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Stellenbosch vs Franschhoek: A Comprehensive Wine Travel Comparison

If you're a wine enthusiast looking for a memorable South African wine experience, the Western Cape has two standout regions that deserve your attention: Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. While both of these wine regions share picturesque

Featured image of Stellenbosch

If you’re a wine enthusiast looking for a memorable South African wine experience, the Western Cape has two standout regions that deserve your attention: Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. While both of these wine regions share picturesque landscapes, diverse wine varieties, and top-tier dining establishments, they each offer their unique charm and characteristics. In this detailed article, we’ll delve into the distinctive aspects of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek to help you decide which one suits your wine travel preferences.


Welcome to the world of South African wine regions, where Stellenbosch and Franschhoek stand as two beloved gems. Stellenbosch, bustling and lively, is a central hub in the Cape Winelands with over 150 wineries and a must-visit wine estates. It offers a wide variety of wines and places to stay for bigger groups. Its university-town vibe means lots of fun after dark and shops filled with local treasures. Check our ultimate guide to Stellenbosch’s best wineries for more information. On the other hand, Franschhoek—a gourmet’s dream—with its quiet streets lined with top-notch restaurants and cozy spots perfect for twosomes.


We’re about to explore these towns which have deep roots dating back to the 17th century yet now buzz with contemporary excitement. From their different climates to their unique cultural offerings, they each present a slice of history blended with modern luxury. Whether you seek adventure outdoors or shopping at quaint markets, both destinations promise memorable days filled with delightful sips and sights—though your own preferences will guide where you uncork that next bottle of wine. Let’s swirl around these contrasting but equally charming worlds. And there are even more wonders that await us!

 Stellenbosch: The Oldest Wine Region

Situated just 50 kilometers east of Cape Town, Stellenbosch holds the distinction of being South Africa’s oldest wine region, with a history dating back to the 17th century. With over 200 wineries within its boundaries, Stellenbosch prides itself on its diversity and quality. The region’s Mediterranean climate, characterized by steep valleys and cooling sea breezes, provides an ideal environment for cultivating complex and rich wines.


Stellenbosch is renowned for its Cabernet Sauvignon production, producing robust red wines celebrated for their fruit-driven, tannin-rich qualities. However, the region also boasts an abundance of white wine and Pinotage, ensuring a wide array of wine-tasting experiences. When it comes to exploring Stellenbosch, there’s no shortage of charming accommodations and top-notch restaurants. From historic vineyards with terroir-rich wines to outdoor adventures and vibrant markets, Stellenbosch has something for everyone and we’ll let you in on the best spots to check out!

Pros and cons of Stellenbosch

We’ve explored Stellenbosch inside and out. Here’s what we found about this wine-lover’s paradise.


  • Tons of wine tasting: Stellenbosch is a treasure trove for us wine enthusiasts. With more wineries than you can count, your taste buds will never get bored.
  • Local vibe: Walking through the town, you feel like one of the locals. It’s less touristy, so you get that authentic South African charm.
  • Big and beautiful: The area is vast and spread out, giving us plenty of space to roam and find our own favorite spots.
  • Cool climate wines: Thanks to the cooler maritime climate, the wines here have a unique taste. Think crisp whites and elegant reds like merlot that dance on your palate.
  • Too spread out? For some, the size might be a downside. You’ll need a car or some patience for local transport to see it all.
  • Overwhelming choices: Sometimes too many options can leave your head spinning – picking just one winery feels like finding a needle in a haystack!
  • Busy town bustle: If you’re not into lively towns, Stellenbosch’s buzz could be more tiring than exciting.
  • Less dramatic scenery: Sure, it’s pretty here, but if jaw-dropping views are what you’re after, some say Franschhoek takes the cake.

Accommodations in Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch shines when it comes to finding a place to stay. Whether you’re planning a big family reunion or just want a cozy spot for two, the options are plenty. Picture waking up in a vineyard-view room, your morning coffee tasting all the better with grapes ripening just outside your window. We recommend staying at River Manor Boutique Hotel or Bonne Esperance Boutique Guest House. Boy, do they know how to spoil guests! MolenVliet Vineyards is another great boutique wine and guest estate with panoramic views of the breathtaking surrounding mountains and vineyard. Coopmanhuijs Boutique Hotel & Spa is another gem, which we also highly recommend for its prime location and authentic Cape Dutch style.

