33km (20 miles) NW of Franschhoek; 56km (35 miles) E of Cape Town
Paarl is named after the great granite rocks that loom above the town -- the first European party to visit the area in 1657 watched the dawn sun reflecting off the glistening boulders after a night of rain, and named it Peerlbergh (Pearl Mountain). These 500-million-year-old domes are one of the world's largest granite outcrops, second only to Ayers Rock in Australia. The town's large size makes it a less attractive destination than the chichi village of Franschhoek and the oak-lined avenues of Stellenbosch, but there are a number of excellent wine estates to visit (get a map from the information bureau), and Main Street, with its 2km (1 1/4-mile) stretch of beautifully preserved buildings, is worth taking a leisurely drive along. Most visitors also find a visit to the Taal Monument (the large phallic sculpture clearly visible on the slopes of Paarl Mountain) worthwhile -- the views of the valley and False Bay are excellent. To get here, drive down Main Street, passing the KWV headquarters on your left, and look for the signs to your right.