The best time to visit South Africa

Updated: 20th June 2018

Cape Twon and Table Mountain - Africa Overland Safaris - On The Go Tours
Visit Cape Town from late January to late April for warmer temperatures

Seasons and Weather

South Africa is a predominantly sunny country, with year-round travel possible thanks to its vast size and diverse range of landscapes and attractions. The climate is seasonal, although as the transitional seasons of spring and autumn tend to be very short, the year is typically divided into summer and winter months.

Summer: High Season

In general, summer weather lasts from October to April, with much of the country being warm and sunny. During this time, South Africa experiences its high season and temperatures rise. However, travel during the South African school holidays in December is best to be avoided as many of the wildlife parks can get very crowded.

Winter: Low Season

From May to September South Africa then experiences its winter. Temperatures are generally still mild, although it can get cold in the night and early mornings. However as this is the low season for tourism, the parks are wonderfully uncrowded. There’s also little to no rain and fewer mosquitos to contend with.

A lion in Kruger National Park
Wildlife Viewing is best in Kruger National Park during the winter

Best Time to Visit by Destination

Thanks to South Africa’s vast size, the climate varies from region to region. Therefore, the best time to visit will depend on where you want to go and what you want to see.

Cape Town

From June to August, Cape Town experiences its winter rainfall. Therefore the best time to visit for a holiday is during the city’s dry summer months. Between December to February Cape Town’s temperatures reach their peak and this popular time sees busy beaches and buzzing nightlife. The fierce south-easterly wind also blows hard during this time, but usually subsides by February.

So if you’re looking to spend some time on the beach, aim to hit the sands from late January to late April. You can expect less-crowded beaches, calmer breezes and better rates. Whales arrive in the waters around Cape Town from July onwards, with the city being the best place in the world to view Southern Right whales from the coastline.

Kruger National Park

Kruger is generally considered a year-round destination, however South Africa’s two seasons offer different wildlife viewing experiences. During the dry winter months from May to September, game viewing is fantastic as the vegetation is sparse and animals are much easier to spot.

From November to April, Kruger is then transformed into a lush green landscape with the arrival of the summer rains. This ‘green season’ makes for excellent photography and is the best season for bird watching. Many animals also give birth during these months, so you can be sure to spot some cute newborns.

The Garden Route

South Africa’s famous Garden Route also boasts a year-round climate, however rains can be experienced at any time of year. November to April sees the hottest temperatures, with the coastline getting particularly busy during the Christmas school holidays. Therefore the best time to hit the beaches is from February to April.

The winter months also see much excitement along the Garden Route with the arrival of whale watching season from July to October. Winter is also a great time for hiking here.

Climate | Cape Town

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp Min °C1616141298789111314
Temp Max °C262625221918171818212324
Rainfall (mm)15818487984896643311810

Climate | Kruger NP

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp Min °C212019151066913161820
Temp Max °C333231292826262729303132
Rainfall (mm)94966638141111828406392
Cape Town Cycle Tour
Cape Town hosts the world's largest timed cycling event

Festivals and Events

With world-famous cosmopolitan cities and a rich cultural legacy, South Africa hosts a number of arts festivals and sporting events throughout the year. To help you plan your visit to South Africa we've put together a selection of some of the more popular.

Cape Town Cycle Tour

The world's largest timed cycling event has been held in Cape Town for the last 39 years, attracting some 35,000 cyclists from around the globe including some of the Tour de France greats. The 109km route follows the beautiful Cape Peninsula with road closures in Cape Town during the day.

Klein Karoo National Arts Festival

Held in the Karoo town of Oudtshoorn this festival celebrates the Afrikaans art and culture with well-known and up-and-coming artists featured. Theatre, dance and classical music are also part of the programme.

National Arts Festival

Celebrating the best in crafts, theatre, jazz and opera among a host of other artistic mediums, this is Africa's biggest arts festival. It takes place in the university city of Grahamstown over 11 days with a Main and Fringe programme open to all ages.

Cape Times Waterfront Wine Festival

Representing the full spectrum of the Cape's wine producers with the region's finest wineries gathering to entice visitors alongside a variety of gourmet delicacies including South Africa's finest cheeses.

King Shaka Day Celebrations

Each year in September the Zulu heads and thousands of Zulu people congregate in the town of KwaDukuza to play homage to King Shaka and celebrate Zulu traditions. Attendees dress in full Zulu costume with speeches made by the current king.

Afrika Burn

Taking inspiration from America's Burning Man Festival, this festival in Tankwa features a temporary city of art, theme camps, costume, music and dance performances and offers the chance for organisations and individuals to question connection within communities and larger society.

Ficksburg Cherry Festival

Towards the end of the year the country town of Ficksburg attracts thousands of people looking to feast on cherries, try their hand at pip-spitting and enjoy the magnificent scenery. Plenty of events are held including sky diving displays in what is one of South Africa's oldest festivals.

This is by no means an exhaustive list as dozens of events and festivals take place in South Africa each month. Event and festival details can change so please check with the organisers that the event is happening before making your travel arrangements.

2018 Calendar

Here's an overview of some of the festivals and events taking place in South Africa this year:

March 3rd-12th - Cape Town Cycle Tour (Cape Town)
March 29th - April 4th - Klein Karoo National Arts Festival (Oudtshoorn)
April 23rd-29th -Afrika Burn (Tankwa)
June 28th - July 8th - National Arts Festival (Grahamstown)
September 24th - King Shaka Day (KwaDukuza)
November 15th-17th - Ficksburg Cherry Festival (Ficksburg)

There's also a number of national holidays in South Africa and on these dates many businesses and some tourist sites will close for the day so plan your visit accordingly.

See Also

To help further plan your trip to South Africa take a look through our handy Travel Guide resources:

Best Places to Visit - South Africa's top cities, reserves and winelands
Tourist Visas - details on visa regulations and procurement
Top Travel Tips - useful info on money, health and more in South Africa
About Overland Safaris - what to expect on an overland camping expedition
About Lodge Safaris - all you need to know about lodge accommodated safaris
Safari Wildlife Guide - where to find Africa's most iconic wildlife
Spotting Africa's Big 5 - our guide to the Big 5 and the best places to find them

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