When is the Best Time to Visit South Africa?

The best time to visit South Africa is from May to September if you’re traveling for a safari. Cool winter weather and dry vegetation provide the best game viewing experience. However, South Africa is a diverse country with various climates and can be visited at any time of the year.

The Cape has fantastic summer weather from November to February, with temperatures on average between 23°C and 26°C. In the north, it’s the rainy season with temperatures between 22°C and 33°C, which presents tremendous opportunities for birding. The best time to go whale watching is between July and November.

South Africa is in the Southern Hemisphere, so Christmas is warm, and July is cold. The Drakensberg mountains will even snow during this time. The biomes of South Africa vary greatly and include everything from subtropical forests, deserts, grasslands, and forests to the unique fynbos.

If you’re trying to figure out the best time to visit South Africa, we’ve done the hard work for you with a handy month-by-month guide.

The Best Time to Visit South Africa – Quick Answer

Beautiful Cape Town
Cape Town At The Start Of Summer (November)
  • If you want to go on a safari in South Africa, the dry season (May to October) is generally the best time to visit, as the vegetation is not as dense and animals are easier to spot.
  • If you want to go to the beach, the summer months (November to April) are the best time to visit, as the weather is warm and sunny.
  • If you want to go hiking or enjoy other outdoor activities, the autumn months (March to May) are an excellent time to visit, as the weather is not too hot and not too cold.

The best time to visit South Africa is during the shoulder seasons of March to May and September to November, when the weather is pleasant, prices are lower, and crowds are few.

What is the Best Month To Visit South Africa?

Weather in South Africa in January

Along the Garden Route

Unlike the northern hemisphere, where January means deep winter, South Africa’s first month of the year is warm. Expect the Western Cape to be hot and dry, making it a great time of year to embark on a road trip along the Garden Route.

The average temperature across the country hovers around 18°C, with plenty of sunshine throughout the day. Things are still warm, there’s a lot of sunshine, and the sea is still pleasant, which is good – surfers won’t need to worry about putting on a wetsuit if they don’t want to, though many still might. January is one of the best times to visit Cape Town.

Johannesburg has hotter averages – 21°C here. More subtropical areas in the north (which includes the city of Durban) see wetter weather this time of year.

Weather in South Africa in February

Oryx Kalahari Red Sand

February is the hottest time of the year in the Cape. The Kalahari Desert is also the hottest at this time of year; considering it’s summer in the Southern Hemisphere, this isn’t that surprising. Durban is pretty sweltering. Most places are pushing the mercury up.

The average temperature for Cape Town is 23°C, but don’t be fooled; it can still get seriously hot, and many places don’t have AC or are experiencing load-shedding. So, it can be tough to find relief at night. It’s best to stay out of the sun during the hottest time of day.

If you want something cooler, heading to the coast will yield refreshing sea breezes and plenty of sunshine. The average rainfall during February is 14mm, which isn’t a lot; expect more rain to fall in the northeast. The Atlantic is a pleasant 21°C – suitable for swimming, and the Indian Ocean is even warmer.

Weather in South Africa in March

Golden Gate Park Drakensberg

There’s still a lot of warm weather going on in South Africa in March, but it’s cooler in general than the previous two months. March is the last of the summer months in South Africa. The sun is still out, and average temperatures in Cape Town sit at around 21°C.

Rain falls in the north. Kruger is just inching out of its rainy season, which means the rivers will be raging at this time of year. In Johannesburg, evening temperatures start to drop to around 14°C. Crowds (of tourists) across the country won’t be as much of a thing as they have been. Sea temperatures start to dip, and people start gearing up for fall in South Africa. March also sees an increase in rain, with an average of six rainy days. Luckily, there’s still a ton of sun.

Weather in South Africa in April

Fall is just around the corner… but it’s not here yet! Meaning it’s still a fantastic time to go to South Africa.

The whole country is starting to cool down, and rainfall is increasing. But fall here won’t be like it is where you’re from (probably, anyway); Cape Town, for example, has more of a Mediterranean climate. The average temperature in South Africa is 18°C, so it’s not freezing.

In the evening, however, the average temperature drops to 12°C. Bring layers. The seas are still reasonably warm, so surfing is still an option. If you love surfing, the temperature (19°C) won’t be anywhere near to stopping you. It’s a great time of year for sightseeing and birdwatching; KwaZulu-Natal Midlands this time of year is pretty nice.