For those who enjoy a relaxing swim, select hotels feature pools set against stunning vineyard backdrops, we recommend Sugarbird Manor. For an all-encompassing experience, Delaire Graff Estate offers luxurious accommodations, and along the banks of the Eerste River, lies the Spier Hotel and Wine Farm. This distinguished 4-star establishment presents generously appointed rooms, complemented by a tranquil outdoor patio. Indulge in luxurious accommodation and rejuvenating spa treatments – a haven of relaxation following a day exploring the vineyards.  One of the most popular accommodations is the Lanzerac Hotel & Spa.

Finding that perfect home away from home is a breeze here in Stellenbosch. From boutique bed-and-breakfasts that tell their own stories to hotels styling modern luxury against historic backdrops, there’s a match for every taste…and trust us, we’ve got quite the palate! If unsure where to stay, uncover the finest accommodations in Stellenbosch in our comprehensive guide and article. We provide detailed insights and recommendations to help you choose the perfect lodging options that cater to your preferences and enhance your overall experience in this charming South African town.


Ready for some top dining recommendations? Let’s saunter over and explore Stellenbosch’s culinary scene next.

Top restaurants in Stellenbosch

Image of people sitting at Rust en Vrede Wine Estate

Photo credit: Rust en Vrede Wine Estate


We know you’re here for the wine, but wait until you taste the food. Stellenbosch isn’t just a wine wonderland; it’s a feast for the gourmands. Culinary and food tours guide our palates through a spectrum of tastes, from smoked meats to handcrafted chocolates – all reflecting the rich heritage and diverse landscapes of Stellenbosch. Apart from food tours there are some must-visit places for a true gourmet experience.


  • Rust en Vrede Wine Estate – Imagine sitting under ancient oaks, savoring a steak that’s just perfection. Rust en Vrede tops the charts with dishes that are as elegant as their wines. Each bite tells a tale of local flavors and finesse.
  • Delaire Graff Estate – Now, this is what dreams are made of: dining with panoramic views of vineyards and mountains. Their menu is a parade of fresh ingredients, married beautifully with their estate wines. The setting? Simply enchanting.
  • Basic Bistro – Don’t let the name fool you; there’s nothing basic about it. Here’s where comfort food gets a stylish twist. Burgers, salads, pastas – every dish outshines the last. And you’ll love the cozy vibe of this little gem.
  • Overture Restaurant – Nestled on Hidden Valley Wines’ property, Overture has us coming back for more. It’s where innovative dishes meet the warmth of home cooking—pure culinary artistry in each presentation.
  • Jordan Restaurant – With Chef George Jardine at the helm, expect nothing less than culinary brilliance. Overlooking lakes and rolling hills, your meal becomes an experience that tantalizes all senses.
  • Terroir Restaurant – A name synonymous with seasonal cuisine and plates teeming with color and texture—it’s casual elegance done right.
  • Tokara Restaurant – Perched atop a hill, Tokara treats you to sensational food and awe-inspiring vistas—a dual delight for eyes and palate alike.

Franschhoek: The French Corner

Franschhoek, a picturesque town nestled in the Cape Winelands, offers a charming blend of French influence and South African hospitality. With its boutique accommodations, world-class restaurants, and stunning vineyard landscapes, Franschhoek is a must-visit destination for wine enthusiasts seeking an intimate and luxurious experience.


The name “Franschhoek” translates to the “French Corner” in Afrikaans, and it owes this name to the French Huguenots who settled in the area during the late 17th century. What makes Franschhoek truly special is its unmistakable French influence. The town features tree-lined streets, charming French-style houses, and vineyards with a provincial flair. Franschhoek excels in producing svelte and well-balanced wines, with chardonnay and pinot noir being its standout varieties. The region’s low-acidity soil imparts a distinct flavor, while its high-altitude vineyards produce fresh, acidic wines.

