The Best Time to Travel to South Africa: A Climate Guide
As you might expect from one of the planet’s most diverse countries, the climate at the very tip of Africa is extremely varied month to month and region to region – so when is the best time to travel South Africa? In this great country, you will find breathtaking landscapes, bright sandy beaches, and lively metropolises. With so much diversity and such a vast choice of things to do, it is important that you plan your South Africa trip thoroughly. In this article, we will guide you through the best times to visit this glorious country. Equipped with insider knowledge, you can pick what time of year suits you and your plans best. Let’s dive in!
Everything You Need to Know at a Glance:
|High Season||December to March|
|Low Season||April to November|
|Safari||April to September|
|Whale Watching||July to October|
|Surfing||March to September|
|Hiking||September to November|
Best Time to Travel South Africa: Seasons
Seasons in the Southern Hemisphere are essentially the mirror image of European seasons. South Africa enjoys the four seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter, but they fall in months slightly different compared to what you might be used to. Autumn and spring both last two months, while summer and winter last four to five months. Summer runs between October and February, while the country experiences winter from mid-May through to July. Geographical location does affect these rough dates too, however.
Off-Season (April to November)
The touristic off-season lines up with rainy season in South Africa. The first rainfall begins in April. From then on, you can expect relatively frequent thunderstorms. The weather is pretty pleasant though, and temperatures stay relatively warm, around about an agreeable 23 °C. It can get quite cool during the night and in the early hours of the morning, so make sure to pack a blanket or a jacket!
The country receives fewer visitors in the winter, meaning the national parks are relatively free of other tourists. While this might not make it the absolute best time to travel South Africa, these conditions do promise you the chance to visit all the most popular parks without facing hours of queuing.
High Season (December – March)
In South Africa, December signals the arrival of summer and, with it, the dry season. The temperature starts soaring above 27 °C and the beaches fill up with locals and tourists alike. It’s the perfect time for days of relaxation and enjoying the sunsets over the ocean, plus potentially your first Christmas spent tanning and barbecuing on the beach! There are also numerous nighttime festivals in summer, giving you the chance to celebrate right into the wee hours. The warm weather also makes taking on outdoor activities particularly attractive, including long hikes through the country’s dense forests.
With the mix of summer rain and sunshine, the national parks transform into lush green landscapes, making it the perfect time for nature photographers and birdwatchers. Summer is the best time to get out there and enjoy all the natural beauty the country has to offer on a hiking or safari adventure! In some regions, you can still expect a bit of rainfall or thunderstorms. We recommend packing an umbrella and a raincoat to make sure your outdoor adventures go without a hitch. If you are planning to visit in the summer, don’t forget to book your trip early enough. Almost all hotels will be fully booked during the high season, and the prices can get pretty expensive.
Best Time to Travel South Africa: Climate Zones
Since South Africa is such a big landmass, its climate is generally quite varied. Altitude and proximity to the ocean also strongly influence the climates of the nine provinces. Flanked by the South Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Indian Ocean to the east, marine currents influence the temperature of the waters. The altitude and proximity to the ocean strongly influence the climate of South African destinations. Climatic conditions range from Mediterranean in the west to subtropical in the northeast. Inland, you will experience dry and temperate weather. Regions within the country vary between desert, semiarid, savanna grasslands and tropical forests. With this, we can split the climate in South Africa into three zones: West Coast, East Coast, and the dry inland area.
Warm, dry summers and humid, cool winters characterise the West Coast, which includes the region around Cape Town. This area experiences the most rainfall during June and September. Because of this, the best time to visit Cape Town and the south is November to March.
In contrast to the West, the East Coast has a humid, warm climate. This also applies to the city of Durban. The Agulhas Current in the Indian Ocean creates a tropical climate during the summer months, with a lot of rainfall and temperatures averaging between 21 and 23 °C.
