Best Time to Visit South Africa
Broadly speaking, the days are warm and sunny, while the nights are cool. But South Africa is a vast country straddling several climate zones – subtropical in the northeast, temperate in the interior, Mediterranean in the southwest and desert in the northwest. Pick when to visit each region based not only on temperature and rainfall, but also wildlife activity, natural spectacles and peak holiday periods.
When to visit South Africa… at a glance
South Africa in spring (September-November)
September is prime time for wildflowers on the west coast and in Namaqualand, while October is the peak of whale-watching festivities at Hermanus in the Western Cape. Along with April/May, it’s a great month for combining regions in South Africa. Beyond the Cape, October is usually the start of the rainy season with rising temperatures causing occasional afternoon showers – but this is still a good month to visit. As the rains stimulate plant growth, game watching in the Kruger National Park can become more of a challenge during late spring and summer.
South Africa in summer (December-February)
It’s hot and sunny on the Highveld, where Johannesburg and Pretoria can be sweltering, with frequent thunderstorms. The Lowveld to the east of Johannesburg (including Kruger National Park) can be very hot and wet – but school holidays during December can still make it feel crowded. A drier proposition is the Western Cape where it is usually warm and mild in Cape Town and along the Garden Route at this time of year – the heat reaches its peak during February, but there is often a cooling sea breeze.
South Africa in autumn (March-May)
This is the perfect time to visit the Cape region: it’s still mild, the winds have dropped and the summer crowds have gone. Book early if you plan on travelling during the popular Easter break period. You’ll still get the odd thunderstorm in Kruger National Park during March (rivers and vegetation will be high), but from April to May the temperatures, rainfall and game-viewing conditions improve. May is a particularly good month to plan a safari. This is also a rewarding time to head for the Drakensberg for some hiking. April is one of the best months for combining regions with a good chance of warm, dry weather across the country.
South Africa in winter (June-August)
It’s dry season in the north and east of the country. KwaZulu-Natal is warm and sunny. Winter is dry in Johannesburg and other parts of the highveld, but the nights can be cold. Expect snow in the mountains of the Drakensberg. Although this is not the best time to visit Cape Town and the Cape provinces (it can be chilly and wet) you often get a mixture of unsettled and fine weather – and it’s usually sunnier if you head up into the Northern Cape Province. The whale-watching season runs from July to November, while August heralds the start of the wildflower season in the Western and Northern Cape Provinces.
Temperature In Cape Town, average maximum temperatures peak at 28°C during February and 18°C in July – although it can be as low as 6°C. In Kruger National Park, average maximum temperatures reach 30°C between December and March, dropping to 23°C in July.
Rainfall The wettest months in Cape Town are usually June, July and August when you might get 9 days of rain in each month. Expect 2 or 3 rainy days between January and March. In Kruger National Park, the wettest month is usually January (166 mm), with November, December and February also receiving in excess of 100 mm of rainfall per month.
- January: Cape Minstrel Festival
- January: anniversaries of the Battle of Isandlwana and the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, KwaZulu-Natal
- February: Wine Harvest festivals
- March: Cape Town Jazz Festival
- March: Klein Karoo Arts festival
- April: Freedom Day Celebrations
- July: Nelson Mandela Day
- July-November: whale watching season
- August-September: wildflower season
- September: Heritage Day celebrations
- December: Day of Reconciliation celebrations