When is the Best Time to Visit South Africa?
Are you planning a trip to South Africa? The best time to visit depends on what you plan to do, and each season offers something different for travelers, whether you’re interested in wildlife spotting or extreme sports.
South Africa is a dream destination for travelers of all interests, whether it’s history, wildlife, food, and the arts. The diverse landscapes make for countless bucket list adventures like hiking, shark cage diving, and surfing.
So when is the best time to plan a trip there? Each season offers something different. Keep in mind that South Africa is in the Southern Hemisphere and seasons are opposite from the Northern Hemisphere.
Running from September to October, spring is a great time for first-time visits to South Africa because it’s considered shoulder season. Many rates on flights, hotels, and activities will be more affordable. The weather is mostly warm throughout the country, but be prepared for rainy and foggy days, especially in Johannesburg. But that’s a good reason to spend a day visiting one of the country’s museums, like the incredible Apartheid Museum. Give yourself a few days in Cape Town because of the unpredictable weather during these months that can affect trips to Table Mountain and Robben Island. A money belt is helpful in big cities where pickpocketing is a crime of opportunity.
The summer months in South Africa run from late November to February, making it a popular time to explore for both locals and visitors. The weather is warm in most parts of the country through the summer season, but can be windy in Cape Town. It's also an ideal time of year for attending music festivals like Up the Creek Music Festival, Ultra South Africa, and Afropunk. Small daypacks or waist packs are perfect for these events to hold water bottles and other essentials. If that’s not enough, you can indulge in outdoor experiences like surfing and cage diving in Durban, Hermanus, and Chintsa.
Autumn arrives in South Africa from March to May, changing leaves and cooling the climate. It’s the ideal time of year for weekend getaways to appreciate the country’s incredible nature. Hiking in Drakensberg is perfect for this season as there are many paths for varying expertise levels. If your version of the outdoors is drinking on a patio, a trip to the Winelands is another option. Stellenbosch is the most popular wine destination in the country, but don’t forget about Paarl or Franschhoek. Pack everything you need for your weekend getaway in the Expanse Wheeled Duffel.
Winter in South Africa runs from June to August, but don’t let the chilly temperatures keep you away. It doesn’t actually get that cold and this time of year is the best for safaris because more animals are out for the dry season. Kruger National Park is the nation’s most popular place to see wildlife, but there are also smaller game reserves and parks as well as those in bordering Swaziland (now called Eswatini). Don’t worry too much about safari-specific clothing, but rather layers in colors that blend in with surroundings and a wide-brimmed hat. The Wayfinder backpack will hold your essentials, like a camera and binoculars. A neck pillow is also recommended for longer trips because the all-terrain vehicles can get bumpy.
No matter what time of year you choose to visit South Africa, you’re sure to experience the incredible nature, food, and people.
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By Caroline Eubanks on October 4, 2019
Caroline Eubanks is a freelance writer from Atlanta, Georgia whose work has been published by BBC Travel, Afar, Thrillist, and National Geographic Traveler and is the author of the book This Is My South: The Essential Travel Guide to the Southern States. You can follow her work at CarolineEubanks.com.