Weather in South Africa in May

Best Time to Visit South Africa

Things are pretty varied across South Africa in May. Cape Town, for example, sees one of the coldest months of the year, with fall setting in. The average daytime temperature is 16°C; it’s pretty overcast, and the nights are verging on chilly, at 10°C. Half the month, it’s pretty rainy, too.

Elsewhere, it’s different. The north is warmer; the Kalahari and Kruger National Park experience average temperatures in the low-to-mid-20s. Humidity isn’t too high yet, so that these temperatures won’t be unpleasant at all. Surfing this time of year means a wetsuit – the sea is starting to get cold. The Indian Ocean, however, is decent for swimming still.

Weather in South Africa in June

on safari in South Africa

June is the wet season in the subtropical zones in the north of South Africa. For example, the Kalahari desert is dry, hot, and good for wildlife spotting. The highest temperatures in the country can push above 30°C, while Cape Town sees temperatures of 18°C and Joburg is at a mere 12°C.

June is a winter month and the second-most rainy month of the year. This isn’t the time of year for hanging out on the beach at Camps Bay. However, this is the start of whale watching season along the Western Cape. Some mountains get snow this time of year, making it a good time for skiing. 

The Cape Winelands become more attractive this time of year (if you like cozy fireplaces and drinking wine!).

Weather in South Africa in July

Kruger National Park

This month gets pretty chilly. It’s one of the coldest, rainiest times of year to visit Cape Town, but it is also – on average – the rainiest month of the year across the country. Mountain towns at higher elevations and even Table Mountain may see a sprinkling of snow.

Depending on what part of the country you’re visiting, you’ll either get a lot of rain or warm humidity. July in Kruger National Park is a rounded 25°C, with the north and east generally drier; it’s an excellent time to catch a glimpse of animals around waterholes.

This is the best time to visit South Africa for whale watching when southern right whales come close to shore to give birth. Head to the Western Cape for the best chances to glimpse these marine mammals.

Weather in South Africa in August

It’s the start of spring! The Western and Northern Cape will start to see flowers in bloom. Namaqualand along the Northern Cape turns into the ‘Flower Route’ as a rainbow of spring flowers blankets the landscape. Outdoor activities become once again more of a viable option at KwaZulu-Natal, with warmer temperatures than the Cape.

Cape Town is blustery this time of year, with the average temperature around 13°C, but it never gets super cold. And as a word to the wise: the top of Table Mountain can get pretty windy this time of year, so bring a jacket if you plan on going up.

Weather in South Africa in September

On safari at Gondwana Tented Camp

September means even more spring. Flowers bloom across the Western Cape. Temperatures creep up. All is well with the world. Things can still be pretty chilly early in the morning and at night, so a jacket and/or a sweater is a good option. Cape Town hits daytime averages of 14-16°C. The upside is that clear blue skies are pretty much a given.

There’s not a lot of rain going on anywhere. There’s an average of just 3mm of rain! September is the best time of year to visit the Kruger National Park – the best, we tell you! Head out on safari, and you may catch sight of cute baby animals; it’s birthing season! Whales can still be spotted frolicking off the Western Cape, too.

Weather in South Africa in October

Enjoying Knysna during the best time to visit South Africa (October)

Temperatures are starting to get warmer, there’s not a lot of rain, flowers are still in bloom on the West Coast, whales can still be spotted on their migration north from Antarctica… Yep, October is considered one of the best times to visit South Africa.

Most days across the country are sunny. Expect clear skies, so rent a car in South Africa and get ready for a beautiful road trip. The average temperature has jumped to 28°C across the country; however, the south sees daily highs of only about 21°C.

The Garden Route would be fabulous this time of year. Sea temperatures also rise again, and the wind’s not so strong… That’s right: towards the end of October, you could be lying out on a beach!

Weather in South Africa in November

South Africa heats up in November while the rainy season begins in KwaZulu-Natal, Madikwe Game Reserve, and the Kruger National Park. You can expect thunderstorms in the late afternoon, but that can also clear the air of the oppressive heat and humidity that can build up.

Whales can still be seen off the western coast. Cape Town is heading into the summer season now, meaning more visitors start making their way to the city. The average temperature in Cape Town is 18°C. It’s also pretty dry compared to other places. November is an excellent time to visit the Karoo before the temperatures get too hot (and they do).

Weather in South Africa in December

Summer. December means summer in South Africa – or at least the start of it. The holiday season is a time for tourists to visit the country. Mostly, it’s dry. But the north is another story. Places like Kruger and KwaZulu-Natal are now well into their subtropical rainy seasons. The humidity can be pretty high.

