Cape Town at dusk, South Africa

The best time to visit South Africa

With being such a vast country, recommending when is the best time to visit South Africa is not as easy as you might think it should be. The easiest way to explain the weather is to split the country roughly in half. The west includes Cape Town and the Garden Route, whilst the east is mostly KwaZulu Natal, the east coast, Kruger, Johannesburg and the Drakensberg. Our monthly explanation below of roughly what each area is like is based on this, admittedly inexact, split. The other thing to consider is that altitude affects the temperatures significantly, so you’ll find that the more mountainous or hilly regions (such as the Drakensberg and Lesotho) tend to be colder than the temperatures we’ve mentioned below.

Every time is a good time

The quick answer to when you should go to South Africa is that you can go any time. There is always somewhere which is wonderful no matter which month you decide to travel.

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Hermanus coastline, South Africa © JaySi,Shutterstock
Southern right whale, Hermans, South Africa © KMoore,Shutterstock

January to February

THE CAPE & THE WEST:
This is peak season in the Cape as it’s hot and sunny.

KWAZULU NATAL & THE EAST (inc Kruger):
Loggerhead and leatherback turtles start to hatch in KwaZulu Natal from about mid-January to mid-February, and you can often see whale sharks off the coast here too. Whilst this is the rainier time in this region, it doesn’t rain all the time and many days are still lovely and sunny. Beaches on the east coast are good and hot. The sun is not quite so reliable but this east coast gets a very high percentage of sunny days all year. Sea temperatures stay at roughly 21°c all year.

Jeffrey's Bay beach, Eastern Cape, South Africa © MD,Shutterstock

March to April

THE CAPE & THE WEST:
March in the Cape is still warm and sunny, though not quite as hot as the last couple of months. April is a bit of a transition month in terms of weather. As the Cape heads towards winter, the days become cloudier, windier and with more rain. It’s still great for sightseeing though.

KWAZULU NATAL & THE EAST (inc Kruger):
KZN and Kruger start to cool down now. There will still be rain, but it shouldn’t be too bad. Whilst this is the rainier time in this region, it doesn’t rain all the time by any means and many days are still lovely and sunny. Beaches on the east coast are good and warm. The sun is not quite so reliable but this east coast gets a very high percentage of sunny days all year. Sea temperatures stay at roughly 21°c all year. By April, air temperatures range between about 16 and 25°c.

Two male lions, Africa © TEdwards

May to July

THE CAPE & THE WEST:
May to July is winter which brings the rainier and cooler months in the Cape region, though this won’t stop you from seeing some great sights. There may be a few days of grey, cloudy, rainy weather back to back, but these are always interspersed with wonderful sunny weather to rival the best British summer day. Southern Right whales begin to arrive in the western Cape.

KWAZULU NATAL & THE EAST (inc Kruger):
Wildlife viewing in this region is at its best from about now to October as it is dry so wildlife is easier to spot as the grasses die down. Mornings and evenings can be quite cold but days tend to be warm and sunny. Temperatures range between about 16 and 25°c. Sea temperatures rarely fall under the average 21°c even in winter so the KZN beaches are a great place to come all year.

Fynbos: pincushion protea, Hermanus, South Africa © AMertends,Shutterstock

August to October

THE CAPE & THE WEST:
It’s still cool and rainy in the Cape, however from mid-August the indigenous fynbos flowers (especially good in Namaqualand) can start to bloom until about mid-October. September tends to be the best month. July to October in the Western Cape is one of the best places in the world to watch whales from the shore (southern right whales). October is a bit of a transition month for all regions. The Cape is heading into warmer, sunnier weather again but some days may still be cloudy with bits of rain.

KWAZULU NATAL & THE EAST (inc Kruger):
As for the previous couple of months, wildlife viewing in this region is at its best from May to October. Mornings and evenings can be quite cold but days tend to be warm and sunny. However, the rains tend to begin some time in October. and it starts getting hotter. Beaches on the east coast are still good and getting warmer. The sun is just not quite so reliable but this east coast gets a very high percentage of sunny days all year. Temperatures range between about 21°c and 32°c. Sea temperatures average 21°c.

Zulu rondavel in Drakensberg, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa © Shutterstock

November to December

THE CAPE & THE WEST:
November to February is generally gorgeous Mediterranean-type weather in the Cape. It’s a very popular time to visit, and the Cape is especially busy as the weather is hot and sunny.

KWAZULU NATAL & THE EAST (inc Kruger):
Beaches on the east coast are good and hot. The sun is not quite so reliable but this east coast gets a very high percentage of sunny days all year. Temperatures range between about 21°c and 32°c.

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