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Travel

The Best Weather & Time of Year to Visit South Africa


Contrast and juxtaposition are as much a part of the climate in South Africa as the landscape.

Though as South Africans we enjoy predominantly dry and sunny weather with average temperatures of around 27 °C | 80 °F during the day, temperatures do drop to around 15 °C | 59 °F at night. Average winter temperatures range from around 19 °C | 67 °F during the day to 8 °C | 46 °F at night. And when it gets chilly during the winter months we feel it, as unlike other parts of the world, insulation is generally lacking. So when visiting South Africa be prepared to bundle up indoors with a glass of red next to a fire. It’s a vibe!

It is important to note though that these temperatures are middle of the road, and as the time of year, and landscapes shift and change so too the seasons and temperatures. I could go so far as to say that each province has its own weather chart! But whatever time of year you visit, there is a region and season to suit you.

The first thing is that as we are located in the Southern Hemisphere our seasons are opposite to that of Europe and North America. That means that January is South Africa’s warmest month and June is the coldest.

A Convergence of Tides

The West Coast and Western Cape climate is most influenced by the cold Benguela current, which means that our climate tends toward that of the Mediterranean. This means the coastal belt which encompasses Cape Town and the Garden Route experiences moderate temperatures which tends toward warm, mild and unpredictable summer with rainfall at any time of the year. Winter as far as we’re concerned is cold and wet by anyone definition. February is known as the windy month, with Summer generally hitting its peak. This is the perfect time of year to visit if you’re a windsurfer or kitesurfer as the local South-Easter pumps with vigour!

A note to remember for surfers. Bring your wetsuit as the water stays cold all year round (8˚C – 15˚C).

If you’re not into wind sports or packed beaches, March to May is a perfect time to visit as the weather turns a shade of mild and the mass of tourists have come and gone.

KwaZulu-Natal is subtropical and warm to hot and humid in summer as it is influenced by the warm Agulhas current. This keeps the air pleasant all year round. Versus the Cape Coastal belt, KZN offers up sunny winters and warmer seas with the water temperature pleasantly warm (22˚C – 26˚C). No need for wetsuits!

The infamous Drakensberg range as we move inward toward the Lesotho highlands has misty days in summer and mountain snow in winter.

Moving north, toward the highveld plateau and the “City of Gold” that is Johannesburg, we have a near-perfect climate. If you’ve ever been to Johannesburg you would have been witness to a dramatic thunderstorm after a hot summers day. Nothing quite like it! Winters here are dry with (really) chilly nights.

Drawing east of Johannesburg, we move toward the Lowveld and the rather low-lying wedge along the Mozambique border. This includes the Greater Kruger and the Kruger National Park (and most of neighbouring Swaziland). This region holds very similar summer and winter rainfall patterns to the Highveld but because of its significantly lower altitude, it experiences far greater extremes of temperature.

Seasonal Breakdown

November to March – High Season

The traditional Christmas period in South Africa is the period over which local schools break for their summer holidays and many locals take their own vacations. This is dry season and on the West Coast a guaranteed hot summer and the time when large crowds flock to the coast and well-known game reserves. Popular seaside spots like Camps Bay, St. Lucia, Sodwana Bay and Ponta D’Ouro see their numbers increase tenfold and beaches are filled to capacity.

Wildlife reserves such as the Kruger, Pilanesberg and Hluhluwe-iMfolozi also experience a massive increase in local visitors with ten times as many cars as usual on the roads. There are options available for those wanting to get away from the hoards but planning and a price tag are attached.

  • Early December to mid-January is Peak Season. Then also around the Easter period.
  • Most coastal and National Park accommodations are booked up months in advance over this period, so planning ahead is imperative.
  • Accommodation prices may go up by 50% or more in popular holiday spots during peak.
  • One of the best times to visit the Northern Cape.
 

April to May (Sunny Autumn) + September to October (Mild Spring) – Shoulder Season

  • Wildflower Season with the Namaqualand flowers blooming from late August to early September, flooding the landscape. Worth a road trip for any nature lover!
  • Whale watching is best around springtime.
  • The best wildlife-watching conditions are from autumn onwards.

 

June to August – Low Season

Northern regions of South Africa and the Elephant Coast still enjoy mild weather; however, the Cape is more often cold and wet this time of year.

  • Winter is perfect for wildlife watching.
  • A good time to visit arid areas such as the Karoo.
  • Prices commonly low.

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