Hotels in and around the Paarl suburb
Paarl is situated in South Africa's exquisite Western Cape, less than an hour's drive from Cape Town's city centre. This was one of the first settlements established by the Europeans after their arrival in 1652 (preceded only by Cape Town and Stellenbosch). Paarl is, therefore, particularly rich in its cultural and historical heritage. Its natural beauty is somewhat eclectically arranged. Bare rock faces are juxtaposed by fertile, green oases, interspersed by ample vineyards.
“Paarl” is the Afrikaans word for “pearl”, referring to Pearl Mountain – a granite rock made up of 3 rounded outcrops.
Paarl is situated in the winelands of South Africa's Western Cape Province. This area has largely been defined by its superior wines, and is recognised the world over for such. Wine farms and vineyards provide both beautiful and interesting day trips for the entire family.
Abraham Gabemma was the public treasurer at the Dutch settlement in Table Bay. He spotted the way that the rounded mountain jut-outs glistened in the rain, and promptly named it Diamond and Pearl Mountain (“de Diamondt en de Peerlberg”) in 1657, which was eventually shortened to Pearl Mountain. 30 years later, some of the land that now makes up Paarl and its surrounds was distributed amongst Dutch settlers. This land was fed by the Berg River and was ideal for agriculture, particularly in terms of vineyards. Today, the wine farms of Paarl are still a major attraction and an excellent source of income for the entire region.
Paarl is only 60km from Cape Town, connected by major highways. These roads are safe to travel by car or bus. Once in the small town of Paarl, distances between tourist attractions, shops and restaurants are fairly short. Visitors may prefer to walk from one place to the next within the town. However, wine farms will need to be visited by car as they are on the outskirts of the residential hub and can be some distance apart.
Visitors are advised to use formal taxis or privately hired vehicles rather than the minibus taxis that are throughout the country. These vehicles are not always roadworthy. Busses and trains are not used extensively by the locals and so are rare or absent.
Cape Town International Airport is the closest airport to Paarl. It is undergoing massive renovations in preparation for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™. As such, it is equipped to deal with an even larger number of flights from all over the world, making access easier and less costly. Alternatively, visitors that are coming from other areas in South Africa will enjoy the scenic routes and safe roads into Cape Town.
The major lure that Paarl has for local and international tourists is its stunning and productive wine farms. These produce some of the finest wines, both locally and internationally. Formal wine tours are conducted, and visitors are advised to consult with their tour operator regarding such tours. Alternatively, those with private vehicles may venture out by themselves, determining their own route and preferences.
The arboretum along the Berg River is home to approximately 4000 trees of 700 different species. The “Giants of Paarl” refer to the many trees, mainly Oaks, which Simon van der Stel donated to the area when he was Governor of the Cape of Good Hope, as Cape Town was once known.
The many surrounding mountains provide the more energetic tourists with the ideal opportunity to explore this area on foot. Hiking- and walking trails meander through these peaks, promising spectacular views and a truly intimate African experience. There are also cycling paths as well as areas suited to horses, for a more elevated view of Paarl.
The Afrikaans Language Monument (“Afrikaans Taalmonument”) is a well-known attraction in Paarl. It pays homage and bears testimony to the history of the Afrikaans language (which evolved mainly from Dutch, but also with French, English and Latin roots). It reveals a difficult time in South Africa's history; one that was marked by prejudice, hatred and discrimination, but that was overcome and, ultimately, conquered.
Paarl's summer (December to March) is somewhat hotter than many other South African areas, and its winter (June to August) cooler. This is due to its positioning at the foot of several mountains. Summer temperatures can soar to over 30 degrees Celsius at noon, while evenings are a warm 18 to 20 degrees. Winter lows are usually about 13 degrees Celsius and noonday highs reach approximately 18 degrees. Regardless of when you visit Paarl, it is essential to wear a high-factor sun protection cream and to keep out of the sun between 10h00 and 14h00.
Insect repellent is essential in South Africa, regardless of the area you are visiting or the time of year. Apply a spray or cream to your face, wrists, and ankles as well as any other exposed area. If you are hiking or walking in the bush or mountains, wear long trousers. Exposed ankles are often the target for ticks and other insects. At night, it is advisable to sleep under a mosquito net if you are not staying within the town's centre.
Visitors are urged to remember their prescriptions for spectacles and medication so that they can restock at a local pharmacy, rather than having to get another prescription, at extra cost, from a doctor. It is wise to ensure that tetanus shots are up-to-date as some areas are fraught with litter, including broken glass, cans and metal.
Paarl is a small, quiet town. However, there are areas that should be avoided, particularly at night. Consult with your tour operator regarding these. When walking around the city or using public transport (including tour busses), be aware of your personal belongings. Do not leave anything unattended, and do not accept help from strangers if it requires handing over your bank cards, photographic equipment, etc…