by Lydia Schrandt for USA TODAY 10Best

Virtual tour: Explore captivating Cape Town

Cape Town – South Africa’s scenic city on the Cape Peninsula – blends natural wonders with a sense of history and a modern sophistication.

A trip to Cape Town wouldn’t be complete without taking in the view from the top of Table Mountain, voted one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.

To reach the top of Table Mountain, take a ride on the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway. Before the cableway opened in 1929, the only way to reach the top of the iconic mountain was on foot.

Colorful Bo-Kaap was established in the 1760s as a neighborhood for enslaved (and later emancipated) Cape Malays – people brought from Indonesia, Malaysia and Africa to work in the Cape Peninsula.

Among Cape Town's many beautiful beaches, Camps Bay ranks among the trendiest. This chic suburb is home to a wide swath of sand, tide pools, cocktail bars and some of the city's top restaurants. 

For some of the best views of Cape Town and Table Mountain, take the 8-mile round trip hike to the top of Lion’s Head. The trail winds around the conical mountain, offering up views of the city from many angles.

Visit Robben Island, a UNESCO World Heritage site, to learn more about Cape Town’s troubled history of apartheid. Nelson Mandela served much of his sentence at this former high security prison.

Wine lovers can make a day trip to the Cape Winelands, the largest wine-producing region in South Africa.

Simon’s Town (sometimes misspelled Simonstown) is home to the nation’s largest Naval base. It’s also known for its Cape Dutch architecture, museums and picturesque waterfront.

A visit to Simon’s Town also means the chance to spot some African penguins in the wild. Some 3,000 of these delightful birds call Boulders Beach home.

One of the most spectacular promontories on the Cape Peninsula coast lies 37 miles outside Cape Town. The stone cliffs and scenic bays of Cape Point have long served as a navigational landmark.

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden at the foot of Table Mountain was the first botanical garden in the world to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

You’ll find one of the most colorful (and frequently photographed) spots in Cape Town at Muizenberg Beach. Retro wooden bathing chalets line the sand of this popular surf beach.

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