If you ask ten people about the best time to visit South Africa, they will give you ten different answers! South Africa can arguably be a year-round destination that is perfect to visit from January to December, depending on your interests.
From hiking on its beautiful mountains and plateaus to sunbathing on its crystal blue coastline to safari adventures, South Africa has plenty of year-round activities that keep both the tourists and locals booked and busy.
One main thing to remember while planning your trip is that it is located in the Southern Hemisphere, at which the seasons are opposite to The Northern Hemisphere throughout the year. Meaning that when it’s winter in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s summer in the Southern Hemisphere.
So, for example, if you’re making your trip from the UK during January, leave your winter coat and boots behind and pack your swimsuit and flip-flops because it’s peak summer season in South Africa.
Now if you haven’t chosen a time to visit yet and are still wondering what the best time to visit South Africa is, then let’s help you decide. We will break down the seasons and share with you the best activities for each one and what to expect during your visit.
Best time to visit South Africa
Even though we have established that South Africa is perfectly fine to visit at any time of the year, the kind of activities you prefer to do will determine the best time to visit South Africa based on your preference. In case you want to have a summer vacation full of sunshine and lying on sandy beaches, then you need to mark the December to March season on your calendar. But if you are more of a wildlife, safari adventures and whale watching kind of person, then the winter to spring season is the ideal time for you to pack your bags and go.
So, let’s plan the perfect trip to magical South Africa.
Splendid Summer (December to March)
Summer in South Africa is the peak season for tourism. Crowds are crawling everywhere, from the malls to the restaurants to the shops and especially in coastal cities. Tourists from the Northern Hemisphere escape the cold weather of their areas to the sunny beaches of coastal cities like Cape Town.
Where Christmas is usually associated with snow and cold weather in most of the world; in South Africa, December is the beginning of the summer season, so it’s hot and humid, but still, that doesn’t stop the locals or the tourists from celebrating. Christmas with lots of sun and beautiful flowers in bloom. If you’re from the UK, you’ll find a lot of British Christmas costumes practised throughout South Africa because of its history with the UK.
Among the places you should visit in South Africa during the summer is Cape Town. Being the top tourist season, summer in Cape Town is never dull.
Summer in Cape Town is a splendid magical time. The city is in the southern tip of Africa and is popular for its beautiful beaches, mountains and vibrant nightlife. There are many activities to do and plenty of places to visit in Cape Town during summer; here are some of the best:
- Camps Bay Beach: If you’re looking for some time in the sun, then this gorgeous beach on the Atlantic Ocean is the one for you.
- Table Mountain: You can’t go to C-Town and not take the cable car up Table Mountain. The scenic view from the top is something you’ll never forget.
- V&A Waterfront: If you’re up for some shopping and fine dining, Victoria and Albert Waterfront has all you’ll ever need, from beautiful shops and amazing restaurants.
- Robben Island: For some history lessons, you can take the ferry to Robben Island and visit the prison where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned during the apartheid.
Awesome Autumn (April to May)
Autumn starts in April in South Africa, and that’s when the summer crowds start to die down. April is still pretty lively around the country, but by the end of April and the beginning of May, most of the tourists start to go back to their countries, so it’s a nice time for your trip if you don’t like crowds.
The weather during Autumn is mild, with plenty of sun in the morning and chilly weather during the evenings. Even though it’s mostly dry with a low chance of rain in most areas, you can experience some light showers in subtropical areas like the Garden Route.
Autumn is the perfect season for you to visit South Africa if you like hiking and safari adventures. There are plenty of famous hiking trails around the country, and safari trips are one of South Africa’s best attractions. Here are some places you do not want to miss visiting during Autumn in South Africa.
Most South African locals believe that Autumn is ideal for visiting the Winelands. Farms such as Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Paarl will be having the harvest seasons, and with most of the summer crowds gone, you can have the best time wine tasting and grape stomping without having to fight your way through hundreds of people.
Going on Safari
May is a superb time to go on safari trips in South Africa. Because of the dry weather, most animals tend to group themselves near water sources like lakes which makes them easier to spot. South Africa has a wide range of animals and natural sights you do not want to miss.
For hiking enthusiasts, Drakensberg Mountains are the place to be during Autumn. The mountains are located in the eastern part and are the highest mountain range in South Africa. They also offer amazing hiking trails for all experience levels.
Wonderful Winter (June to August)
The peak Northern Hemisphere summer season is the South African winter season. By the time June arrives, there are no more summer crowds, and the country is way less crowded. While Western Cape cities like Cape Town are usually soaked in the rain this time of the year, you can find dry and sunny weather -at least during the day- in the Eastern Cape and Kwazulu Natal regions.
Winter in South Africa is pretty mild compared to northern countries. The temperature usually ranges between 10°C and 20°C with sunny, dry weather during the day and cold evenings. Even though it is not the greatest time to visit the country’s beautiful beaches, there are other places you can go during the winter.
The weather in KwaZulu-Natal is great during winter. You can visit the midlands and explore the picturesque countryside with its beautiful little towns and cafes. Drakensberg Mountains are also located in KwaZulu-Natal, and hiking is a great option for the weather.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Located in Cape Town, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is a stunning natural reserve spanning over 1,300 acres. It includes a variety of plants, including 7,000 species of indigenous plants. You can walk through the various sections of the garden, and make sure you visit the Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway for a stunning view of the botanical gardens and Table Mountain.
By the end of winter and the arrival of spring, Namaqualand in the northwest part of South Africa becomes carpeted in endless numbers of wildflowers. People worldwide visit the area to take a peek at the beautiful flower that ranges in colour from orange to yellow, pink, and purple. It’s a sight not to be missed.
Sweet Spring (September to November)
Spring is a beautiful time wherever you are, and South Africa is no exception. With wildflowers in full bloom and the animals out in full force, visiting South Africa in the spring is the perfect time to bask in its natural beauty.
The weather during spring is warm in the morning, but afternoon showers are something to expect. Both the temperature and rainfall rise through spring and until summer is here. This is the peak season for wildflowers lovers and whale-watching enthusiasts.
Hermanus & Plettenberg Bay
Hermanus & Plettenberg Bay is one of the most famous spots for whale-watching in South Africa. During this season, the whales migrate from the cold water of Antarctica to the warm water of South Africa. You can either watch the whales from one of the various cliffs and lookout points or take a boat for a closer and more intimate look.
Kruger National Park
Roughly the size of Wales, Kruger National Park is one of South Africa’s largest parks. It is in the northwestern part of the country and boasts a variety of wildlife species, such as lions, elephants, leopards, rhinos and buffalos. You can enjoy various activities such as safari, guided walking tours and birdwatching. Kruger National Park is a must-visit when you’re in South Africa.
Well! South Africa is definitely magical; whether, there to hike, enjoy nature, want to spend a sunny time by the beach, or are just a wine fanatic, South Africa is the right place for everyone throughout the year!