South Africa is a vibrant, exciting, diverse, adventurous, and stunningly beautiful country. Tens of millions of tourists visit the country each year, and it’s quickly establishing itself as a must-see destination for adventurous tourists.
But determining the best time to go for your particular trip desires is key to maximizing your time there and achieving your true travel goals!
Below, we’ll share the best time to visit South Africa, depending on your preferred itinerary, budget, weather, and more. We’ll also explain what time of year is not as optimal for particular reasons and answer several related questions about travel to South Africa.
By the end of this article, you’ll be more informed about your future South African exploration!
Why You Should Visit South Africa
South Africa is a top-rated tourist destination for several reasons. The country is home to some of the world’s most iconic animals, such as the Big Five.
Going on an African safari where you can explore the untouched wilderness among wild animals is one of the top excursions for a trip to South Africa. The scenery is varied and breathtaking, from the Drakensberg mountains to the Cape of Good Hope.
Not only can you spot a diverse array of animals in these places, but also a range of unique plants. There are plenty of outdoor adventure sports and recreation opportunities in South Africa.
You can go hiking, surfing, beach hopping, angling, cycling, and more in the country. The Rainbow Nation is also home to a unique blend of cultures.
You can find traditional African tribes, British and Dutch colonial influences, and a variety of Asian immigrant communities within the country’s borders. The country has 11 official languages to give you an idea of its diversity.
This mix of cultures is reflected in the food, music, and part of South Africa. You can find everything from traditional African cuisine to British pub fare to Indian curries. The people are warm, friendly, and welcoming, and the country has a fascinating history.
Ultimately, there is much to see and do, from wine-tasting to surfing to going on safari. For these reasons, South Africa is an excellent country for a range of travelers, including:
- First-time international travelers and experienced globetrotters
- Solo travelers and honeymooners
- Party groups and family trips
Overall Best Time to Visit South Africa
South Africa is generally a dry and sunny country, so there is not a particular time that you should avoid visiting the country.
However, the best time to visit South Africa for you depends on which part of the country you are traveling to and what you are planning to do there.
Northern Parts of South Africa
For wildlife viewing in South Africa, the best time to visit is between May and October, which is the dry, cool season. The drier and cooler weather conditions during these months are optimal for wildlife viewing because the animals congregate around water sources and are easier to spot.
Additionally, the vegetation is not as dense during the dry season, so you’ll have better visibility. Early mornings and evenings can get cold, but daytime temperatures are enjoyable during this period.
If you want to visit South Africa for its world-renowned wines, the best time to go is between February and April, which is the harvest season.
You can still participate in wine tastings and tours outside this season, but this period gives a glimpse to see how the wine gets made.
If you’re interested in surfing, the best time to visit this area is between November and February, which is the summer. The waves are at their biggest and best during these months, so it’s the ideal time for surfing enthusiasts.
And the weather is still normally dry along the Western Cape at this time, so you won’t have to worry much about rain.
Cheapest Time to Visit South Africa
The cheapest time to visit South Africa also depends on which part of the country you are visiting. The cheapest time to visit Cape Town and the Western Cape is from June to August because that’s when this area experiences winter rainfall, so it is a low season at this time.
Alternatively, if you want to visit Kruger National Park for a safari, this time will still be popular and not as cheap, as winter is the optimal season for safaris.
Remember that local school holidays also typically fall between June and July. Therefore, the cheapest time to visit for wildlife viewing is November to February — or summer.
The country’s eastern side is essentially the opposite in terms of rainy weather, as this region of South Africa tends to be rainier from November to February, as opposed to June to August.
So, if you’re planning a trip to Durban or other parts of Kwazulu-Natal, consider looking at a trip from March to October. You can use Skyscanner’s “whole month” search tool to help you find great flight deals for your trip to South Africa.
Skyscanner can help you compare and contrast flights from various airlines to find the lowest-priced options for your preferred trip dates.
Another helpful tool for budget traveling is Hopper. Hopper takes advantage of historical flight data to predict future airfares, allowing you to book earlier and save more money.
Least Busy Time to Visit South Africa
Because summer – or November to April – is the low season for the North and Northeastern side of South Africa, this region is less crowded and, therefore, a great option if you’re looking to avoid tourist crowds.
Additionally, because this is the off-season for this region, you can also find great deals, pay lower prices on tours and excursions during this time, and you don’t have to book too far in advance.
However, as previously mentioned, this time is not optimal for wildlife viewing, so fewer crowds may not be worth it if it means less chance of spotting the wildlife you wish to see.
Alternatively, the wintertime – or May to August – is the low season for the Western Cape. The surfing isn’t as big, the weather isn’t as sunny, and overall tourism slows down at this time.
If you don’t mind cooler temperatures and are interested in discounted rates, visiting the Western Cape during the low season may be an ideal option.
Worst Time to Visit South Africa
There is no terrible time to visit South Africa, as there is a ton you can do across the country regardless of the weather. Additionally, the crowds bring the country to life, especially during one of the country’s many festivals year-round.
