Paarl

‘The Pearl of South Africa’

The town of Paarl itself was established in 1720 with the building of the first church.
The theme of Paarl Museum

Situated between the second largest granite rock in the world and the majestic Du Toit’s KloofMountains, Paarl is often referred to as the ‘Pearl’ of the Berg River Valley. It was in 1657 that Abraham Gabbema, a pioneer explorer, first visited the area in search of new meat resources for the settlement at the Cape. As far as could be established, he and his small company were the first Europeans to find their way into this beautifull valley of the Berg River. He named the granite dome, glittering brilliantly in the sun after a rain shower, the ‘Peerleberg’ (Pearly Mountain). Some 30 years later on October 16, 1687, Commander Simon van der Stel visited the area accompanied by the first Free Burghers to whom farms were granted in the area. He called the area Drakenstein, although the name, ‘De Paarl’,was already established in common usage. The town of Paarl itself was established in 1720 with the building of the first church.

Paarl Mountain, aptly called ‘Tortoise’ Mountain by the Khoikhoi, was declared a National Monument in 1963 – one of the few mountains to have been proclaimed as such.

GENERAL INFORMATION

How to get there

Cape Town 60 km, Airport 69 km, Hermanus 120 km, Worcester 48 km, Clanwilliam 215 km, Mossel Bay 368 km, George 395 km, Knysna 445 km, Plettenberg Bay 497 km, Oudtshoorn 365 km, Montagu 127 km, Ceres 80 km, Johannesburg 1345 km.

Altitude: 120 m above sea level

Average Temperatures

Winter 14°c; summer 29°c

HISTORICAL VIEW

Afrikaans Language Monument (Paarl Mountain)

Paarl played an important role in the development of the Afrikaans language. The first issue of ‘Die Afrikaanze Patriot’, the first Afrikaans newspaper, was published here. The AfrikaansLanguage Monument commemorates the origin and growth of Afrikaans.

Bethel Building

The oldest surviving building in Paarl. Reference dates back to 1710 and the floor plan has not been altered since 1756.

Gideon Malherbe Museum (Afrikaanse Taal Museum)

The museum is housed in the restored homestead Westfallen, where the first copies of Die Afrikaanze Patriot were printed on 15 January 1876. Exhibits cover the history of the language.

La Concorde

Headquarters of the KWV, was completed in 1958 and strands on one of the first five farms within the present urban area of Paarl, granted to the French Huguenots by Simon van der Stel

Paarl Museum

 Built in the Cape Dutch style, the museum houses a fine collection of Cape antiques, including silver, glass, porcelain, brass copper, stinkwood and yellowwood furniture. The museum is housed in the old Parsonage, built in 1786. The museum was formely known as the OudePastorie Museum.

The Huguenot Church / Strooidak kerk (1805)

Also known as the Strooidak kerk (Thatched roof church). Besides the Groote Kerk in Cape Town, this church is the oldest church still in use in the country. Piet Retief, one of the leaders of the Great Trek, was baptized in this church. Consecrated on 28 April 1805.

The KWV Cellar Complex

These cellars are amongst the largest in the world and cover some 10 ha. It boasts the five largest vats in the world under one roof with the historic oak vat Big Bill, the Cathedral Cellar, and an exhibition hall comprehensively expounding this story of wine.

NATURE

Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve

Few towns have been blessed as Paarl has with an area of unspoilt natural beauty at it’s doorstep. Massive rounded granite rocks set among ancient wild olives, rock candlewoods and wagon trees dominate the picturesque landscape with it’s exquisite fynbos vegetation. A large variety of protea species are found in the reserve. Also to be seen is the endemic silver tree. The water in the storage dams contributes to the tranquility. There are several viewpoints offering panoramic views towards Table Mountain and the sea in the west and the Boland Mountains in the east. A network of paths makes it an ideal area in which to walk and relax in nature, within a few minutes of the bustle of everyday urban life. Local schools have laid out the Klipkers Nature Trail for which a guidebook is available. The circular route starts at the Language Monument and takes roughly two hours to complete. The policy of the advisory committee and the City Council is to retain the unspoilt natural beauty of the nature reserve. Conservation of the indigenous plant and animal life involves among other things, eradicating exotic plants and implementing a programme of controlled burning. The Jan Phillips Mountain Road as well as the road leading to the Bretagne Rocks with it’s spectacular viewpoints are kept in good repair. On the plateau, roads are not intensively maintained, mainly to discourage motor traffic and to retain it as an unspoilt walking area.

