You'll arrive in the delicious heat of the South African summer. After checking in, dump your bags, grab a picnic lunch, and climb to the top of Table Mountain to orient yourself. Beneath you lies the harbor and city center (built in 1652 as a victualling station for Dutch sailors); to the west are the Twelve Apostles mountains, which sheer straight down into the treacherous Atlantic; swivel east and you're facing the notorious Cape Flats and its miles of shantytowns; and finally, gaze south to the vineyards and rich forests that lead eventually to the Cape of Good Hope. Spend Christmas Day swimming with the local colony of penguins in the warm turquoise waters off Boulders Beach; later, feast on peri-peri shrimp at the Black Marlin. Then welcome the New Year by reveling amid the fireworks and champagne on Clifton's Fourth Beach -- the South African equivalent of East Hampton.
Where to Stay
Steenberg Country Hotel, an unbeatably romantic seventeenth-century inn (doubles from $130; 011-27-021-713-2222); Cape Grace offers spectacular views of either the harbor or Table Mountain (doubles from $250; 011-27-021-410-7100).
Where to Eat
Black Marlin (011-27-021-786-1621).
Take a sunset drive south along Chapman's Peak Drive, stopping off to admire the stunning Atlantic views -- but beware of the baboons.
Between revels, take a day trip to the Stellenbosch vineyards to sample the delicious Cape wines (start with Buitenverwachting Estate; 011-27-021-794-3522). Be sure to explore the brightly painted nineteenth-century streets of Bo-Kaap and check out the Museum of District Six, the black area bulldozed in 1966 after the government declared it a Whites Only area.
Robben Island, the prison where Nelson Mandela spent eighteen years in a six-by-ten-foot cell.