When is the best time to visit South Africa?
South Africa is one country in the African subcontinent that offers a wide range of activities for tourists. From surfing in the amazing sea, enjoying the lovely coastline beaches while indulging in some water sports. Many like big game viewing in Kruger National Park, visit Robben Island, go on a road trip to Garden Route, enjoy one of the many vineyards, visit the historic Battlefields of KwaZulu Natal, and much more. South Africa has all that you need.
The best time to visit South Africa is from May to September. South Africa has different activities and tours, and the right season for them will be different. We are at the tip of the African subcontinent in the southern hemisphere and so the seasons will be reversed than when they occur on the northern hemispheres. We will give you a complete season-wise insight into the weather in each season so that you can make plans accordingly.
This season lasts from November to February and is the Peak season for South Africa, given its pleasant weather and sunny skies. This is a time when tourists flock to South Africa, especially The Garden Route and its coastal towns, to enjoy the weather, the beaches, and the sea. This is when the tourist centers come to life. The southern coasts are hot and sunny all through, with little signs of showers, if any. Even the Eastern and Western Cape weather will be pleasant, with daytime temperatures at 25-27 degrees Celsius, almost like the blissful Mediterranean climate. Whereas the regions in the northern part of the country will encounter frequent thunderstorms.
The rainfall and sunshine alternate beautifully to form a lush green landscape in Kruger National Park and KwaZulu Natal, setting into a pace the birding and birthing season. This is the perfect time to enjoy the South African tours, culture, traditional events, adventure, and wildlife. You can drive up the Garden Route on a self-drive tour, enjoy a tour of the picturesque Winelands, go on family safaris, go Whale-watching or even enjoy some surfing. It is important to note that the whale-watching continues till November and so book your tours in advance.
This season lasts from March to May, and these 3 months will give you respite from the hot sun and will lead to more mild weather, making it more fun for travel. The weather will stay mildly warm and pleasant throughout South Africa, and the arrival of autumn will add a cooling touch to the air. These are the 3 months during which you can enjoy all the actives from the peak summer season but without many tourists flocking the places.
The entire country will feel relaxed compared to the peak season crowds. In their harvest time, the Vineyards, the national parks, and landscape are at their greenest ever, so even wildlife spotting is easy. You can enjoy a lot of activities like hiking in the Drakensberg Mountain, undertake one of the adventure wildlife safari rides, attend the Cape Winelands Harvest Festivals, revel in the AfrikaBurn Festival in Tankwa Karoo National Park, and many more.
Winters are between May and September. Typically an off-peak season to travel because of the weather, it also is the right time to go for some spectacular whale-watching off the southern coast of Hermanus, indulges in some big game spotting activities in Kruger and Phinda, and more. But there is far less to be done compared to the peak and shoulder tourist seasons. The sun is always there for you and is bright and sunny, but the weather is cold, and there is a chill in the air. The day temperatures can be between 8 and 15 degrees Celsius.
Spring happens between September to November and is as equally comfortable as autumn. The wet season starts from October to April, and this is the time when the jungles and landscapes turn green and fresh, making it a good time for bird watching. Rains will be moderate, short, and enjoyable while not interfering with your daily plans. Daytime temperatures hover around 10-15 degrees Celsius, with some days being cold and the others warm as the weather progresses to the summers.
These are the months when the tourist activity starts picking off very fast, and there are also several international events like Street Food Festival in Johannesburg and Cape Town, Hermanus Whale Festival, Durban International Blues Festival, Rockin’ Daisie’s fest taking place. Overall a good season to pack your bags and leave both for indoor as well as outdoor activities.
We have made a short table for you to grasp the seasonal information easily.
|Tourist Season||Travel Season||Min Temperature||Max Temperature||Daytime Weather Conditions|
|Peak||Summer||20 °C||32 °C||Hot, Sunny, Bright|
|Shoulder||Autumn||10 °C||25 °C||Warm, Pleasant, Bright|
|Off-peak||Winter||8 °C||15 °C||Windy, Chilly, Bright|
|Shoulder||Spring||16 °C||25 °C||Warm, Pleasant, Bright|
Best time to visit South Africa
If you take our advice, specifically for South Africa, we will recommend only the shoulder months for travel. This is because of several advantages they offer and the length of time that these seasons last, give you plenty of flexibility to fit in a lot of activities without much trouble. Again, with cheaper prices, you can make use of the shoulder season to book comparatively cheaper accommodations, tours, and flights. Travel in shoulder months should be easily 10-20% cheaper as tourist numbers start to decline by a fair bit, and bargain hunting should not be difficult.
Also, the pleasant weather will ensure you and your family can enjoy all the benefits the country has to offer without being too bothered about the climate and weather conditions being too hot and sunny. If you want to enjoy the sunny beaches and the warm waters, you should be looking forward to only the peak summers because the waters tend to get cooler in the shoulder months.