Cape Town barely has rain, blue skies, sunshine, and rising temperatures; the average daytime is 25°C. It’s a good time of year to hit the beach; the Atlantic Ocean is about 19°C in December, so you could be lying out on the sand and swimming on Christmas Day!

Festivals in South Africa

Festivals in South Africa in the Summer

Festivals in South Africa in the summer? Christmas is the obvious one. That’s on December 25, just in case you forgot. Don’t expect snow. New Year is also a pretty big deal. In particular, there’s the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival. Also called Kaapse Klopse, it dates back to the mid-19th century when slaves were given the day off.

Expect sequins, satin, dance routines, floats, parades, and a party atmosphere from January 2nd for around a month. It’s summer, don’t forget. February means more revelry. There’s the first wine festival of the year at Robertson for a start. Then there’s the vibrant Cape Town Pride. And in Joburg, there’s the International Mozart Festival, an annual celebration of the maestro himself (and classical music in general).

Festivals in South Africa in the Fall

You can see the Cape Town International Jazz Festival in late March or early April. Spread over two days and across various stages, it’s one of the most significant musical events on the African continent.

Towards the end of April, there’s the Splashy Fen Music Festival in Durban. It’s the longest-running music festival in South Africa, celebrating music, art, and culture.

Festivals in South Africa in Winter

Lion Cubs

Do you like running? Do you like running far? If you’re thinking ‘yes’ to both of those questions, you may want to consider the Big Five Marathon. Set in Limpopo province, the course runs through the wilderness with no fences separating the runners from the potentially dangerous wildlife. Equal parts are scary and cool.

The National Arts Festival, held over 11 days in Grahamstown each July, is a showcase of local and international art, music, and theatrical performances. Also in July – one for foodies – is the Knysna Oyster Festival. This is a 10-day festival dedicated to, well, oysters, which is held in the coastal town of Knysna every year.

Festivals in South Africa in Spring

The first half of September sees thousands of Zulu girls make something of a pilgrimage to the KwaNyoni Palace in KwaZulu-Natal (where the Zulu King lives) for a four-day singing and dancing event.

Spring is a time of new life; that means flowers – and lots of them. For starters, the Bloemfontein Rose Festival in September features over 15,000 roses to stop and smell. 

Jacaranda Festival in October takes its name from the crazy purple flowers on the jacaranda trees blooming this time of year. In the Free State eastern highlands, cherry blossom blooms, while the wildflowers are immense in Namaqualand. 

Hermanus Whale Festival in September and October marks the start of whale watching season; it’s held in Hermanus, which is one of the best whale-watching spots… on land, of course. Thirsty? Head to Joburg’s Whisky Live, Africa’s largest whiskey festival taking place (in 2019 at least) November 6-8.

When is the Best Season to Travel South Africa?

Gondwana Game Drive at Tented Eco Camp
High season (November and March)

This is the high season in South Africa, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best time to visit South Africa. The weather in South Africa starts to warm up starting in November. Some may say it gets unpleasantly hot in some places. December and January are particularly busy because of the holidays. If you can manage it, I would avoid travel during this time.

Shoulder Season (April-May and September-October):

The weather throughout most of South Africa is pleasant during this time. Not too hot and not too cold. April and May are some of the best times to go on safari in South Africa. Crowds are low, and the wildlife still gathers around the watering hole, making it easier to view.

Low Season (June-September): 

This is South Africa’s winter season, meaning low numbers of tourists and cooler weather. We traveled around South Africa in August and September and still had a fabulous time. The weather was cool, but only really at night did we need a jacket. Winter means the middle of the dry season, making game viewing on safari generally quite good. This is also when you’ll be able to score deals across the country!

When is the BEST Time to Visit South Africa?

In my opinion, October is the best time to visit South Africa. The weather is starting to warm up to very comfortable temperatures, but it’s not high season yet. You’ll be able to score shoulder season rates, especially if you want to stay at some excellent properties.

When is the Cheapest Time to Visit South Africa?

Things to do in Cape Town 0Beach

The cheapest time to visit South Africa is in the low season, between June and September. You’ll find good deals on accommodation in places like Cape Town and Johannesburg; you might even get lucky and score discounts on a safari.

Best Time to Visit South Africa for Honeymoon?

April and October are the best time to visit South Africa for a honeymoon. Spring and Autumn are pleasant temperatures, so it’s great for couples who want to do outdoor activities. Plus, you’ll get lower prices than in peak season and fewer people.

When is the Best Time to Visit Cape Town?

