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The Best Offbeat Hike in Cape Town, South AfricaWe never planned to hike the mountains above Constantia Nek in Cape Town. I hadn’t even heard of the place that morning.

After packing up and checking out of our first Air BnB apartment in Cape Town, we took the shortest route to our next apartment rental in the seaside suburb of Hout Bay. The shortest route was over a mountain pass beside Table Mountain.

My eyes were glued to the window as the mountain scenery passed quickly outside. Leafy vineyards and dusty side roads. Were we even still in the city? The road wound upwards through the low mountain pass of Constantia Nek in a cacophony of green, before dropping back to sea level where the parched dry earth of summer reigned again.

Hiking in Cape Town's MountainsI wanted to go back there immediately.

I always saw myself as a beach baby; growing up in a country where you are never far from the sea made it an intrinsic part of my life. I never knew the mountains then, or the special hold they would have on me later in my life.

My love affair truly began in Vancouver. With the majestic mountains that towered above the city to the north. The crisp, clean air and pristine lakes. The commanding views over the surrounding landscapes. The cute mountain critters.

I was hooked.

So it was no surprise that I fell for the pine scented mountains of Cape Town.

Hiking above Constantia in Cape Town's MountainsOur travel guide didn’t have any details of hikes around Constantia Nek or the surrounds but it didn’t matter. We would figure something out. I had seen cars parked along the road and I knew there must be some trails somewhere up there.

So after passing through a few hours earlier, we were heading back up there again.

Parking in the car park opposite the Constantia Nek Restaurant (the oldest in Cape Town), we wandered aimlessly for a while, trying to find somewhere we could walk.

The first Wine Estate in South Africa, Groot Constantia, was down the road a ways and we considered walking down there but there was no footpath and we didn’t want to walk along the narrow road with cars whizzing dangerously close.

Hiking above Constantia Nek in Cape Town's MountainsThe back of Table Mountain dominated the view above the car park so we decided to look for trails around there. And we found one easily.

It seemed to be a trail to Kirstenbosch Gardens, located further around the mountain. It was late afternoon and we weren’t sure how long it would take to hike there (and back) so we decided to just start walking and see how we went.

Hiking above Constantia Nek in Cape Town's Mountains Hiking above Constantia Nek in Cape Town's MountainsThe day was hot and the sun beat down on us as we started the long ascent above the car park. Despite the heat, the landscape was much greener than what we saw on our hike up to the top of Table Mountain via Platteklip Gorge.

Although we weren’t in an alpine climate, the number of pine trees and colourful wildflowers almost made me feel like I was back hiking in the coastal mountains of British Columbia or in Canada’s Rocky Mountains.

Wild flowers seen while hiking above Constantia Nek in Cape Town's Mountains Wild flowers seen while hiking above Constantia Nek in Cape Town's MountainsAlthough not as punishing as the Platteklip Gorge hike, the relentless heat made the climb seem much tougher. We frequently stopped to marvel at the view that we first caught sight of within minutes of hiking up the mountain path and that only grew more beautiful the higher we hiked.

Great views from the hike above Constantia Nek in Cape Town's Mountains Hiking above Constantia Nek in Cape Town's MountainsI only realised how many vineyards there actually are in Cape Town once I saw the rows of vines stretched out and reaching to the coast below.

We could see the beautiful Cape Dutch Groot Constantia nestled among the hilly vineyards and the surrounding mountain peaks lording over it all.

Amazing views while hiking around Cape Town's Mountains Amazing views while hiking around Cape Town's MountainsWhat made it even more special was the lack of people. It felt like we had discovered a local’s secret spot because during the hour and a half that we spent on the trail, we only saw four people. A vast difference from the climb up Table Mountain.

After climbing stairs that lead up the mountain for an indeterminate amount of time, the path started to flatten out as we skirted a ridge and rounded the side of the mountain.

Amazing views while hiking around Cape Town's Mountains Hiking around Cape Town's MountainsI was on a high from the immersion in faux-alpine environs and the peace that radiated from this natural place. Trav was tired and hot and wanted to have a beer back by the pool of our apartment.

Hiking around Cape Town's Mountains Hiking around Cape Town's MountainsWe started to head back the way that we came.

Walking back was easier; the air began to cool as the night slowly crept closer. The sweat chilled on my skin, lowering my body temperature and easing my heat-induced headache. I felt invigorated.

Hiking in Cape Town's Mountains Back in the dusty car park we bought piles of farm fresh nectarines and a juicy pineapple – all at ridiculously low prices. I may not have made it to the end of the trail but I found my happiness for the day and that’s all you can really ask for.

I will have to go back some day and see where the path ends.

Hiking in Cape Town's Mountains around Constantia Nek

Plan Your Cape Town Trip

Where to Stay in Cape Town

If you are wondering where to stay in Cape Town, I highly recommend renting a house or apartment – there are lots of great choices on Airbnb and Booking. I loved staying by the beach personally so these choices are in beach communities.

Stay at the Camps Bay Ruby Suite with modern amenities and right by the beach, or the Surf Way Beach Cottage, a one-bedroom apartment with a private pool and only minutes from Long Beach in Kommetjie.

If you are traveling solo to Cape Town and you want to meet people, there are so many amazing Cape Town hostels in different parts of the city. My top hostel picks based on ratings and location are Mojo Hostel in Sea Point, Cape Capsules Backpackers in Muizenberg, and A Sunflower Stop in Green Point.

If you are looking for something a little more luxurious, my picks for the Cape Town hotels and B&Bs by the seaside villages are The Muize Bed and Breakfast in Muizenberg, Protea Point B&B in Simon’s Town, South Beach Boutique Hotel in Camps Bay, and Hout Bay Breeze Guesthouse in Hout Bay.

The Best Insurance for Your Cape Town Trip

Make sure you get travel and health insurance before your trip. Safety Wing is my go-to and they are cheap and easy to claim with – it auto renews every month unless you turn it off so you don’t have to think about it on longer trips.

Safety Wing also allows you to sign up when you are already traveling, unlike a lot of other travel insurance providers.

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