When to travel to South Africa

When to travel to South Africa

When to travel to South Africa

Climate, events and activities by season in South Africa

When to travel to South Africa: South Africa πŸ‡ΏπŸ‡¦ is a country in the southern hemisphere, at the southernmost tip of the African continent. This means that the weather is mild and pleasant all year round, since there is no winter to speak of, but in this article answering the question of when to go to South Africa, you’ll discover that weather conditions are a little more subtle depending on the region. You’ll also learn more about crowds, annual events and seasonal activities. By the end of this article, you’ll be able to choose with certainty the best time to visit Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban or Garden Route.

The best time to visit South Africa:

South Africa stretches over 1.2 million kmΒ² between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, so there are several ideal times to visit the country, which vary from region to region and city to city. There are also several climates to choose from: Mediterranean in Cape Town, subtropical in Durban, oceanic in Johannesburg and even desert on the west coast.

It’s also important to note that the seasons are reversed in the southern hemisphere and that winter, known as the austral winter, is not a winter as we know it (i.e. with snow 🌨️ as well as sub-zero temperatures

There are really only 2 seasons in South Africa: austral summer and austral winter. Summer, from December to March, is generally hot and humid, with rainfall varying from region to region. Durban, for example, experiences frequent thunderstorms β›ˆοΈ, while Johannesburg experiences frequent but short rains. But there are also exceptions: in the Cape region, summer is less humid than winter, and the winds are stronger.

When to travel to South Africa

As far as temperatures are concerned, the 🌑️ mercury averages between 25 and 30 degrees, regardless of the region. The hottest regions are the west coast and the Durban region, which, as we all know, has a subtropical climate.

The southern winter, from April to October or November, shows more contrasts between the different regions of the country. In the Johannesburg and Durban region, winter is mild and dry, with temperatures ranging from 20 to 25 degrees. In the Cape region, on the other hand, seasonal lows are around 8Β°C, with possible snowfalls on the mountain tops πŸ”οΈ

As you can see, the ideal time to visit South Africa depends on the type of holiday you’re planning and your destination city. To put it simply, the southern winter is the ideal time to go on safari in South Africa and see the Big Five animals. On the other hand, if you’re planning to go on safari in the Cape region and are concentrating your stay in Cape Town, the austral summer is the ideal season for you.

I’d still advise you to read the rest of this article, which will give you even more details on what to do in South Africa depending on the season, and lots of other info πŸ˜‰ And if Cape Town is the heart of your trip,

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Seasons in South Africa:

As I was saying, there are 2 seasons in South Africa (as opposed to 4 in Europe) and these are quite complex, since they differ from one region of the country to another, but I’ll try to clarify all this for you

Southern summer in South Africa:

The austral summer, also known as the rainy season, is present from December to March in South Africa and during this period :

The Cape region offers more pleasant, even ideal conditions for a trip. The average temperature is 28 degrees, which is quite hot, but much more bearable thanks to the sometimes very strong wind. Rains are infrequent.

Durban, on the east coast, has a much more humid, jungle-like climate. In summer, temperatures easily reach 30 degrees and, with the humidity, can sometimes become stifling. On the other hand, it’s an ideal time for a lazy vacation, as the ocean is warm (an average of 26Β°C during the austral summer) πŸ–οΈ Provided you avoid the occasional thunderstorm that can occur during the season.

Pretoria, the capital, and Johannesburg, further north in the country, are also humid and warm. The minimum temperature is 26 degrees, a little cooler than in Durban, which is explained by the fact that Johannesburg is further inland. Rainfall is fairly frequent in Pretoria and Johannesburg, with short, heavy showers.

Southern winter:

The austral winter is the so-called dry season, which extends from April to October in South Africa, and manifests itself in different ways depending on the region:

The Cape region is a bit of an exception to the dry season rule, since the austral winter is more like a European winter, which is ultimately completely normal if we take into account the area’s Mediterranean climate. Indeed, while summer is pleasant, the southern winter is much less so! Even though the air is fairly dry, rainfall is more abundant and temperatures never rise above 10Β°C. The sea is very cool, even cold (even in summer, it doesn’t get above 20Β°C), while the heights are covered in snow ❄️

When to travel to South Africa

Durban enjoys a mild, dry winter, with temperatures reaching 24Β°C in the middle of August. Even in winter, the sea never dips below 20 degrees, making it the perfect place for lazing around and surfing πŸ„ a major sporting activity in South Africa. During the dry season in Durban, there’s not much rainfall, making the vegetation less lush. These conditions will force the Big Five animals (lion, elephant, buffalo, black rhino and leopard) to come out of hiding to find food, so this is the essential time for a safari in the region’s parks.

A little further inland to the north, in Pretoria and Johannesburg, winter is just as dry and mild, but much milder than in Durban, and this is explained by the sharp temperature differences between day and night. Indeed, during the day, the average temperature is often over 20 degrees, while at night it drops to below 10 degrees, much like in Cape Town.