History

According to a Crown Grant issued on 2 December 1838, Paarl Mountain, 3380 morgen (2895 ha), was given in free hereditary tenure to Daniel van Ryneveld and his successors in office, who served as chief magistrates of the Paarl district. Paarl Mountain would function as a commonage for the use and benefit of the inhabitants of the town and the Field Cornetcy of ‘Agter die Paarl’ (behind Paarl). Although the municipality has managed to commonage on behalf of the inhabitants of Paarl since 1882, the idea that it should obtain full property rights to the land, so that the mountain could be developed as a nature reserve, arose only in 1918. This ideal could not be realized immediately. However, the city council, by agreement, bought out the water rights to the Victoria Stream in 1881 and 1893, the Platklip Steam in 1914. Three dams, the Victoria, BethelPaarl Mountain was declared a National Monument in October 1963, and the municipality was assigned the task of developing it as a nature reserve. On 13 October 1970 the ownership of the mountain commonage, with the exception of the site of the Afrikaans LanguageMonument, was transferred to the municipality in terms of the Paarl Mountain Act. Subsequently a nature reserve was demarcated and proclaimed. It is 1910 ha in extent, and consists mostly of the plateau on top of the mountain. An advisory committee was established in 1979 to furnish the city council with advice on the management and control of the Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve. and Nantes Dams, with a combined capacity of approximately 1080 m / litres, were built on the mountain.

The Three Granite Rocks

Paarl Mountain reaches an altitude of 654 metres above sea level and is especially noted for the three enormous granite rocks known as the Paarl, Bretagne and Gordon Rocks. Their age is estimated at 500 million years and what is visible today has been exposed by erosion. The old cannon which announced the arrival of merchant ships in the Cape can still be seen on PaarlMountain and is within easy walking distance of the mountain road. The climb up Bretagne Rock is more difficult, but there is an sturdy chain assisting climbers up the last inclune. On a clear day  the visitor is rewarded with stunning views over False Bay and Table Bay, with Table MountainSkilpad Mountain (Tortoise Mountain). The name ‘Diamant en Paarlberg’ (Diamond and Pearl Mountain) came into being shortly after the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck at the Cape. Bailiff Abraham Gabbema was sent into the interior in 1657 to trade with the Hottentots and gave the rocks these names. It cannot be said with any certainty when the names were changed. Bretagne must surely derive it’s name from the French province and Gordon Rock was renamed after Colonel Robert Jacob Gordon who was in command of the British troops at the Cape from 1780 – 1795. Paarl Mountain, with the town laid out on it’s eastern slopes, is one of the few mountains in the country to have been declared a National Monument. Although not as tall as some of the other mountains in the region, it is one of the most beautiful in the Boland. The Jan Phillips Mountain Drive winds along it’s eastern slope for approximately 11 km, offering unimpeded views of the town and the Groot Drakenstein mountain range. and Lion’s Head in the distance. Centuries ago these rocks served as landmarks for nomadic Hottentots and it was known as

Meulwater Wild Flower Reserve

Directly below the two massive granite rocks is a wild flower reserve, laid out in 1931 by a group of ladies who established the Paarl Beautifying Society at that time. The Meulwater mountain stream runs through the garden. Here the visitor can get an idra of the impressive variety of plants on Paarl Mountain.

ATTRACTIONS

Annual Events

The Festival of the Vine – Early March

Paarl Nouveau Festival – April

Nederburg Auction – April

Boland Agricultural Show – April

Chrysanthemum Show (Town Hall) – May

Boland Travel & Leisure Expo – August

Music Festival – October

Bien Donne Farmers Day – November

Arboretum

Stroll along the Berg River where more than 650 species of trees can be viewed.

Art Route Clementina van der Walt Ceramic Studio

Brightly coloured tableware, cutlery, jewellery, wooden utensils and metalwork, embroidery, basketry, printed fabric and woven textiles.

Hout Street Gallery

Dealers in art, sculpture, ceramics and glassware. Also an extensive range of pewter and stainless steel tableware, soft furnishings, gifts and handwoven tableware.

De Kraal Gallery

Ikhwezi Centre

Experience the culture of Africa. Home to Bhabhathane weavers. Also sangomas, artists, crafts and musical events by prior arrangement.

Simunye Art Foundation

On Nic Taylor Nut Farm. Various artwork by talented young people.