However, the worst time to visit if you’re looking for warm weather and sunny days would be from May to August, as this is wintertime in South Africa. Although not unbearably cold, the weather is usually cooler during this time.
These months are especially not ideal for visiting the Western Cape because the outdoor activities you might be interested in doing at that time, like hiking and surfing, are not as pleasant as they would be during the warmer months.
Though, this is still a great time to go on safari in the North and Northeastern regions of the country. Conversely, if you’re looking for the driest time to go, you may want to avoid November to February.
Although it’s relatively dry during this time on the Cape, it’s hotter and rainier in various areas throughout the country, increasing the chance of a more humid vacation overall. This time is excellent for beaches but not a great time for wildlife viewing.
Things to Consider
When planning a trip to South Africa, there are various factors you may want to consider. Consider what you want to do and where you want to go when selecting when the best time of year for your trip will be.
If you want to go surfing, then visit between November and February. If you plan to view wildlife, visit between May and October. If you are into arts and music festivals, research which festivals you might want to attend and consider those dates when planning when to go.
South Africa’s tourism industry is alive throughout the year, so it’s best to plan your accommodations and excursions ahead of time, even if you’re going during the region’s low season.
South Africa is also a vast country. Do not plan on traveling the whole country unless you have at least two weeks. Instead, consider flying into one region and then taking road trips to others from there, as this will save you time overall.
Other quick tips include:
- Buy a local sim card.
- Buy travel insurance.
- Tip your waiters 10-15%.
- Pack a raincoat just in case.
- Drink the tap water. It’s safe and more eco-friendly than buying plastic water bottles.
- Don’t feed wild animals.
- The country’s electricity grid is often under pressure and the power utility, Eskom, notifies the country of planned outages (known as load shedding) that usually last a couple of hours per day.
Frequently Asked Questions
Planning a trip to South Africa is exciting and thrilling but also can be a bit overwhelming to some people. If you resonate with this sentiment, we’re here to help you out even further.
For quick reference, here are some answers to commonly asked questions regarding South Africa travel.
When is the best time to go to South Africa?
South Africa is a beautiful destination year-round. But the best time for wildlife viewing is between May and September – especially in September. The best time to visit the Western Cape is between November and February.
What time of year is the best weather in South Africa?
If you prefer cooler weather and want to go on a safari, go during the winter – between May and September. If you prefer hotter weather and want to surf or go to the beach, go during the summer – between November and February.
What is the best month to visit Cape Town?
There is no absolute best month to visit Cape Town, but February is typically a sweet spot for fewer crowds after the holiday season and a temperate climate that’s not too hot and humid.
You’ll also get better rates after the holiday season is over. Take note that the wind can be temperamental – the windiest month is typically January.
What are the hottest months in South Africa?
The hottest months are December, January, and February. Average temperatures during this time can range from 65-80 degrees F (18-26 degrees C).
What is the coldest month in South Africa?
The coldest month is July. Average temperatures during this time can range from 45-60 degrees F (7-15 degrees C).
What is the best time to go on a safari in South Africa?
The best time to go on a game tour or wildlife safari is between May and September, especially in September.
What is the rainy season in South Africa?
The rainy season is between October and April. Rainfall can be as high as 4.9 inches, especially between November and February.
What clothes to pack for South Africa?
Pack clothes you can layer, as the weather can change throughout the day. A light jacket or sweater is also a good idea, as the evenings can get cool, even in the summer.
In the winter, you may need a heavier jacket or coat. Don’t forget to pack comfortable walking shoes and flip-flops (you’ll blend right in if you wear these).
What is the best currency to use in South Africa?
The best currency to use in South Africa is the South African Rand.
What is the best way to get around South Africa?
The best way to get around South Africa is by car. Renting a car is relatively easy and allows you to explore at your own pace. Public transportation is also available in most cities and towns.
But it can be more challenging to use if you don’t speak the local language. You can also consider private shuttles or taking the Gautrain if you need a lift from OR Tambo International Airport.
What is driving like in South Africa?
Driving in South Africa is on the left side of the road. If you are not used to this, it can take some time to get used to. The streets are generally in good condition, but there can be potholes and other obstacles, so always be alert.
When is the best time to visit Kruger National Park?
Kruger National Park is one of the top tourist destinations in the country. The best time to visit this park is during the dry winter season, so between May and October.
Why is cooler weather better for South Africa?
Going to South Africa during the cooler months is advantageous for many reasons. Firstly, the areas where you can view wildlife get notoriously hot during summer (upwards of 104 degrees F).
You are also more likely to see thrilling wildlife on a safari during the winter season at lower prices and with fewer crowds. It’s also whale-watching season!
So, What’s the Best Time to Visit South Africa?
South Africa is one of those countries that millions of people visit year-round, so it can be hard to determine the absolute best time to go.
The sweet spot is typically between February and April after the holiday crowds have gone home and the weather is still temperate. No matter when you visit, South Africa is sure to offer an unforgettable experience!