As you can see, there are no real off-seasons in South Africa, and I can even tell you that South Africa is a year-round destination to suit all tastes! In fact, the city of Kwazulu-Natal (to name but one) offers ideal climatic conditions at any time of year.

Tourism in South Africa

Visitor numbers are high all year round in South Africa, which is understandable when you consider that this is one of the sunniest countries in the world 🌞 With an average of 1.2 million to 1.5 million visitors each month, tourist numbers in South Africa can be described as high, but stable.

Generally speaking, the month with the highest tourist numbers is December. This is also the period when the South African school vacations run from December 15 to January 15. From January to November, tourist numbers stabilize, and June is the slowest month to visit South Africa.

When is the best time to visit South Africa for major events?

The Coon Carnival:

Takes place in Cape Town every year on January 2. It’s a traditional carnival with costumes, floats, singing and dancing, except that it celebrates the New Year. It dates back to the days of slavery, when blacks were not allowed to celebrate the New Year on January 1.

The Stellenbosch Wine Festival:

A bit like the Foire aux vins, this event takes place in February. Stellenbosch is a town renowned for its vineyards and is located some 50 km east of Cape Town.

Human Rights Day is celebrated on March 21 in South Africa (compared with December 10 in the rest of the world). This celebration pays tribute to the events of March 21, 1960 in Sharpeville, where apartheid police massacred a group of black men. 

The Dance Umbrella festival has been held in Johannesburg every March or April since 1989, at the Wits Theater. It is a festival of contemporary dance.

Freedom Day:

And Constitution Day on April 27 is arguably the most important holiday in the hearts of South Africans, as it commemorates the end of apartheid. It also marks the first multiracial elections.

The Two Oceans Marathon is also a key event in April, taking place on the Saturday of Easter weekend. This is an “ultramarathon”, a 56 km race starting from Cape Town in a truly magnificent setting, making it one of the most beautiful marathons in the world 🀩

The Afrikaburn is one of my favorite events in South Africa, held since 2007 in April or May. It takes place in the city of Quaggafontein and features works of art in a desert landscape, which are then burned.

World Africa Day is held on May 25, celebrating the founding of the Organization of African Unity in 1963. It is observed globally in addition to on the African continent. Each year, these celebrations are based on a theme.

The J-Bay Open:

Is a major surfing competition in July, held at Jeffreys Bay. It is part of the World Championship circuit in the discipline.

Mandela Day is also a very important event held on July 18, paying tribute to a symbol of freedom and peace in South Africa, Nelson Mandela. UNESCO established this international day in 2009.

National Women’s Day is celebrated on August 9 in South Africa (as opposed to March 8 in the rest of the world). In 1956, South African women demonstrated against apartheid.

The Whale Festival:

Held in September in Hermanus, this is when the whales arrive off the coast of South Africa, and you may be lucky enough to approach them by boat.

Heritage Day takes place on September 24. This is a public holiday in South Africa on which people celebrate their culture, traditions, diversity and beliefs.

Johannesburg’s festivals also take place in September and continue into October. The Arts Alive festival, the Soweto Festival Expo and Joy of Jazz showcase all forms of the arts to the delight of all.

Guy Fawkes Night:

When to travel to South Africa: Held on November 5, Guy Fawkes Night is a celebration of British origin, but since South Africa has a rich British heritage, it’s easy to see why… For the occasion, bonfires are organized all over the country to pay tribute to the conspirator who tried to assassinate the King by setting fire to the British Parliament in 1605.

The Cherry Festival in Ficksbury is also held in November. It’s the biggest festival to feature a harvest product in South Africa, the cherry πŸ’

Reconciliation Day is the last public holiday of the year in South Africa, and is held on December 16. It was originally called Vow Day, to commemorate the settlers’ victory over the Zulu army in 1838, during the Battle of Blood River.

What to do during the austral winter in South Africa?

The most popular activity for tourists at any time of year is, of course, safari! There are several major parks and nature reserves in the country, including the Kruger National Park in the north of the country, or the Madikwe Game Reserve. However, your chances of spotting the Big Five are much higher in the dry season, when the animals have to come out of hiding in search of food and water. If you’re planning your safari for the southern winter, I’d particularly recommend going from mid-October to early November! Not only will you see the Big Five, but you’ll also be able to witness the Great Migration of endemic birds.

I was lucky enough to spend a full week in Kruger Park in the north of South Africa 🀩 and it’s clearly what I’d recommend, but if you’re visiting the whole country, a day safari in one of South Africa’s great parks is also a must.

The southern winter, particularly September and October, is the ideal time to go whale watching in South Africa. From the south and up the east coast to Mozambique, you can spot southern right whales, Minke whales, humpback whales, orcas, seals and penguins. I can’t explain it, but cetaceans fascinate me 😍

When to travel to South Africa

The best place to see them is in Hermanus, where whale-watching is a very popular activity with tourists, all over a very short period of time, so if you want to try it too, you’ll have to book the zodiac whale-watching cruise as soon as possible, which costs €60 per person.

