Pinned to the bottom of the globe, Cape Town might at first seem to be far too distant a getaway to reach via miles and points. But I found the stunning natural beauty and friendly, multicultural vibe of the city and surrounding region to be an incredible bargain for my miles.
I experienced otherworldly natural wonders such as Table Mountain and Cape Point, where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet, the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront with its luxury shopping and dining, plus the brilliant Two Oceans Aquarium. A little further out, I saw colorful Cape Dutch-style architecture and found artisanal shopping and dining in districts such as tranquil Constantia, bustling Woodstock, and eclectic Bo-Kaap. Aside from the charms of the city, the Cape Winelands lured me into its lush environs, where day-trippers sipped wine at one of dozens of rustic wineries in the region.
Established by the Dutch in the 17th century and taken over by the English in the 19th, Cape Town, as does all of South Africa, has a regrettable history of racial inequality that is still being redressed today. I visited chilling Robben Island–where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for nearly 20 years–by ferry from the waterfront. Tours to the areas Apartheid-era townships really drive home the notion that there is still much work to be done. But I don’t think any city embodies the unity and sense of togetherness in the new South Africa more than Cape Town.
Flying to Cape Town
Despite being South Africa’s second-largest city and a winter getaway for in-the-know Europeans, intercontinental air links to Cape Town that operate year-round are limited to British Airways (oneworld) from London and KLM (SkyTeam) from Amsterdam. During the northern hemispheres winter, Air France (SkyTeam) offers a daily non-stop flight to Paris, and Lufthansa (Star Alliance) serves Munich daily. Otherwise, South African Airways, Singapore Airlines, Turkish Airlines (all Star Alliance), and Qatar Airways (oneworld) serve Cape Town via South Africa’s principal air hub at Johannesburg.
American Airlines AAdvantage travel to Cape Town in Economy Class
|40,000||One-way Saver Award|
|80,000||Roundtrip Saver Award|
|90,000||One-way Standard Award|
|180,000||Roundtrip Standard Award|
As a United Airlines MileagePlus member, I found an economy-class saver award ticket for 80,000 miles round-trip on Star Alliance carrier Lufthansa via Munich. American Airlines AAdvantage members can get to Cape Town and back from New York in economy class for as little as 75,000 miles on oneworld member airlines, but the fuel surcharges for flying via London-Heathrow can be a killer. Delta Air Lines SkyMiles members can fly on SkyTeam carriers on economy-class saver reward tickets for 100,000 miles.
Taj Cape Town
As part of the Visa Signature Luxury Collection, I was able to use reward points from my AAdvantage Visa Signature card to stay at the Taj Cape Town, one of the city’s most elegant hotels. Combining a majestic 19th-century facade with a modern tower and contemporary design touches, the sumptuous Taj Cape Town sits across from the stately Saint Georges Cathedral (and its basement-level jazz club, aptly named The Crypt) in the heart of the city’s central business district. My room overlooked the cathedral, as well as Table Mountain, Cape Town’s signature landmark, often shrouded mysteriously by clouds. The hotels dining offerings include opulent Indian eatery Bombay Brasserie, classy Twankey Bar, and sexy, sleek modern restaurant, Mint, while the capable hands at the Jiva Grande Spa worked out the kinks I accumulated along with my points.