Timing your trip with the festivals in South Africa
It’s certainly rewarding when your holidays coincide with one of the local festivals and cultural events. The festivals give a unique cultural insight for the travelers, which is missing if they are only focussed on the tourist attractions and weather. We have shared below some of the very best cultural and traditional festivals and events for you to take part in and enjoy. You can also just observe the events and enjoy them.
Shared below are a few festivals and events in an annual calendar to keep in mind when you are visiting South Africa:
Cape Town Pride Pageant:
South Africa is an open country and not just supports LGBTQ but also LGBTQ-themed events. This event takes place in the second half of February and includes a variety of events, including colorful street parades, Mr and Miss Cape Town pageants, and some exciting parties.
Dance Umbrella, Johannesburg:
If you love contemporary dances and performances, this is the country’s best festival that is showcased around the traditional local dance forms and takes place at the start of March every year.
Cape Town Carnival:
A carnival is always exciting, and you do not want to miss the Cape Town Carnival hosted in the middle of March. As usual, this carnival also hosts a lot of parties, celebrations, street parades, floats, and lots of celebrations happening all over. It celebrates life, showcases cultural and traditional diversity and creative arts.
Cape Town International Jazz Festival:
If you want to attend the largest Jazz fest on this side of the world, you better be in Cape Town towards the end of March. Attracting the top Jazz stars and best Jazz talents across the world, this is not just Africa’s largest Jazz Fest but also an important event in the Jazz events calendar.
Afrika Splashy Fen Music Festival Underberg, KwaZulu-Natal:
Come April and you will get to experience South Africa’s oldest music festival showcasing alternative rock, pop, and mainstream music and draws thousands of eager music enthusiasts in the Drakensberg foothills.
Pink Loerie Mardi Gras & Arts Festival Knysna, Garden Route:
You can enjoy this festival at the end of April, a carnival event and parade focused on LGBTQ pride in the coastal town of Knysna. The events will also include performances, drag shows, athletic events, cabaret, and competitions.
National Arts Festival Grahamstown, Eastern Cape:
One of the largest arts festivals in Africa, it’s a 10-day event cantered on the largest performing arts festivals in the world. Scheduled from the last week of June to the first week of July, it showcases performing arts like theater, cabaret, stand-up comedy, live music, historical tours, food and craft fair, talks, films, and workshops, among others.
Knysna Oyster Festival Knysna, Western Cape:
July welcomes the 10 day Oyster festival in the coastal city of Knysna on the famous 300km long Garden Route. Apart from Oysters, the festival also includes a marathon, cycle tour, live performances, motivational talks, and more.
Jive Cape Town Funny Festival, Cape Town:
Scheduled in early August, this is South Africa’s oldest and best comedy festival. It attracts and showcases the best lineup of local and international talent. It’s a month-long event and takes place in the Baxter Theatre.
Hermanus Whale Festival Hermanus, Western Cape:
This is one kind and the only eco-marine festival in the country that happens at the end of September in Hermanus. The activities include whale watching and is the peak season to watch the famous Southern Right Whales.
Franschhoek Cap Classique and Champagne Festival Franschhoek, Western Cape:
If you love some nice champagne and if you don’t mind attending a two-day festive event focussed on the sampling of some of the finest champagnes the country has to offer and enjoying the festivities staged around the event, this festival is the one is for you. Don’t miss it. Staged in early December, you can sample a vast selection of sparkling wines, both local as well as French, and have a good time in the Cape Winelands.
- Do ensure to book tickets for all the events well in advance as they get fully booked in no time. This also includes accommodations and air travel.
- Even during summers, do keep a jacket handy as the weather can get a bit cold in the nights depending on which part of the country you are in.
- Suppose you plan to visit especially for the wildlife. In that case, the best period is from May to September, during which the spotting of animals is easier as they congregate around sources of water.
- October to April months are best for bird-watching, and you will be treated to the sights of migratory birds as well.
- You will find that the Coastal areas and the country’s low-lying regions are generally warm throughout the year but can get particularly hot in summers. While the inland regions with mountains and plateaus will be more pleasant in the day and chilly at night.
- There are several national parks and vineyards. So do your research well and choose the one that fits your likes.
- Don’t miss on art, design, and culture, which make this country unique.
South Africa is one lucky country when it comes to weather. With short winters and an extremely long warm, and pleasant season covering the Summers, Autumn, and Spring, tourists can make more out of their trip here than to any other country in the world. With a Mediterranean-type pleasant climate, traveling here is an absolute fun activity. It offers the best of beaches, adventure, wildlife and forests which will keep your holidays busy. So go ahead and start planning your trip here. Cheers and happy travels.