Pros and cons of Franschhoek

Franschhoek is known for its premier wine region, offering a picturesque and serene setting for wine enthusiasts. The town’s smaller size lends to a more intimate and tranquil experience, though it may also mean fewer activity options. When exploring, visitors can indulge in a luxurious and slightly more expensive holiday destination experience and pay a visit to some of the best wineries in Franschhoek. The charming streets lined with boutique shops and the exquisite dining options contribute to its appeal as a tourist destination.


  • Rich Wine Heritage: Franschhoek boasts a rich history of winemaking, making it an ideal place to delve into the heritage of South African wine.
  • Intimate Atmosphere: With its small-town feel, Franschhoek offers a quiet and cozy ambiance that provides a welcome escape from bustling city life.
  • Limited Activities: While the tranquility is appealing, the limited range of activities may not suit travelers seeking lively entertainment or diverse experiences.
  • Exquisite Dining: The town features an array of world-class restaurants, showcasing culinary delicacies that perfectly complement its renowned wines.
  • Picturesque Setting: Nestled in a valley surrounded by majestic mountains, Franschhoek offers breathtaking scenery that adds to the overall charm of the region.
  • Higher Costs: As a popular holiday spot, Franschhoek tends to lean toward higher costs compared to larger towns like Stellenbosch or Somerset West.

Accommodations in Franschhoek

After exploring the pros and cons of Franschhoek, it’s time to delve into the cozy and varied accommodations this charming town has to offer. Franschhoek provides an intimate lodging experience, with options ranging from charming wine farms such as renowned Leeu Estates overlooking picturesque vineyards to cozy guesthouses exuding old-world charm. The stunning estates in Franschhoek also offer a unique stay amidst breathtaking natural beauty. One notable accommodation is Maison Chablis Guest House, conveniently situated for easy access to the town’s outstanding eateries while providing a comfortable and welcoming retreat for visitors. Another highly recommended hotel is La Residence. This opulent hotel, located on a 30-acre estate, offers guests a unique blend of French chateau and African Safari-style accommodation.


Franschhoek stands out with its diverse accommodation choices that cater to different preferences of travelers seeking a tranquil and scenic escape. Banhoek Lodge, positioned between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, presents an extraordinary vantage point offering panoramic views of lush vineyards intertwined with majestic mountains – an idyllic setting for nature enthusiasts and wine lovers alike. The Franschhoek Country House and Villas stands as a top-tier recommendation. This establishment offers 14 rooms and suites, adorned with exquisite African artifacts and artwork. Its amenities include an acclaimed restaurant, a rejuvenating spa, and a refreshing swimming pool ensconced within verdant gardens.


For those with a penchant for contemporary luxury, the Last Word Franschhoek offers an exceptional experience. Situated centrally in Franschhoek, this modern boutique hotel presents 9 tastefully appointed rooms and suites, each with its private patio and pool for ultimate relaxation. If you need more accommodation recommendations, head to our article covering the best hotels in Franschhoek.

Top restaurants in Franschhoek

Image of La Petite Colombe

Photo credit: La Petite Colombe


Franschhoek boasts a diverse array of food tours and dining options, perfect for every palate. As we explored the town’s culinary scene and written extensively about the best restaurants in Franschhoek, we discovered these exceptional dining establishments:


  • The French Connection – Indulge in exquisite French cuisine while enjoying the charming ambiance of this restaurant nestled in the heart of Franschhoek.
  • La Petite Colombe – This renowned eatery offers a delightful fusion of South African and global flavors, served with artistic presentation that elevates the dining experience.
  • Le Petit Manoir – With its intimate setting and delectable seasonal menu, this restaurant provides an unforgettable gastronomic journey through locally sourced, fresh ingredients.
  • Foliage – Embark on a sensory adventure with a visit to Foliage, where innovative dishes are crafted using foraged and organic produce to create an unparalleled dining experience.
  • Reuben’s Restaurant and Bar – Here, guests can savor exceptional dishes prepared by acclaimed chef Reuben Riffel, blending traditional South African flavors with modern culinary techniques.
  • Monneaux Restaurant – Offering a picturesque setting overlooking lush gardens, Monneaux presents an elegant yet relaxed atmosphere complemented by an inspired menu showcasing local delicacies.
  • Haute Cabrière Restaurant – Indulge in panoramic views of the Franschhoek Valley while relishing contemporary cuisine paired with world-class wines at this iconic establishment.
  • Pierneef à La Motte – Delight in farm-to-table fare and celebrate the rich heritage of South African cuisine in an elegant setting that pays homage to local art and culture.

