Cape Town is among those few iconic cities whose certain je ne sais quoi still hasn’t quite been pinned down! So what exactly is it about Cape Town that moves or lures us? The city’s geography is a starting point but look further to discover a destination limitless in its ability to attract all sorts of visitors. A diverse mix of people, its world class tourism infrastructure, fascinating history, unique neighborhoods. Add the chance to learn English in Cape Town into the mix and you have one of the world’s top study abroad destinations!

Phenomenal geography

Nestled away at the end of the earth, South Africa’s Mother City is a breathtaking example of the natural beauty of a country whose fame — unfortunately — has historically lied elsewhere. A growing interest in Cape Town following the end of apartheid, and including events like the World Cup, have reignited the world’s curiosity for South Africa — and this time for the right reasons! From Table Mountain right down to its beaches and bays, Cape Town is indescribably beautiful.

People power

Cape Town is one of the best places to get a feel for the concept coined by Rev. Desmond Tutu, the “Rainbow Nation.” The city is comprised of a fascinating mix of the country’s major ethnic groups, including Coloreds, Afrikaners, English South African, Indian, Asian and Black. Known for its deep connection to the South African liberation movement, Cape Town prides itself on its inclusive civic culture. The city is home to many of the country’s top universities and is regarded as one of Africa’s most LGBTI-friendly, hosting Pride each February or March.

Adventures galore

Cape Town is a starting point for all sorts of adventure. The city’s unique geography means visitors can partake in marathons, hikes, biking events, surf and more. With its sun, wind, mountains, rivers, hills and beaches, the city is a natural choice for adventure sports lovers. Energetic visitors should keep their eyes out for events like the Cape Argus Cycle Tour in March, the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon around Easter and the Knysna Marathon in June.

South Africa’s unique English

Competing against the UK, USA or Australia, Cape Town might not be among the most obvious destinations for an English course. But look (and listen) a little closer and you’ll find a country where the locals speak an English that is clear, slow and uniquely African. The South African accent is a little like the New Zealand or Australian accents, though perhaps a touch clearer. And what makes it really stand out is the influence of Afrikaans — a South African language that descended from Dutch and which is spoken by over 10 million people — both on the South African English accent and its vocabulary. Words like “lekker” (nice or cool) and “ja” (yes) are two of the most common and obvious examples.

Unique inner-city destinations

Cape Town keeps you busy! You might be tempted by the spectacular day tours and weekend getaways you can access from Cape Town. But you might also find it hard to leave the city center and surrounding neighborhoods. From the V&A Waterfront, jump on the ferry to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of his 27 years behind bars. Take the Aerial Cableway to the top of Table Mountain. Visit the more than two dozen museums the city hosts. Take a dive at Camp’s Bay. Laze about in the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Sip an espresso in Obs. Too much to choose from!

Great food, even better wine

Cape Town is located just a hop, step and jump away from some of Africa’s premiere wine-growing regions. Red-lipped visitors will surely enjoy the Stellenbosch region, 50 kilometers from Cape Town. Along with the Paarl and Franschhoek valleys, Stellenbosch is part of the Cape Winelands, known for its beautiful views, vineyards and cellars. From Cape Town, you can sign up with any number of wine tours that include lunch and transport, including Ailola Cape Town’s trusted service providers!

Uncomparable, incomparable neighborhoods

Cape Town’s geography and history are behind what has become a city of several dozen unique neighborhoods. In Cape Town, the malicious task of isolating South Africans according to their skin color during apartheid was, for its instigators, simplified by the beaches, bays and dramatic land formations that you’ll discover when you visit the city. As such, the city’s neighbourhoods are, today, a reflection of ethnicity, history and residents’ socio-economic realities (all interrelated concepts in South Africa). Some interesting areas of the city to watch out for include Observatory, today a hub for students and young professionals but which was once a so-called “grey” area during apartheid, meaning people of all ethnicities mixed and lived together.

A stepping stone to stunning South Africa

Up there on the list of most tourists wishing to visit Africa, is South Africa. And that’s easy to understand! The country is as diverse as they come, offering visitors essentially the best of everything African: stunning landscapes, great people, world class safaris, beaches, food and wine, top tourist infrastructure, regular international flight routes, and so on. From Cape Town, visitors should consider the stunning Garden Route and essentially anything north (that would be… the entire African continent). Nothing beats Africa!

Originally published on Ailola by Jayson McNamara on August 25, 2015.