The best time to visit South Africa

Updated: 13th May 2021

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

South Africa at a Glance: Best Time to Visit

Recommended time to visit: South Africa is a year round destination, but the peak season for game viewing is during the winter months from May - September, when temperatures are cooler and there is less rainfall. September in particular offers excellent weather across the country, and good game viewing.

Less popular time to visit: November - February are generally the wettest months in Kruger National Park, and the vegetation can hide animals from view. But Cape Town and Johannesburg are at their warmest during this period.

Best time for wildlife: May - September is the dry winter season in South Africa, and animals in the country's national parks gather around the remaining watering holes, making them easier to spot. July - November is peak whale watching season on the Cape and resident and migratory birds make the most of the wet conditions from November - February.

Best time for beaches: November - March. These are the warmest, driest months in Cape Town, perfect for relaxing on the beach.

Best time for exploring the Garden Route: Summer from November - April offers the warmest weather, with less rain. Although coastal routes are prone to random showers, so pack a waterproof jacket!

Want to know more about South Africa? Check out our latest blog posts

When is high season in South Africa?

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.

When is low season in South Africa?

From May to September South Africa 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.

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

Thinking of visiting South Africa? Download a copy of our Africa brochure for inspiration.

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.

When is the best time to visit 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.

When is the best time to visit Kruger National Park?

Kruger National Park 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.

When is the best time to drive 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.

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.

What is the Cape Town Cycle Tour?

The world's largest timed cycling event has been held in Cape Town since 1978, 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.

What is the 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.

When are the 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.

What is 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.

See Also

To further help plan your trip to South Africa, take a look through our handy travel 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

Top South Africa Deals