If you ask any Capetonian what they love most about their fair city, they’ll tell you it’s Table Mountain. Iconic to Cape Town and the envy of all other South African cities, Table Mountain is one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature and holds a special place in the heart of South Africans.
Its flat summit, breathtaking views and natural beauty make it immensely popular, attracting South Africans and tourists from around the world eager to reach its summit. No trip to Cape Town is complete without going up Table Mountain, so check out this inside guide on everything there is to know about Table Mountain.
How to get up Table Mountain
There’s little more breathtaking than standing on the flat Table Top, gazing out over the bay and out to the horizon, or looking out in the other direction to see the valley stretching towards the distant range of the Hottentots Holland Mountains.
There’s more than one way to get to this point.
The Aerial Cableway
The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway is the best way to get up Table Mountain, with its revolving cable cars that give you 360-degree views of the ascent up the mountain and the City Bowl as you leave it below.
Construction for the aerial cableway was started as early 1926 and took three years to build. It’s been refurbished three times since then, but the Upper Cableway and the valley the cable car passes through is still in Its original, if upgraded, condition.
The Aerial Cableway is shut down each year sometime during the Winter months to facilitate some additional annual maintenance. This is necessary to ensure the utmost safety and comfort to the 800 000 plus passengers that ride the cable cars each year.
Need to know if the Cable Car is open today? Check out the official Table Mountain Aerial Cableway website to check if the cable cars are running.
How dangerous is hiking Table Mountain? It’s safe as long as you keep to the set hiking trails. Table Mountain may look like an easy looking mountain to climb, but it still poses a delightful challenge for even the fittest mountaineer. There are a number of trails that will take you up to the plateau, while others will take you on more winding routes around the contour paths and along the Back Table to the Table Top.
The most popular trek up is Platteklip Gorge near the Tafelberg Road, but this doesn’t make it the easiest. Then there’s Skeleton Gorge at Kirstenbosch Gardens, and typically the easiest route is to walk up the winding Constantia Nek Jeep Trail all the way along the Back Table.
Remember to always pack plenty of water and food when hiking up the mountain, and always inform someone of when and where you’ll be hiking. Give them a time you should be back by, and remember to hike in groups. Accidents can happen even in the safest looking places. The Table Mountain National Park emergency number is 0861 106 417.
Just as important is to check the weather at the top of the mountain, and if the cable cars are running if you intend to ride them back down. You can check on the day at the link provided above.
Read more about Table Mountain’s Top Hiking Trails here.
What’s at the top of Table Mountain?
Besides the spectacular panoramic views of the Atlantic Seaboard, Table Bay and the city below, Table Mountain offers a number of other activities to keep you entertained on your day up at the plateau.
The Upper Cableway
The cableway station at the top has a number of gift and curio shops for your shopping needs and is open from when the first cable car comes up till the last one comes down. You can even send postcards from the upper cable station, with special Table Mountain postage stamps and cards and an old fashioned British post box to put them in.
For lunch, breakfast or snacks you can always visit the Table Mountain Cafe or the Wifi Lounge to sit back and enjoy super fast wifi and a high tea. Very high in fact, about 1,067 metres above sea level!
As if reaching the summit isn’t enough, you can get creative about how you get back down! Not all the way down at least. Abseiling is not recommended on all areas of the mountain since no matter how safe it looks it’s still a long fall to the ground or ledges below. Private abseiling companies offer a safe, guided abseiling experience at the summit; we recommend City Sightseeing’s Abseiling for a fantastic, safe abseiling adventure.
The Overseers Cottage
Want to actually stay on Table Mountain? We’ve got the perfect spot for that. Hike up the mountain to spend a night or two at the remote Overseers Cottage, two small cottages that cater for up to 16 guests. There’s no wifi, no electricity, and little to no signal. It’s the perfect retreat from the modern world, and on top of a mountain no less.
Be sure to bring warm clothes and food along, the cottages are self-catering. To book your stay check out the SANParks website for availability.
Please note, the Table Mountain dams are near the Overseers Cottage, but don’t go swimming in them!
Table Mountain FAQ
How old is Table Mountain?
This may be a surprise, but Table Mountain is considered to be one of the oldest mountains in the world and is 600 million years old. That makes it older than the Andes, the Alpes, and it’s 6 times older than the Himalayas and 5 times older than the Rocky Mountains.
Why is Table Mountain Flat?
Table mountain is made of Cape Granite and Sandstone, and interesting enough, Table Mountain could have been a volcano! But the molten lava was stopped before it could break the surface, and it cooled underground, forming hard granite. This was topped by sandstone.
During the ice age, the plains of ice eroded the sandstone and formed the flat ‘top’ of the mountain. And when the continents split apart the granite withstood the pressure and pushed upwards instead of folding in. As the mountain rose, wind, rain, and the ocean waves eroded and ate at the rock, creating the smooth cliffs, flat top, and the ravines and fissures of the Back Table.
Where is Table Mountain?
Table Mountain can be found in Cape Town, South Africa. It’s even on the Cape Town Flag. It’s Cape Town’s most famous landmark and was officially declared one of the New7Wonders of Nature.
How high is Table Mountain?
Table mountain is 1085 meters tall at its highest point, Maclear’s Beacon.
What is special about Table Mountain?
Table Mountain is not just special for its looks, but its flat top and ravines can be thanked for the richness of the mountains biomes, with rich fauna and flora. Of the 2,285 species of plants on the Peninsula 1,500 occur in the 57 km2 area comprising Table Mountain and the Back Table. This number is at least a large as all the plant species in the whole of the United Kingdom. That’s a lot of plant species in one relatively small environment compared to the big picture!
So Table Mountain isn’t just special for the unique circumstances under which it formed, or for its awe-inspiring looks. It’s special because of the unique environment it provides, which is important for thousands of native species of fauna and flora.
Visit Table Mountain with your Cape Town City Pass
Visiting Cape Town? Want to know how to get up Table Mountain? Purchase your City Pass to get free access to the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway. From there you can enjoy everything Table Mountain has to offer, from spectacular views over the Peninsula and Table Bay to scenic hikes across the Table Top and to the Back Table. Don’t forget to enjoy a spot of lunch or breakfast at the cafe, or sit back and enjoy the view at the Wifi Lounge.