Photo: Cape Town from an aerial tram

An aerial tram rising up the side of Table Mountain offers a perfect view of sprawling Cape Town.

Photograph by Roger de la Harpe/Corbis

Abseil Africa

Of the many adrenaline-pumping activities on offer in Cape Town—including diving with sharks, paragliding, and sandboarding (like surfing but on sand dunes)—this 367-foot (112-meter) drop off the edge of Table Mountain has to be the most thrilling. www.abseilafrica.co.za

Table Mountain Aerial Cableway

“If you have to do one thing, do this. You will not be disappointed.”—Patrick Farrell, editor, Cape-I magazine. The no-pain way up Cape Town’s most famous natural landmark, with 360-degree views from cable cars as they rise to within easy walking distance of the summit. www.tablemountain.net

Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve

Part of the Table Mountain National Park, this magnificent reserve covers the southern tip of the Cape and includes spectacular hikes, quiet beaches, and great opportunities to view wildlife, including eight species of antelope, zebras, and baboons. www.tmnp.co.za

Chapman’s Peak Drive

“Best to do this as a passenger or you’ll be so distracted you'll plunge off the road.”—Gemma Pitcher, coordinating author, Lonely Planet Africa. Cut into the mountain wall and hugging near vertical cliffs between Hout Bay and Noordhoek, this extraordinary stretch of coastal road provides one of the most thrilling drives in South Africa. May be closed in bad weather. Tel. 27 21 790 9163; fee. www.chapmanspeakdrive.co.za

District Six Museum

Emotionally moving and informative exhibition devoted to the people who lived in the once multicultural area of the inner city known as District Six, largely demolished during apartheid. Former inhabitants scattered to distant impoverished neighborhoods based on their race. Guided tours can be arranged in advance. 25A Buitenkant Street, City Bowl; tel. 27 21 466 7200. www.districtsix.co.za

Groot Constantia

“Constantia’s gem, this seems like another world after the city’s bustle.”—Gemma Pitcher. Beautifully restored 17th-century Cape Dutch homestead on this large wine estate is now a museum. Taste wine, sample both traditional and modern Cape cooking, and relax on the spacious grounds. www.grootconstantia.co.za

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Landscape gardens feature numerous varieties of flora from the Cape Floral Kingdom. Covers 1,305 acres (528 hectares); blends seamlessly with the natural vegetation of Table Mountain. Includes a fragrance garden and a section where plants used by sangomas (traditional African healers) are grown. Don’t miss Sunday afternoon picnic concerts from December to March. Rhodes Drive, Newlands; tel. 27 21 799 8899. www.sanbi.org

Robben Island

“A place to comprehend the resilience of the human spirit and the enormity of forgiveness.”—Sheryl Ozinsky, author, Don’t tell Cape Town. Sail out about 7 miles (11 kilometers) in Table Bay from the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the Waterfront to this former island prison, now a United Nations World Heritage Site. The two-and-a-half-hour tour of the flat, bleak island is led by former prisoners and includes a stop at Mandela’s cell, the lime quarry where prisoners toiled, and the rocky headlands—now home to jackass penguins. Fee. www.robben-island.org.za

S.A. National Gallery

South Africa’s premier public gallery has a fantastic collection of art ranging from old Dutch masters to contemporary pieces such as Jane Alexander’s striking sculpture “Butcher Boys;” decorative carvings by Herbert Meyerowitz are part of the gallery’s doors. Accessed through the verdant Company’s Gardens. 25 Queen Victoria Street, Gardens; tel. 27 21 481 3800. http://www.iziko.org.za/museums/south-african-national-gallery

Township tours

“It might be the most unexpected relaxing time you have in Cape Town.”—Marc Zandhuis, editor in chief, CapeTownMagazine.com. Learn about the challenges facing Cape Town’s poorest communities, as well as the numerous success stories. Half-day tours, usually by minibus, commonly take in the major townships of Langa and Khayelitsha. Walking tours in the smaller townships of Masiphumelele and Imizamo Yethu are also available. For a full list of operators contact Cape Town Tourism. www.tourismcapetown.co.za

Victoria & Alfred Waterfront

More than just the departure point for Robben Island, the artfully restored, perpetually buzzing Waterfront is shopping and entertainment central for tourists and locals alike. Named after Queen Victoria and her son Alfred, it remains, at heart, a working harbor and is best appreciated on a boat tour; Waterfront Boat Company (www.waterfrontboats.co.za) offers sunset cruises on handsome wooden schooners. Tip: Visit Nobel Square to see statues of Nelson Mandela and other South African Nobel Prize winners. www.waterfront.co.za

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