Stellenbosch vs. Franschhoek 

Location and size play a significant role in the experience of these two wine regions, so buckle up and get ready to explore the unique charms of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek! Read on to find out more about what each has to offer.

Location and size

Stellenbosch sprawls over a vast area, offering expansive vineyards and breathtaking landscapes to explore. Compared to Franschhoek, it stands as a more extensive wine region with diverse terrains encompassing the Stellenbosch, Paarl, and Franschhoek valleys. On the other hand, Franschhoek sits approximately 75 kilometers east of Cape Town in a compact yet charming expanse. The town’s smaller size contributes to an intimate atmosphere ideal for leisurely exploring the plethora of picturesque vineyards and boutique wineries.


The Stellenbosch valley presents itself as part of the larger Cape Winelands alongside Paarl and Franschhoek, showcasing an impressive tapestry of vineyard-dotted countryside that mesmerizes wine enthusiasts. In contrast, nestled near majestic mountains and lush greenery, the quaintness of Franschhoek beckons visitors seeking an idyllic setting for their wine escapades – truly embodying an unparalleled charm unique to this region.

Activities and attractions

For Stellenbosch tours we recommend daytime exploration, museums beckon, gardens flourish with life, and historical sites offer educational journeys through time. Our favorites are:


  • Hiking and biking through Jonkershoek Nature Reserve.
  • Admiring art at the Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden.
  • Enjoying historical tours of Stellenbosch Village Museum.
  • Exploring the stunning botanical gardens at University of Stellenbosch.


Exploring the picturesque vineyards and wineries in Franschhoek.


  • Visiting Huguenot Memorial Museum for a dive into local history.
  • Riding the Franschhoek Wine Tram for a scenic tour of vineyards.
  • Exploring the Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve for breathtaking views.


Atmosphere and vibe

Stellenbosch offers a lively and vibrant atmosphere, with its expansive university campus contributing to the energetic buzz of the town. The blend of historic Cape Dutch architecture, tree-lined streets, and bustling cafes creates a charming ambiance perfect for leisurely strolls and soaking in the local culture. On the other hand, Franschhoek exudes an intimate and romantic vibe, with its picturesque Main Street lined with boutique shops and cozy bistros creating an enchanting setting. The tranquil surroundings provide an idyllic backdrop for wine enthusiasts seeking a serene and sophisticated atmosphere.

Wine Tasting in Stellenbosch vs Franschhoek

Image of a rose wine with food at Delaire Graff Wine Estate

Photo credit: Delaire Graff Wine Estate


When it comes to wine tasting, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek both have rich histories and offer top-quality varieties. From the historic vineyards of Stellenbosch to the picturesque estates of Franschhoek, each destination boasts unique tours and experiences for wine enthusiasts. For wine enthusiasts seeking the ultimate tasting experience, Stellenbosch holds an advantage over Franschhoek due to its greater number of vineyards open for exploration. Stellenbosch also caters to larger gatherings with numerous accommodations available. In contrast, Franschhoek offers a more intimate and personalized experience, with a strong emphasis on small artisanal vineyards operating on boutique farms. An annual Cap Classique and Champagne festival in Franschhoek is a must-attend event for sparkling wine enthusiasts.


Both regions provide structured wine tours, visits to some of the finest vineyards, tastings, and wine pairings. Stellenbosch even offers wine tours on horseback, providing a unique way to experience the region. On the other hand, Franschhoek boasts the Wine Tram, an open-air tram ride that takes you on a tour of exquisite vineyards with different routes for added flexibility.


The geological and topographical differences between the two regions significantly impact the wines they produce. Stellenbosch’s deep soils with minimal acidity result from conical shapes formed by overlapping mountaintops, yielding rich and fruity wines. In contrast, Franschhoek’s higher slopes benefit from enhanced sun exposure, aiding the grapes in ripening correctly.