Another must-see place to visit during the austral winter is the Cape of Good Hope, the end of the world. It’s one of 3 viewpoints in the Table Mountain National Park, alongside Cape Point (my favorite ❀️) and Simon’s Town and its penguins.

You can also take a short stroll to Noordhoek beach, all in ideal conditions – no heat, no cold, just a bit of wind πŸ’¨

Finally, the austral winter is also an ideal time for the more sporty among you to try out one of the country’s main sporting disciplines: surfing! The period is ideal for surfers in search of the most impressive tubes, but if you’re just a beginner, it’s best to take an introductory surfing course on the sand first πŸ˜‰ There are several favorite spots for the discipline in South Africa, the best known of which is Jeffrey’s

Bay 🌊 In fact, this is where one of the stages of the World Surfing Championship takes place in July.

When to travel to South Africa

From January to April, it’s the grape harvest season πŸ‡ in South Africa, more specifically in Stellenbosch, which is a bit like our beloved Bordeaux. As you know, the grape harvest takes place in autumn in Europe, so it’s a bit similar in the Stellenbosch region, which like Cape Town enjoys a Mediterranean climate quite similar to ours.

So it’s the perfect time to explore the vineyards, visit the cellars and, above all, take part in a wine and chocolate tasting in Stellenbosch 🍷 And why not go mountain biking to enjoy all the scenery the Jonkershoek valley has to offer.

Activities during the rainy season in South Africa:

If the austral winter is more of a season when to go surfing in South Africa, the austral summer is ideal for discovering the depths of the seabed and snorkeling 🀿 or scuba diving. In particular, you’ll be able to swim with seals, a rather unusual experience that I’d recommend everyone to do on a trip to South Africa. The activity takes place in Plettenberg Bay and costs around €45 per person. Seals aren’t the only species you’ll come across during a diving session, there are also coral reefs and all the underwater flora that is so rich in South Africa.

If you still decide to go on safari during the rainy season, this could be the ideal opportunity to try out another unusual activity that lends itself perfectly to the weather conditions, a little wind and mild temperatures, already early in the morning, at sunrise. For example, if you’re in Pilanesberg National Park, you could try out a hot-air balloon ride in South Africa 😲 it’s quite an expensive activity, but honestly, it’s really worth the effort and the cost πŸ˜‰ For around €290 per person, you’ll set off early in the morning to admire a magnificent spectacle πŸŒ„ A ride that will be followed by breakfast with a glass of champagne in the lodge.

When is the best time to travel to South Africa?

Accommodation prices by period:

If you’re primarily looking to take advantage of the best prices for your stay in South Africa, I’d advise you to focus on the months of May and June. These aren’t necessarily the most expensive months, since accommodation prices in South Africa are generally fairly stable, but at this time of year you can take advantage of special offers: for every 3 nights you buy, you get 2 nights free 🀩 etc…

For the rest of the year, prices are stable! If you choose a hotel or lodge, I wouldn’t recommend anything below 3 stars ⭐️, on average, mid-range and top-range hotels cost between €50 and €100 per night, or even more if you choose a luxury lodge in a private park during a safari, then expect to pay more like €200 per night. This applies all year round, except perhaps during the South African school vacation period from December 15 to January 15 πŸ™‚

To better understand what I’m talking about, I’d advise you to take a look at a booking platform like Booking.com to make your choice in terms of type of accommodation, and if you need help with this expense item, you can always consult my article where to sleep in Cape Town

Car rental prices month by month:

In my opinion, car rental is almost compulsory when traveling in South Africa, unless you go through an agency that can offer you a dedicated driver. The reason is quite simple: you’ll be much safer than on public transport – as you probably know, South Africa is one of the least safe countries for Europeans.

Thanks to your car, you’ll also be able to get from one place to another more easily, and remember, South Africa is vast, so the car will enable you to visit as many things as possible in as little time as possible πŸ˜‰

As for rates, they’re very affordable, since even for an SUV, rentals don’t exceed €70 per day, even in busy periods. For a small or medium-sized city car, the daily rate is between €20 and €30. In fact, to take advantage of the best prices for car rental, above all you need to book in advance and compare well on platforms like RentalCars! So it’s up to you πŸ™‚

Flight prices from Paris to Johannesburg:

When to travel to South Africa: Airline tickets are the biggest expense for a trip to South Africa, whatever the time of year. In fact, you won’t find a flight for less than €500 return.

On average, a plane ticket from Paris to Johannesburg costs between €530 and €600. The difference is justified by the number and length of stopovers, but you can see all this for yourself when you book your tickets on a platform like Ulysse. But this doesn’t apply to the European summer months of July and August, nor to December, when a round trip is worth around €1,000 🀯

You now know everything about the best times to go to South Africa. You’ll be able to choose your dates of stay with full knowledge of the budget for a trip to South Africa, the best activities to do, the major events, as well as the weather conditions ☁️ or are you still hesitating between Tanzania and South Africa?

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