The South African climate: some FAQs

Cape Town in March

The South African climate: some FAQs

If you are planning a trip to South Africa you are probably wondering when the best time to visit would be. Well there is really no short answer to that question, as South Africa literally does offer (as the old TV ad went) a “world in one country”.

The country is divided into several distinct areas each with their own ecosystem, so as you would expect the climate varies quite considerably from place to place. In a nutshell though:

  • Gauteng and the highveld: Summer rainfall; dry winters that get very frosty. High altitude.
  • Cape Town and Western Cape: Winter rainfall; hot, dry Summers that are perfect for the beach
  • Natal: Summer rainfall, hot and humid; dry Winters that are just glorious esp. in the Drakensberg
  • Mpumalanga: Summer rainfall and very hot; dry, mild Winters
  • West Coast: Winter rainfall (but not much of it); hot, dry Summers
    *please see the chart for temperatures per city

You name it, we have it. Here, in my opinion, is the best time to visit based on what you fancy doing.

  • Beach holiday, always a favourite. You are really spoilt for choice:
    • For warm oceans and tanning weather head to the lovely Natal coast. Best time to visit – Spring and Autumn, Summer can be rainy and very busy
    • For warm beaches and cool oceans head to Cape Town. Best time to visit for sun – Summer and Autumn
  • Whale watching: mid-June to October (Hermanus and the Garden Route)
  • Game viewing: Winter (Kruger Park), not too hot and not too much vegetation
  • Diving and Surfing: April through September
  • Bird watching: migrants arrive mid-October through November
  • River rafting: in Natal (Summer) or the Cape (end Winter)
  • Hiking: Spring and Autumn
  • Snow: Winter in the Drakensberg and Lesotho mountains
  • Namaqualand daisies: August to mid-October

It’s also always worth checking when the South African schools are on holiday, this can make some areas (Durban, Knysna and Cape Town) exceptionally busy, especially over Christmas.

Summer: mid-October to mid-February
Autumn (Fall): mid-February to April
Winter: May to July
Spring: August to mid-October

CITY Summer Winter
Bloemfontein 31 15 17 -2
Cape Town 26 16 18 7
Durban 28 21 23 11
George 25 15 19 7
Johannesburg 26 15 17 4
Nelspruit 29 19 23 6
Pretoria 29 18 20 5
Skukuza 33 21 26 6
Average temperatures (°C) in South Africa

chart source:

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