South Africa in January: Weather, Tips & Endless Sunshine

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While snow blankets much of the Northern Hemisphere, South Africa in January is a summer paradise. Pristine beaches, unspoiled landscapes, world-class wine and unmatched hospitality have all become synonymous with this unique destination, and they are best enjoyed in summer.

However, if you are heading to South Africa in January please keep in mind that thunderstorms rage in the late afternoon across the country’s north and provide a dramatic backdrop to the iconic Johannesburg skyline, while some might find high humidity levels on the east coast uncomfortable. Barring this, January is one of the best times of the year to dive into the Indian Ocean and enjoy swimming in its warm waters.

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South Africa Weather in January

The morning sunlight baths the Blyde River Canyon in Mpumalanga.
The heat in January is high but the rain in regions like Mpumalanga can cool things down a little.

January is one of the hottest months in the country. However, climate conditions vary substantially from north to south. Since both the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape experience rain in winter, they are hot and dry during this time of year. On the other hand, it is much more humid and rainy during this month in the eastern province of KwaZulu Natal. The landlocked provinces of Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo are summer rainfall regions but this is rarely a hindrance as it usually rains late in the afternoon with dramatic thunderstorms bringing momentary relief from soaring temperatures. The average temperature in South Africa in January is between 16 °C and 26 °C during January, with the mercury breaching the 35°C mark in some outlying areas in the Northern Cape.

Have a look at our best time to visit South Africa writeup to see what other months have in store.

Weather in South Africa in January - Rainfall and Temperatures

Dec Jan Feb
Avg Daily (°C) 25 26 26
Avg Nightly (°C) 15 16 16
Avg Daily (°F) 77 79 79
Avg Nightly (°F) 59 61 61
Avg Rainfall (mm) 20 20 20

Why Visit South Africa in January

Early morning lighting on the waterfront in Cape Town.
Cape Town is buzzing with summer events in January so make sure you head to the beautiful city.
A street in Pretoria lined with beautiful purple Jacaranda trees.
The city of Pretoria is famous for its beautiful Jacaranda trees lined up in its streets.

Start off your new year by enjoying the many spoils of South Africa in January. Beaches are packed with people during this time of year and sunshine is unavoidable throughout the land. The country is still on a holiday high and the weather in South Africa in January is a welcome escape from a dreary northern winter. Below are a few reasons why visiting South Africa in January is a must.

  • Holiday events: The first half of January coincides with school holidays in the country, leading to a surge in the number of domestic travelers. Plenty of markets and events aimed at holiday goers pop up across the country during this time.
  • Endless sunshine: The sun seemingly never sets in the country during this month. Cape Town, for example, receives more than 14 hours of sunshine on average each day in January.
  • Explore cities: The bustling metros of Johannesburg and Pretoria are victims of bumper-to-bumper traffic during most of the year, except in the first half of January when many businesses are still closed and streets wide open.

Where to go and what to do

People in Cape Town celebrating the Minstrel Carnival.
The second of January is lively in Cape Town as it celebrates the Minstrel Carnival with people walking the streets in colorful uniforms singing and dancing.

Beaches around Cape Town are packed to the brim in the first half of January. Therefore, those who prefer solitude might enjoy venturing to more remote locations up and down the coast. Charming fishing villages like Paternoster and Yzerfontein offer a welcome break from the crowds and have plenty of scenery to enjoy.

The Garden Route, along the country’s southern coast, is one of the most beautiful stretches of road in the world, winding through rough, rocky coasts and lush tropical forests. Small towns like Victoria Bay, Sedgefield and Wilderness always seem to have an air of tranquility about them and could be the perfect place to enjoy South African weather in January, away from the crowds. When the school year starts in mid-January, major hotspots like Cape Town and Knysna return to their normal pace and traveling is much more comfortable.

Although there is never a bad time to go on a safari in South Africa, you might want to prepare for rain before traveling to Kruger National Park. Located in the northeastern part of the country, this wildlife reserve and its surrounding areas see high temperatures in January and are also in the midst of the rainy season. Opt for a trip to Addo Elephant Park if you wish to avoid rain since Eastern Cape is not so wet in January.

For decades, the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival has taken to the streets on January 2. This over-the-top celebration is known as the ‘second new year’ and sees thousands of revelers in gaudy costumes taking to the streets, playing merry tunes and performing infectious dances. This unmissable celebration in the center of Cape Town truly embodies the jovial South African spirit.

There are tons of things to do in South Africa in January thanks to pleasant weather conditions and a high season in full swing. But you might want to consider a customized trip to discover the hidden gems of this country and avoid crowds. Feel free to reach out to our local travel experts if you are interested in a personalized itinerary.

Check out our trips to South Africa in January for more ideas.

Other articles:
South Africa in December
South Africa in February
Summer in South Africa

Published by Tim Green, updated on May 19, 2023

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