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The best time to visit South Africa

Safaris, city breaks, and sunshine – we’ve got the lowdown

There’s no country on the continent that epitomises ‘diverse’ quite like South Africa. Rolling mountains rub shoulders with savannahs and frothing ocean waves, and you’ll find storybook safari animals mere metres from razzling, dazzling cities. And then there’s the weather. Pick a month and the climate will be doing something different in all four corners of the country. Confusing? Perhaps. But it means that there’s never a bad time to visit. In fact, every time of year is the best time to visit South Africa, and we’re here to tell you just what’s in store, whichever month you choose.

best time to visit South Africa

December to February

Those picture-perfect photos of Cape Town, Table Mountain shimmering in the heat, and the blue ocean stretching out under an even bluer sky? They were most definitely taken in the summer months of December to February. This is by far the most popular time to visit the fair Mother City, and you’ll have days of endless sunshine, followed by sultry evenings of sundowners and alfresco dinners to look forward to. But be warned; the city gets busy, and you’ll need to start your planning early.

If summer in the city isn’t your thing, try the seaside village of Paternoster, a two-hour drive from Cape Town, soak up the sun amongst the vines of the Cape Winelands, or head down the coast along the Garden Route. Temperatures will be toasty but by the ocean, the breeze should keep you cool. Up north, the summer months bring thunderstorms to Kruger and KwaZulu-Natal and the bush is transformed into a lush, green wilderness. For wildlife-watchers, it’s a great time for birding and babies (it’s birthing season for lots of animals), and for culture vultures, a visit to the battlefields of Natal is both poignant and moving.

If you’re looking for a summer road trip that celebrates all the beauty that South Africa has to offer, try our Self-drive Garden Route Expedition. You’ll be able to sit back and relax with a cocktail in Plettenberg, explore Knysna’s vast lagoon or swing through the forests of Tsitsikamma, South Africa is your oyster!

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March to May

A strong contender for the best time to visit South Africa, the autumn months of March to May are an ideal time to combine several areas of the country. Most tourists have waved goodbye to Cape Town, so you’ll have your pick of the restaurants, beaches and hotels. All around the Western Cape and the Garden Route the temperature hovers around a very pleasant 25 or 26 degrees Celsius, and they days are bright and sunny. Blissful all round.

Safari-goers will find a little less rain in Madikwe, Kruger and the parks in the Eastern Cape and although the bush is still quite thick, it’s a good time to spot wildlife. The Kalahari looks particularly lovely at this time of year, with a thick carpet of emerald-green coating the savannah.

For a trip that celebrates all the wonders of Southern Africa, look to our South Africa’s Classic Bush, Beach & City Escape that will whisk you from Cape Town, to the Kruger and then off to the glorious beaches of Mozambique.

best time to visit South Africa

June to August

The Western Cape (Cape Town and surrounds) is in the grip of a cooler rainy spell, but the sunshine is never too far away. If you don’t mind a splosh of rain here and there, it’s the perfect time of year to cosy up with a glass of wine and a roaring fire in the Cape Winelands, or to catch sight of the migrating Southern right whales off the coast of Hermanus (July onwards).

If you’re looking for a holiday full of glorious wildlife sightings, then June to August (and a bit of September) is the best time to visit South Africa. The main parks and reserves (Kruger, Madikwe, Phinda, and those in the Eastern Cape) are cool, clear and dry, and as the bush dries up, the animals congregate around the water sources making for some serious, camera-clicking game viewing. It’s a great time of year to visit KwaZulu-Natal and the Wild Coast too; the winter temperatures are mild and the ocean is even milder.

Try our Explore Kwa-Zulu Natal trip to get under the skin of the region. You’ll drift through the charming towns of the Midlands, hike through the Drakensberg, learn about the bloody battles of the Anglo Zulu wars, before ending with a spot beach time on the Elephant Coast.

best time to visit South Africa

September to November

What does spring have in store? September is the best time to visit South Africa if you want to see the flowers of Namaqualand in all their glory. A few hours north of Cape Town, in the Cederberg Mountains, the dry, desertscapes are turned into a kaleidoscope of colours as the flowers bloom in the spring sunshine. If you’re keen to avoid the searing summer temperatures (and the tourists!), these are excellent months to visit Cape Town and the Winelands, and drive the Garden Route.

In the world of safari, however, the temperatures are soaring. In September and October, the Kruger heats up day by day before the rains start to fall in November, but if you can stand the scorch the game viewing is phenomenal. September is also one of the best times to visit South Africa if you’re looking to add a spot of beach time to your safari and the islands of the Indian Ocean are at their peachy, beachy best.

Our favourite trip to experience the delights of this beautiful country would probably be South Africa in a Nutshell. It has everything that travellers here look for; city time in Cape Town, vino aplenty in the Cape Winelands before travelling up to the wildlife packed Kruger to end things.