Encompassing both the Breede River Valley and Little (Klein) Karoo further east, Route 62 in South Africa is promoted as the longest wine route in the world. Here are 15 reasons why road tripping it is a blast.
This article originally appeared on AFKInsider.com.
1. Breathtaking scenery
Along Route 62 you’ll climb breathtaking mountain passes — Kogmanskloof Pass is particularly gorgeous — dip down into lush green valleys, and meander past tracts of golden grasslands where ostriches roam under giant blue skies.
2. Cape Dutch villages
The route also meanders through quaint towns with perfectly preserved 18th-century Cape Dutch architecture. Tiny Montagu is a example. Founded in 1851, today the immaculate whitewashed Cape Dutch homes on its main street are now home to artists and other escapees.
3. Garden Route alternative
Running roughly parallel to the Garden Route — but further north — Route 62 makes an excellent alternate route east-west across the bottom third of the country. Try taking one route into Cape Town, and the other on the way out (or vice versa).
4. Kleinplasie Living Open Air Museum
The farming service center town of Worcester, about an hour east of Cape Town and the official start of the Route 62, is worth stopping to visit the Kleinplasie Living Open Air Museum, which tells the region’s agricultural history through “living” exhibits.
While at Kleinplasie, don’t miss the museum shop. Here you can sample and buy various flavours of the 60-proof witblits (white lightning), a traditional Boer spirit distilled from fruit. To get the full taste, first inhale then sip and roll the liquor around your mouth before swallowing and exhaling.
6. Brandy tasting
With more than 50 trademarks for sale, brandy could be considered South Africa’s national spirit. The 330-year-old South African brandy industry has a reputation for producing outstanding batches of the alcoholic sweet nectar, distilled from only grapes and left to mature in French oak barrels for at least three years. Brandy tasting is as popular as wine tasting along Route 62, which is home to multiple brandy-specific cellars. In Worcester visit KWV House of Brandy, the largest cellar of its kind in the world with around 120 copper pots under one roof.
7. Wine tasting
Robertson should be your next Route 62 stop. It is at the center of one of the largest wine-growing areas in the country and is home to around 30 different vineyards. My favorite is Van Loveren, where tastings take place in the garden surrounded by trees planted for specific historical events, such as the day Mandela was released from prison. This winery has a different approach to tasting than other vineyards: you pick the wines you want to try, and you’re brought the entire bottle. You can choose as many bottles as you want, and pour as much as you’d like!
8. Hot springs
At the Avalon Springs Hotel & Spa Resort in Montagu, the hot mineral springs are known for their healing properties. They can be reached two ways: drive up and park in the lot, or hike in via the easy 2.2 km Lover’s Lane Trail, which starts at the car park at the end of Barry Street.
At the eastern end of Route 62 you’ll see a turnoff to Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, which is Big Five safari country. The 54,000-hectare park is also home to ancient rock art, the only free roaming white lions in the world, and three luxury safari lodges.
10. Hiking trails
Another perfectly preserved Cape Dutch town, McGregor, is located at the end of a road to nowhere and feels like it’s lost in another century. Home to artists and other bohemian types, it’s also a great base for exploring the region’s excellent hiking trails and nature reserves.
11. Winter warmth
For something a little different, try driving the route during winter, when an indulgent stop at a winery to sample some robust reds will keep you toasty and warm. And the views are even more spectacular with snow-capped mountains in the distance and the rain-soaked pastures a soothing shade of green. The light during winter is much softer as well.
If you can drag your eyes away from the winding mountains and idyllic vineyards, keep an eye out for South Africa’s bird life — especially the Blue Crane, South Africa’s national bird and an endangered species, can often be found in wetlands along the route.
13. South African flora
South Africa of course is famous for its indigenous flora, and you’ll see many fine examples as you drive along the route. But did you know that there are over 500 species of South African succulents along the way?
14. Mountain Route
Cape Route 62 is also known as the Mountain Route, and provides the traveller with imposing mountains to gaze upon. There are several mountain passes along the route, engineered by Andrew Bain and his son Thomas Bain in the nineteenth century. Stop and pay tribute at one of the viewpoints along the way to the workmanship of those who laboured on this road.
15. Welcoming People
One element which brings people back again and again to journey along Route 62 is the friendliness of the people along the way. Along the route the folks prove to be welcoming and eager to assist passing travelers.