If you are planning to visit Johannesburg, you might be pleased to know that the inland area of South Africa is notably dryer than the coastal zones. Here, rainy season lasts from October to April, but with comparatively limited rainfall. Summers can get pretty toasty, with temperatures rising well over 30 °C. Winters, on the other hand, stay mild. In the higher altitude areas of this region, winter can bring about ice-cold temperatures below zero, and frost and snow often make an appearance.
As you can see, the climate in South Africa varies a lot from region to region! For your trip, we recommend coming prepared for all types of weather. It isn’t out of the ordinary to experience all four seasons in a single day, so make sure to pack a raincoat in with all your shorts and t-shirts!
Weather in Johannesburg
|Maximum Temperature (°C)||27||27||26||22||21||18||17||21||25||27||27||27|
|Minimum Temperature in (°C)||16||15||14||11||9||5||5||8||11||14||15||16|
|Hours of Sunshine||12||12||9||8||7||7||7||7||10||12||12||12|
|Days of Rain||21||18||17||10||4||2||2||2||4||10||16||20|
Weather in Durban
|Maximum Temperature (°C)||26||27||26||24||23||22||21||22||23||23||24||25|
|Minimum Temperature in (°C)||20||20||20||17||16||14||14||15||16||17||17||19|
|Hours of Sunshine||8||9||8||6||7||7||6||6||7||8||7||7|
|Days of Rain||21||17||18||12||9||6||8||8||14||18||20||23|
Best Time to Travel South Africa: Activities
Compared to the rest of Africa, game viewing in private reserves in South Africa is minimally affected by season and weather conditions. For this reason, it’s a little more difficult to give one best time to travel South Africa if you’re looking for a safari. While you can enjoy a successful safari at any time during the year, though, we recommend planning your trip for the dry season from May to October. At the Kruger National Park in the northeast of the country, you can spot all of the ‘Big Five’ African game species (elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos and buffalo)!
From land to sea, if you’re a fan of marine wildlife, June is the ideal time for you to head to South Africa! At this time of year, you can watch whales at the Whale Coast, national parks, and nature reserves.
Though temperatures may not reach the balmy heights of summer, wintertime creates a surfer’s paradise in South Africa. With large swells coming from the south Indian Ocean, June to September is the dream time to visit the country on a surfing trip. We recommend checking out the Western Cape for a divine array of surf spots. Thanks to its twin coasts receiving wind from both sides, the Cape Peninsula does offer good surf all year long.
Starting from September, the days get sunnier, and see a lot less rainfall, meaning you can chill at the beach or go on an all-out hiking tour. The Panorama Route and the Garden Route both offer jaw-dropping variety in terms of flora and fauna. You’ll be left in awe of the impressive waterfalls, as well as getting the chance to try out plenty of exciting outdoor activities. Close to Johannesburg, you will find the majestic Drakensberg Mountains, which offer breathtaking views for unforgettable hikes. The mountain chain stretches out over more than 1,000 kilometres and offers plenty of hiking trails that let you explore the area fully.
This magnificent African nation is a popular travel destination and can certainly be enjoyed all year round. If you’re not keen on big groups of people, the periods between March and May or September and November are probably the best time to travel South Africa. The temperature at that time is pleasantly warm and there’s minimal rainfall. During spring, in particular, you can enjoy nature in all its glory.
If you want to visit the vibrant city of Cape Town, we recommend the months of November to February. At this time, the weather is at its driest and most pleasant. If you’re keen on spotting some whales, it’s better to head to South Africa between July and October. These months are also a great time to go on safari, as the paths through the national parks are largely dry and animals are pretty easy to spot drinking at the watering holes.
The months from December to February are perfectly suited to anyone who loves chilling in the sun and spending the day at the beach – just as long as you don’t mind high temperatures and crowds of beachgoers. Whenever you choose to travel to South Africa, one thing is for sure: your trip will be full of unforgettable moments and exciting adventures in bustling cities and stunning scenic areas. A journey to South Africa is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!