The stunning city of Cape Town in South Africa is dominated by Table Mountain and is South Africa's most photographed attraction. No establishing shot of Cape Town is complete without Table Mountain rising in the background. Pictures of Cape Town really demonstrate just how beautiful this South African city is and why everyone should visit it.

Cape Town is times ranked in the top 10 most dangerous cities in the world, but despite that, it is safe for tourists. And it is particularly safe if tourists follow normal common-sense precautions.

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What Makes Table Mountain So Iconic?

Table Mountain is a flat-topped mountain overlooking the city of Cape Town. It is one of the city's main tourist attractions. The mountain is part of the Table Mountain National Park and is the most visited national park in South Africa. It attracts around 4.2 million people annually.

The mountain boasts a diverse flora of some 8,200 plant species (depending on the source). The main feature of Table Mountain is the level plateau around 2 miles wide and flanked by impressive cliffs. The mountain not only overlooks the city but the also impressive (and must climb) Lion's Head mountain.

  • Elevation: 1,086 Meters (3,563 Feet) Above Sea Level

While most pictures of the mountain show it on stunning sunny days, the flat top of the mountain is often covered by low clouds. These clouds are very often sitting all day on the top of the mountain. It means it is hard to plan ahead, one may be greeted with full panoramic views of the city, or be shrouded in a mysterious world of mist.

The clouds are orographic clouds formed as the southeasterly wind is directed up the mountain's slopes into colder air. The moisture then condenses into the clouds seen.

  • The Clouds: The Clouds Sitting On the Mountain Are Called the "Table Cloth"
  • Flowers: Over 70% of The Flowers Are Endemic to The Table Mountain
  • Penguins: See South Africa's Famous Penguins At The Boulders

The mountain also boasts some stunning flora. In the past, there were mountain zebras, leopards, and the Cape lion. According to Table Mountain's official website, these are no longer present - although some locals report seeing the cape lion there. It is still home to caracals, rock hyraxes, and chacma baboons. While down at the Boulders, one can see penguins all over the place.

Related: Cape Town, South Africa: Planning The Perfect Weekend

Getting To The Top Of Table Mountain

One has the option of either hiking up the mountain or taking the famous cable car to the top. It is also common for people to hike up and then take the cable car down.

Tip: Hike Up The Mountain And Take the Cable Car Down

  • Hiking Time: Around 1.5-3 Hours
  • Caution: The Ascent Is Very Steep

It is much more than a scenic photograph background or a place from where you can take a breathtaking photo of Cape Town.

  • Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens: Magnificent Gardens On The Eastern Foot Of the Mountain

There are different ways to hike up, there are at least two routes up from near where the cable car station is. Bring plenty of water on this hike as the hikes are very steep and often offer little respite from the continuous vertical ascent.

Come at the right times and there is water falling off the cliffs all around. To reach the summit one much walk through a large canyon and there is the continuous drip and flow of water off the virtual cliffs. The sounds are relaxing and soothing and the path sometimes even passes directly underneath them.

If one doesn't want to hike, then the fastest and most convenient way to the top is with the Cableway.

  • Morning Fare: Return 360 South African Rand ($20), One Way 210 South African Rand ($13)
  • Afternoon Fare: Return 320 South African Rand ($17), One Way 210 South African Rand ($13)

Related: 15 Things To Do When Visiting Cape Town (5 Things To Give A Miss)

Lion's Head

Another hiking must for Cape Town is the Lion's Head. It is between Table Mountain and the city of Cape Town. It peaks at 669 meters or 2,195 feet above sea level and together with Table Mountain forms part of the dramatic backdrop of Cape Town. While that may not sound much, it is more dramatic because both it and Table Mountain are so close to the sea.

  • Elevation: 669 Meters or 2,195 Feet
  • Hiking Time: Around 1.5 Hours

Hiking up this mountain takes around 1.5 hours and the last part of the hike is very steep requiring scrambling. From this mountain one can enjoy both glorious views of the city and of Table Mountain.

It is also a great option for days when Table Mountain is shrouded in clouds. Here one gets to see both the city and the mysterious-looking Table Mountain with its characteristic "table cloth".

Related: Here’s What You Need To Know Before Hiking Lion’s Head In South Africa