Tanberan Gallery Antiques

Bien Donnè

Juice tours, Orchard Tours and Herb Tours – Bien Donnè has one of the finest herb gardens in the area.

Butterfly World

The largest butterfly park in South Africa where butterflies fly freely in the beautiful garden. Craft shop, Coffee garden, Open 7 days per week, 09:00 – 17:00 (June – August 10:00 – 16:00).

Classical Music Evenings

A Chamber Music Winter Programme is held annually at Nederburg Estate. Laborie, Simonsvlei, Boland and Paarl Rock also offer light musical evenings

Fynbos Tours

Guided tours on Paarl Mountain

Drakenstein Lion Park

De Vonds Snake Centre

Heen en Weer Ostrich Farm

Informative tours, ostrich meat tastings and sales. Curio shop and restaurant. Organic garden produce. Open seven days a week

La Bonheur Crocodile Ranch

Guided tours every half hour. Curio shop, Cafeteria. Open seven days per week, 09:00 – 17:00

Lanners Landing

Falcon display once a month.

Old Mill Theatre

Well known South African and local performers

Paarl Vintner (Wine Route)

Picnics

For an unforgettable picnic visist Laborie, Nederburg, Boland, Nelson’s Creek or Bien Donnè.

Protea and Fynbos Sales

Scenic Route Jan Phillips Drive (11 km)

This route climbs Paarl Mountain to the foot of Gordon’s amd Bretagne rocks (two large granite outcrops) offering magnificent views. On the way up one passes the Millwaters Wild Flower Garden with it’s many indigenous trees, vygies and gazanias. The reserve is home to a rare species of fynbos.

Walks through Paarl

Waterblommetjie Festival

Associated with a popular ‘waterblommetjie’ harvesting competition at Schoongezicht in Dal Josaphat.

ACTIVITIES

Bird Watching

Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve

Over 140 species in the Paarl are, including the magnificent birds of prey – Black Eagle, CapeEagle Owl and Peregrine Falcon. Magnificent fynbos species, including the demure and brilliantly coloured Cape Sugarbird.

Paarl Bird Sanctuary

Haven for birding enthusiasts.

Fishing De Poort (Trout)

Du Toitskloof Resort (Trout)

Paarl Mountain

Three dams (bass and trout). Permits required. Available from Paarl Municipality or CapeNature Conservation.

Hiking

Various trail in the area

Groot Baviaans Day Walk

9 km / 1 day circular route, average grading.

Kagga Kamma Day Walk (Paarl Mountain)

4 km / 3 hours circular route, educational trail (Brochure available)

Limietberg Day Walk

Various trails ranging from 4 km – 8 km, average grading

Limietberg: Boland Hiking Trail

36 km / 2 days circular trail, difficult grading, overnight hut at Happy Valley.

Limietkloof Hiking Trail

36 km / 2 days, one way, overnight facilities at Happy Valley.

Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve Day Walks

A network of trails, guide available, easy to difficult grading

Horse Trails Diemersfontein

Offer guided rides along the Hawekwa mountains. Picnic in the mountains, sundowners and lavish breakfasts available.

Kagga Kamma Horse Trail

Various routes, easy grading

Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve Horse Trails

Network of trails, easy to difficult grading, guide available.

Hot air Ballooning

Winelands Ballooning offers hot air balloon flights over the beautiful Berg River Valley and Paarl. November to April only

KWV Berg River Canoe Marathon

Paarl is the starting point of this annual event – July

Paarl Boxing Day Sport – December

Mountain Biking / Cycling

Enjoy Paarl on bicycle. Bike hire – Village Cycles

Donkerkloof

This trail begins in the hairpin bend on the Paarl side of the old Du Toitskloof Pass. Hosting a variety of birds and during midsummer, beautiful disas and new year lilies are in full bloom on the mountain slopes and alongside the waterfalls.

Misaspoort

4 km. this trail is on the Paarl side of Du Toitskloof Pass, and leads to the Italian Cross at Huguenot Kop, which was erected by Italian prisoners of war.

Kagga Kamma Mountain Bike Trail

Various cycling routes, overnight facilities available.

Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve Moutnain Biking Trail

Network of cycling routes, 4 km to 20 km, easy to difficult grading, guide available. Some routes suitable for family outings. Map available.

