By Stef Terblanche
Songs have been written and sung about it. It features in poems and novels. It even has its own language… a very particular Afrikaans vernacular in which the r is pronounced almost like the purring of a cat, called the “brei”. This is the region northeast of Cape Town called the Boland, meaning top or upper country.
The Boland is also considered to be the breadbasket of South Africa, its fertile valleys, plains and mountain slopes producing everything from wine to meat, dairy produce, citrus fruit, olives, wheat, honey and more. It is a region of exquisite beauty through which magnificent rivers course, where mountains tower high, and where valleys and plains teem with flowers, indigenous trees, succulents, and fynbos. It is an absolute tourist’s paradise.
The Boland region is not strictly defined by borders but is accepted to be the area essentially to the northeast of Cape Town with its core around the Boland Mountains and the middle and upper courses of the Berg and Breede Rivers. It is roughly bordered by Cape Town in the southwest, the West Coast and part of the Swartland in the west (parts of the Swartland also fall within the Boland region), the Koue Bokkeveld and Cederberg Mountain in the north, and the Karoo to the east. The area falls approximately within the Winelands District Municipality, formerly known as the Boland District Municipality.
Its major towns can be said to include Stellenbosch, Paarl, Wellington, Franschhoek, Riebeeck Kasteel, Worcester, Malmesbury, Tulbagh, Ceres, Wolseley, De Doorns and Robertson, although some will trim down this list by a few. The capital of the Boland would be considered by most to be the bustling wine-producing town of Paarl with its glistening granite boulder-like mountain, hence the name of the town which is Dutch/Afrikaans for ‘pearl’.
The entire area easily lends itself to day trips from Cape Town as your base, although it offers a choice array of wine estate accommodation, guest farms, hotels, lodges, B&Bs and camping sites for those who wish to stay longer (highly recommended). The region is also home to some of South Africa’s best award-winning restaurants, like the Grande Roche in Paarl, Rust en Vrede in Stellenbosch, La Petite Colombe in Franschhoek and many, many more. Of course, lying within South Africa’s primary wine country, it also includes most of South Africa’s top wine estates, many of which also boast 5-star restaurants.
Among the many things to do in the region are wine tasting, gourmet feasting, flower watching in Spring, bird watching, enjoying the old-world architecture or hunting for bargains in the many quaint boutiques and antique shops of the region, going on lovely leisurely hikes, or picnicking on wine estates, and so much more. There are also a great number of museums and historical sites in the region, as well as interesting monuments such as the Taalmonument, a monument of the Afrikaans language, or the French Huguenots Monument in Franschhoek.
For the more active there’s horse riding, mountain hikes, kayaking, mountain biking, trout fishing, rock climbing, hot air ballooning, paragliding, game viewing on private reserves, a large variety of golf course, 4×4 trails, or white/black water rafting, to name but a few. In winter you can frolic in the snow on the lower slopes of some of the mountains.
For more information you can visit the following: Ceres Tourism at www.ceres.org.za/; Swartland Municipality (Malmesbury, Riebeeck Kasteel & West, Moorreesburg) at www.swartland.org.za; Langeberg Municipality (Robertson, Bonnievale, Ashton) at www.langeberg.gov.za; Franschhoek Tourism at https://franschhoek.org.za/; Paarl Tourism at www.paarlonline.com; Tulbagh Tourism at www.tulbaghtourism.co.za; Wellington Tourism at www.wellington.co.za; and Stellenbosch Tourism at www.visitstellenbosch.org.