History and heritage

Stellenbosch and Franschhoek boast a profound history and heritage entwined with the art of winemaking. With roots dating back to the 17th century, these regions have played pivotal roles in shaping South Africa’s wine industry. The Cape Winelands, where both towns are situated, hold global acclaim for their rich viticulture legacy and breathtaking landscapes. In Franschhoek specifically, the valley’s agricultural origins can be traced back to the same era, intertwining its modern wineries with centuries-old traditions—an undeniably mesmerizing fusion.


The captivating past of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek permeates every aspect of their present-day allure. From age-old vineyards that echo stories of yesteryears to well-preserved historical sites that offer glimpses into bygone eras—exploring these areas is akin to embarking on a time-traveling escapade through the heart of wine culture.

Varieties and quality

Stellenbosch offers a wide array of wine varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay. On the other hand, Franschhoek boasts important varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. Both regions are renowned for producing high-quality wines in breathtaking valleys. The Cape Winelands area is popular among wine enthusiasts and lovers who seek to explore different wine varieties and savor exceptional quality.


The Cape Winelands region encompasses Stellenbosch and Franschhoek which have become famous for their rich historical heritage in winemaking. Visitors can indulge in these distinguished wines while taking pleasure in the beauty of their vineyards nestled within picturesque landscapes.

Tours and experiences

For those looking for an organized experience, we recommend private wine tours or full-day excursions in Stellenbosch or top Franschhoek tours, sightseeing & cruises. We explored the tours and experiences, and the best of them are arranged to include:


  • Guided Wine Tours: Numerous guided wine tours are available, offering an in-depth exploration of the region’s wineries and vineyards.
  • Cellar Tours: Visitors can enjoy informative cellar tours to learn about the winemaking process and the history of each location.
  • Tasting Room Experiences: Both regions offer diverse tasting room experiences, from intimate settings to grand estates.
  • Food Pairing Events: Many wineries host food pairing events, where visitors can savor local cuisine alongside exquisite wines.
  • Vineyard Safari Tours: Adventurous types can embark on vineyard safari tours for a unique way to explore the picturesque landscapes.


Other Activities in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek

Image of Franschhoek Wine Tram

Photo credit: Franschhoek Wine Tram


From outdoor adventures like hiking and mountain biking to cultural experiences such as visiting art galleries and museums, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek offer a variety of activities beyond wine tasting. Indulge in some retail therapy at the local markets or take a leisurely stroll through the charming streets filled with boutiques and artisan shops.

Outdoor adventures

When visiting, we discovered an array of thrilling outdoor activities in Stellenbosch and some great activities in Franschhoek awaiting us. Here’s what we found:


  • Hiking trails that wind through lush vineyards and offer breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
  • Mountain biking routes catering to all levels of experience, from gentle paths for beginners to challenging trails for seasoned riders.
  • Hot air balloon rides providing a unique perspective of the picturesque landscape and vineyards below.
  • Horseback riding adventures allowing us to explore the countryside in a leisurely yet exhilarating manner.
  • Zip-lining through canopies, offering an adrenaline-pumping experience amidst scenic surroundings.
  • Water – based activities such as kayaking and river cruises along tranquil waterways, immersing us in the region’s natural beauty.


Cultural experiences

Stellenbosch and Franschhoek both offer rich cultural experiences, providing a unique blend of heritage and traditions. Let’s delve into the cultural offerings in these wine regions:


  • Immerse in the historical charm of Stellenbosch‘s Dorp Street, adorned with Cape Dutch architecture and a vibrant arts scene.
  • Visit the Stellenbosch Museum to explore exhibits on local history, art, and ethnography, offering insights into the region’s diverse cultural tapestry.
  • Engage in a wine and art pairing experience at one of Stellenbosch’s renowned vineyards, combining the flavors of exceptional wines with artistic inspirations.
  • Join a guided tour to discover the captivating stories behind Franschhoek’s Huguenot Monument, celebrating the area’s French heritage and influence.
  • Indulge in a culinary journey through Franschhoek’s gourmet offerings, embracing the fusion of French cuisine with South African flavors at exquisite restaurants.


