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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 time to visit South AfricaSummer: 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, the magnificent 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 even more poignant as it’s the anniversary of Rorke’s Drift.

For summer trips, try our itinerary All Out Garden Route.

best time to visit South AfricaAutumn: 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 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. And if you’re looking for a quintessential ‘bush and beach’ safari in Cape Town, Kruger and Mozambique, this is the time of year to do it, for you’ll be treated to sunshine in all three destinations.

For autumn trips, try our itinerary The Full Works, to Cape Town, Kruger & Mozambique.

best time to visit South AfricaWinter: 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.

For winter trips, try our itinerary Whales to Waves.

best time to visit South AfricaSpring: 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, 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.

For spring trips, try our itinerary The Cape by Car.


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