Things to do in Cape Town - Boulders Beach

Cape Town honestly is a fantastic city any time of the year. If you go to Cape Town for a beach holiday, visiting during the peak summer season (December to February) is best. At the same time, the shoulder season in Cape Town is perfect for spending time outdoors and hiking up Table Mountain and Lions Head. August is a crisp and cool time to head to Stellenbosh, while whale watching is excellent from July to September.

32 Romantic and FUN Things To Do In Cape Town for Couples

When is the Best Time for Safari in South Africa?

safari clothes

The best time to go on safari in South Africa is during the dry season and spring months. Generally speaking that is May to early October when the safari animals gather around the watering holes.

Quick Travel Tips for South Africa

South Africa
  • Languages Spoken: The most widely spoken language is Zulu, then Xhosa, followed by Afrikaans. However, just about everyone speaks English.
  • Capital: South Africa has no legally defined capital city. Instead, there are three South African capitals. They are Pretoria (executive capital), Bloemfontein (judicial), and Cape Town (legislative).
  • Currency: South African Rand
  • Visa: Some nationalities are issued a 90-day visa on arrival. Check with your embassy for the best information. The visas are consecutive, not concurrent, don’t be like us and get kicked out.
  • What to Pack: Depends on the season and where you are at. Definitely bring hiking shoes, a bathing suit, and a jacket.
  • Malaria: Not a major threat in South Africa. In the rainy season, areas around Kruger and the north are at mild risk of malaria.
  • Stay Connected: Vodacom, Telcom, OneCell, and MTN are cell phone and internet providers. Check here for more information.
  • Adaptor: You’ll need this adaptor in Southern Africa.
  • Tipping: This is a tipping country and visitors should expect to tip for anything from a lunch out, to gas station attendants, to security guards in parking lots. Tips to car guards can be anything between 2 and 10 ZAR while 10% is the norm for waitstaff.

Book A Safari in South Africa

Traditionally if you wanted to book a safari you’d have to go to a travel agent and have them book your safari for you. They made suggestions for camps and lodges and then presented you with a large bill. Most of the industry still operates in this fashion.

However, Timbuktu is a new platform that allows you to select the lodges you’d like and see the pricing per day that way you can select the best itinerary for yourself. They will then contact the lodges and help you by booking your safari. With experts on staff, they can also provide suggestions and arrange the little details much like a travel agent.

What to Pack for an African Safari

The World Pursuit At Kilimanjaro Tanzania

Packing the right safari clothes is always a good idea, but it’s never essential because you can wear whatever you want. We also go in-depth on the best women’s safari clothes!

Plan Your Trip to Africa

  • Travel Insurance: We don’t travel without travel insurance and neither should you. You never know what can happen while traveling so it’s best to be prepared. HeyMondo provides excellent short-term and long-term travel insurance plans. 
  • Travel Waterbottle: When we’re uncertain about the water supply we use our Grayl Purifier. It’s come in exceptionally handy around Africa.
  • Camera Gear: Chances are you’ll want a camera for your trip to Africa. We love the Sony RX100V for a pocket-size camera and the Fujifilm XT-4 for a professional camera. Check out our favorite cameras for Africa.
  • Safari Clothes: Lightweight, beige, and moisture-wicking clothing are great for traveling Africa. See our favorite safari clothing here.
  • Safari Hat: A good hat is both stylish and functional.
  • Safari Bag: A durable bag is ideal for traveling around Africa.
  • Safari Pants: We recommend neutral-colored pants as they’re great at hiding dirt and can match most shirt colors.
  • Safari Shirt: Shirts like these are lightweight and keep the bugs away!
  • Boots: While you don’t need to wear sturdy shoes every day, at least one pair of safari boots will make your trip nicer!
  • Travel Adapter: You’ll need a special travel adapter for traveling to Africa. Get one before you get there so you don’t pay a premium on the ground.
About Natasha Alden

Natasha is the co-founder of The World Pursuit. She is an expert in travel, budgeting, and finding unique experiences. She loves to be outside, hiking in the mountains, playing in the snow on her snowboard, and biking. She has been traveling for over 10 years, across 7 continents, experiencing unique cultures, new food, and meeting fantastic people. She strives to make travel planning and traveling easier for all. Her advice about international travel, outdoor sports, and African safari has been featured on Lonely Planet, Business Insider, and Reader’s Digest.

Learn more about Natasha Alden on The World Pursuit About Us Page.

1 thought on “When is the Best Time to Visit South Africa?”

  1. Fantastic current info. We’re going at the end of July I think perfect for 60’s white women from us.

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