Pony Carts and Rides

 

Limietberg Nature Reserve & Hiking Trails

Limietberg Nature Reserve lies in the Du Toitskloof mountains near Paarl, forming a part of the greater Boland mountain range. The reserve stretches from Jonkershoek in the south eastwards towards Grootdrakenstein, and northwards as far as Voëlvlei Dam, covering an area of some 117 000 ha. The terrain is rugged, with steep kloofs and deep valleys. Du Toits Peak at 2182 m is the highest point within the reserve. Limietberg is an important water catchment for the BReede and Berg rivers which flow through the reserve, and feed the Wemmershoek, Stetteynskloof and Elandskloof dams. The weather conditions in these mountains vary from very hot and dirty in the summer months, to extremely cold and wet during the winter, with snow on the higher peaks. Hikers are cautioned to heed weather reports, as many hikers have been caught out by dangerous and often unpredictable conditions. The mountainous terrain makes rescue operations very difficult. The vegetation is predominantly mountain fynbos with remnants of indigenous forest in some of the wetter kloofs. Alien trees, including black wattle, hakea and pine have invaded sections of the reserve. Various mammals occur, including dassie, klipspringer, baboon and the occasional caracal and leopard. Two endemic birds, the Cape Sugarbird and the Protea Canary, as well as Black Eagle and various other raptors may be sighted. Three endemic and increasingly threatened fish species occur in the Berg and Breede river systems. Trout (an exotic species) were introduced prior to the establishment of the reserve, and occur in most of the rivers and streams. A number of interesting historical features may be seen while hiking in the reserve. These include San paintings, a disused manganese mine, the original toll road from Franschhoek to Villiersdorp known as Catspad, and a cross erected by Italian prisoners of war.

HIKING TRAILS

Limietberg Trail

Formerly known as Hawequas. This two day trail stretches from the foot of Du Toitskloof via Bainskloof village (also known as Eerste Tol) to Tweede Tol, over a distance of 36 km. Groups are limited to 12 people and a maximum of 24 people are allowed on the trail per day. The trail starts at the Limietberg Nature Reserve centre, where vehicles may be left. It is 19 km of fairly easy walking (about seven hours), mainly on jeep tracks, to the overnight hut at Happy Valley. The upper reaches of the Witte River flow through this valley, forming many swimming pools, including the well known Junction Pool. The second day’s walk from the hut to Tweede Tol is a distance of about 17 km (about eight hours). This section is through more mountainous terrain, and water should be carried in the summer months. The route offers fantastic views, and climbs steadily to the highest point at Pic Blanc (1049 m). From here it descends to Wolwekloof and eventually ends at Tweede Tol. Fires are forbidden on route and at the hut, and hikers are advised to carry small stoves. In summer months it is advisable to begin early in order to avoid the midday heat.

Bobbejaans River

This is a 4,5 km (about three hours) hike in Bainskloof along the bobbejaans River, a tributary of the Witte River, to a waterfall. The trail begins at Eerste Tol parking area, where vehicles may be left. About 50 m from the parking area there is a wooden style over a wire fence. From this point the trail leads down into the kloof where it crosses the Witte River. A short climb out of the kloof brings one to a contour high above the Bobbejaans River, and from here it is an easy walk to the waterfall at the top end of the kloof. About 3,5 km along the trail a turn off leads down to swimming sites on the river. Just before the Bobbejaans waterfall, which falls over three levels, the last 750 m of the footpath cuts into the steep slopese on the right of the kloof. This trail is very popular in summer, when the disas and giant proteas are in bloom. In winter the Witte River  to cross. may be very full, making it diffiult

Happy Valley

This 4,5 km (about 2,5 hours) walk is in Bainskloof, and follows a section of the Limietberg Trail to Junction Pool. For this reason numbers are limited to 12 persons per day. It begins at Eerste Tol, where vehicles may be parked, and leads up to jeep track past the ruins of an old house and the monument for the 1895 Witte River disaster. Many beautiful swimming pool on the river are accessible along the trail, with Junction Pool being the most popular destination.

Elands River

This trail is in Du Toitskloof, immediately to the right after the Worcester exit of the tunnel. There is a fenced parking area for permit holders about 700 m from the tunnel on the lefthand side of the road. From the parking area the trail heads back towards the tunnel, and beneath the two bridges a sign indicates the direction of the Elands River Trail. It is about 3,5 km (about two hours) to the boundary of the conservation area. The first few hundred metres are the most difficult as the path has been cut out against a very steep slope. After this section the route becomes easier, following the river along pools and patches of sand. At places the path swings away from the river, climbing quite high and providing panoramic views over the valley. As it descends to the river and leads towards Fisherman’s Cave the vegetation becomes more dense. From this overhang the path follows the river a further 0,5 km to the boundary, ending abruptly against steep cliffs. Hikers should not go further than this point as they will be trespassing on private land. This trail is very popular and is an ideal winter day’s hike, as the path does not cross the river. The river is popular with trout anglers.

