t respect the danger they present. Sitting on the edge for a selfie is not worth the risk!

 

Tours can be organized as well, and Cape Town offers many opportunities for those wishing to take advantage of tour buses and guides. Taking a car is easy, however, most of the parking is along the side of the road, and one can expect to find parking as far as a mile from the lower Cableway station during peak tourist season.

For those lucky enough to have South African citizenship, a trip up the mountain can be free if organized during their birthday month!

 

The Crowds

A dassie, a common sight round the rocky areas of the Cape Peninsula. Source: animalia.bio https://animalia.bio/nl/rock-hyrax

 

The summer months also coincide with the peak tourist season of November to March when tourists from all over the world flock to Cape Town to take advantage of the glorious weather and to experience the city’s natural beauty. Getting the best out of a trip to Table Mountain means having to plan when to travel. To avoid the biggest crowds, traveling on either side of the tourist season is recommended. 

 

The mountain is open to visitors all year round, but operating times for the Cableway are subject to seasonal change. There is a restaurant at the top of the mountain, so food is available, as well as facilities for those who forgot to go before they went!

 

Dassies (rock hyraxes) are a common sight here. They might look like large rodents, but their closest relatives are actually elephants and sea cows! They live on the sides of the mountain and frequently hover around the restaurant hoping for scraps. 

 

The View from the Top

Table Mountain and its “Table Cloth”. Source: Youtube

 

At first sight, there is no doubt as to why Table Mountain is one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. It forms an unusual and spectacular backdrop to the city below, and has been marveled at by locals and foreigners alike for many eras

 

During the summer months, the sky is clear, and the view of the city below is nothing short of spectacular. In the winter, it is common for the mountain to be covered in a layer of clouds that cascade down the side of the mountain. These clouds are known affectionately by the locals as “The Table Cloth”. While they will obscure the view of the city, they will provide a unique experience for those wishing to experience the top of Table Mountain in the eerie mist.

 

It never snows in Cape Town, but above the city, where it is a few degrees cooler, the top of Table Mountain can, on the rare occasion, receive a light blanket of snow.

 

View of Cape Town from the top of Table Mountain. Source: cape{town}etc.

 

Although Cape Town offers a diverse and almost inexhaustible array of attractions for tourists, Table Mountain is the premier destination for almost everybody who visits the city from abroad. It defines the skyline of the city and holds a special place in the hearts of Capetonians. Standing on the top of this incredible mountain is an unforgettable experience for anybody whether they are tourists or locals.

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By Greg BeyerBA History & Linguistics, Journalism DiplomaGreg specializes in African History. He holds a BA in History & Linguistics and a Journalism Diploma from the University of Cape Town. A former English teacher, he now excels in academic writing and pursues his passion for art through drawing and painting in his free time.