The wind whips around me, making it impossible to hear the few voices that are nearby. The views stretch out in 360-degree beauty, unobstructed by hordes of fellow tourists. The thick clouds that sometimes plague this spot? Gone. Amenities like gift shops and cafes that usually detract from the natural beauty are shuttered, lending an eerie quiet rather than the usual commercial air.
I’m at the top of Cape Town’s Table Mountain, enjoying the serenity of being one of less than twenty people here, in a spot that on most days can handle more than 800 people every hour. How did I score such an exclusive visit to this iconic summit? I came on a day when the mountain’s cable car is closed.
Cape Town’s infamous winds close down the cable car between 60 and 90 days each year. On days that it’s open, the five-minute trip easily whisks thousands of tourists up 3,500 feet to the top, where visitors find massive crowds, a bustling cafe, and even a gift shop.
The wind is of course, much stronger at the top of the mountain than it is at the base, so you may be surprised to find the cable car not running on what seems like a sunny day with a strong breeze. Which is why a day when the cable car is closed is the perfect day to visit. The catch: you’ll have to get to the summit under your own power (by hiking all the way up and down).
If you have the time, this is far and away the best method of exploring Table Mountain. The Platteklip Gorge path is the most direct way up, but be warned—you’ll basically be on a stone stairmaster the entire time, climbing step after step of mountain rock straight up. Along the way though, you’ll be distracted by colorful flowers and views that change around every bend in the path.
It took me a little under two hours to reach the top of the mountain, where I was rewarded with uninterrupted views of Cape Town and Table Bay Harbor. Not only were there no tourists to fight for space with, but the strong winds had blown away the clouds that can sometimes hang low over the mountain, blocking the scenery. When you’re at the flat summit, the winds can be chilly, so be sure to pack layers. But your glow of accomplishment from the hike should help keep you warm.
What’s your favorite spot to visit when it’s closed?
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