Krom River

This trail is in Du Toitskloof, immediately to the left after the Worcester exit of the tunnel. About 700 m after the tunnel on the lefthand side of the road there is a fenced parking area for permit holders. From the parking area the trail leads back towards the tunnel (as for the Elands River Trail); and beneath the two bridges a sign indicates the direction of the Krom River Trail. At this point the trial crosses the Krom and Molenaars Rivers and then leads on for about 2,5 km (about 2,5 hours) to the Krom River waterfall. The first section (about 10 minutes) of the footpath follows the right bank of the Molenaars River in the direction of the old tunnel. When it reaches the Krom River the path follows the right side of the kloof. At the end of the kloof the vegetation becomes thicker and the last section of the path leads through indigenous riverine forest to the first waterfall. Hikers are cautioned when climbing between the first and second waterfalls, and are advised to carry a rope, particularly in winter when the rocks are slippery and dangerous. The second waterfall and large swimming pool are quite spectacular. This trail is very popular, but may be inaccessible in winter after heavy rains.

Donkerkloof

This trail begins in the hairpin bend on the Paarl side of the old Du Toitskloof Pass. From Paarl the parking site is on the left, just before the bend. The footpath begins on the right side of Donkerkloof, and it is 3 km (about 2,5 hours) to the small waterfall. The path climbs steadily through thick indigenous forest, crossing a stream several times. Good walking shoes are necessary as the terrain is quite stony. The forest hosts a variety of birds, and during midsummer beautiful disas and new year lilies bloom on the mountain slopes and alongside the waterfalls. The path ends at the waterfall at the left side of the kloof.

Miaspoort

This trail is on the Paarl side of Du Toitskloof Pass. It leads to the Italian Cross at Huguenot Kop which was erected  by the Italian prisoners of war who built the pass; a distance of approximately 4 km (about three hours). It is a long and initially difficult walk as the first two hours are a steep climb to the top of Huguenot Kop. The path becomes easier once on the Kop, but the last section is another steep climb up a neck to the cross at 1318 m. This trail offers unsurpassed views over the entire mountain range. About 1 km further along the tar road from the parking site and start of the trail, a memorial stone looks directly up towards the cross and gives a explanation of it’s history.

Banhoek

This trail is in the Banhoek valley of the Groot Drakenstein mountains, near the small town of Kylemore. It begins on private property and permission to hike and park vehicles must be obtained from the landowner. It is about 4 km from the parking area to the waterfall (about 1,5 – three hours). The first two kilometers are on private land. From the reserve boundary it is a further 1,5 km climb to the mountain club hut. Near the hut there is a well preserved piece of indigenous forest known as Dasbos. From the hut the path follows a low contour to the waterfall. Hikers should be careful if they climb from the cave to the highest waterfall as the rock can be very slippery. The path offers a wonderful view over the Kylemore valley and the Jonkershoek mountains.

Mont Rochelle

This trial is in the Franschhoek Pass, and traverses the Mont Rochelle. Nature Reserve is managed by the Franschhoek Municipality, but Perdekop and Observation. Point are within Limietberg Nature Reserve. From Franscchoek the entrance of the reserve is situated above the second hairpin bend in the pass, on the left past the Catspad monument. The Catspad Hiking Trail (not described in detail here) which follows the original toll road between Franschhoek and Villiersdorp is also a popular trail which starts on private land and leads through Limietberg and Mont Rochelle. A permit for both the Mont Rochelle and Catspad this is required from the municipality. The trail to Perdekop is about 7,5 km and takes between three and four hours there, and 2,5 hours back. It leads from the houses at Mont Rochelle, climbing steeply to a contour and then high above the river. On route hikers have a view over the Waterkloof Dam and the Villiersdorp valley, and once at Observation Point (1056 m) one has a view over the Wemmershoek dam, and valley. Before reaching Observation Point a cairn indicated a neck where the path climbs steeply up to Perdekop, leading above deep kloofs on the left side. Once the plateau has been reached the path to Perdekop is relatively easy. The route is through particularly beautiful fynbos.

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Lastupdated: 21.01.2011

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