Shopping and markets

Transitioning from exploring cultural experiences in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, let’s delve into the shopping and market scene.


  • Stellenbosch offers a diverse range of shopping options, including genuine craft shops, art galleries, and a vibrant new market that promises unique finds.
  • Franschhoek boasts an array of genuine craft shops and art galleries, providing an enriching experience for those seeking authentic local crafts and artworks.
  • Both towns provide delightful markets filled with local produce, artisanal goods, and unique souvenirs, creating a perfect setting to immerse oneself in the local culture and flavor.

FAQs about Stellenbosch vs Franschhoek

Q1. Can I visit both Stellenbosch and Franschhoek in one day?

It’s like trying to choose between chocolate or vanilla ice cream—tough, but hey, why not have both? You could dash from the vineyards of Boschendal in Stellenbosch to the cozy corners of Franschhoek faster than your browser switches from Google Chrome to Mozilla Firefox!

Q2. Is there a big difference between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek wine tours?

Oh, you bet! Picture this: Stellenbosch is the bold older sibling with robust wines that knock your socks off, while little brother Franschoek serves elegance in a glass that dances on the tongue. One’s got power; the other’s got panache!

Q3. Where can I find better restaurants, Stellenboch or Franchhhoek?

Well, if we’re honest—it’s like asking if Internet Explorer ever won browser wars against Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox… Just kidding! Both towns dish out top-notch grub, but truth be told – when it comes to fancy flavors and chic dining rooms – Fran-snap-hoek takes home the Michelin star.

Q4. Should I stay overnight in Stellenbosh or Franschoek for a weekend getaway?

Here’s a thought: counting sheep under Stellenbosh stars might get you dreaming of grand adventures while tucking yourself into a snug bed in French…oh wait…Franschook? That could whisk you away on sweet dreams filled with pastry heaven by morning light. Tough call!

Q5: Which region is older, Stellenbosch or Franschhoek?

Stellenbosch is South Africa’s oldest wine region, dating back to the 17th century.

Q6: Which wines are most famous in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek?

Stellenbosch is renowned for its Cabernet Sauvignon production, while Franschhoek excels in producing chardonnay and pinot noir.

Q7: Which region offers a livelier nightlife scene?

Stellenbosch has a more vibrant nightlife scene with bars, pubs, live music venues, cafes, and more.

Q8: What is the unique wine-tasting experience in Franschhoek?

Franschhoek hosts an annual Cap Classique and Champagne festival, making it a must-visit for sparkling wine enthusiasts.

Q9: How do the geological characteristics of the regions affect the wines?

Stellenbosch’s deep soils with minimal acidity result from overlapping mountaintops, producing rich and fruity wines. Franschhoek’s higher slopes benefit from enhanced sun exposure, aiding grape ripening.

Q10: Can I visit both Stellenbosch and Franschhoek on a single-day trip?

Yes, both towns are just a short 20-minute drive from each other, making it possible to explore both in one day.


In conclusion, exploring Stellenbosch and Franschhoek reveals distinctive experiences in the Cape Winelands. By comparing these two wine destinations, visitors can embark on an adventure tailored to their preferences. Wine enthusiasts will find diverse varieties and historical richness in both locations. The practical tips shared provide efficiency towards planning a memorable visit, aligning with the vibrant personalities of each town.


Stellenbosch and Franschhoek have much to offer visitors, each with its unique terroir, cultural background, and leisure activities. Both regions shine with their quality wines, culinary delights, and captivating experiences. Whether you prioritize vibrant nightlife or tranquil relaxation, extensive vineyards, or boutique wineries, both destinations promise a satisfying and picturesque journey, offering distinct flavors and experiences to treasure. Regardless of your choice, exploring both Stellenbosch and Franschhoek will undoubtedly be a rewarding and unique adventure in their own right.


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Greetings, wine & travel enthusiasts! Allow me to introduce myself. I am a lover of life's finer things - an avid appreciator of the intricacies and subtleties of wine, a curious explorer of exotic cuisines, and an adventurer at heart. As a natural storyteller, I take pleasure in sharing the knowledge and experiences gained from my travels around the world. So, sit back, relax, and let my words take you on a journey to exciting new destinations!

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