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Winter in South Africa is anything but freezing cold. Some places, especially the Western Cape may experience rainy days and slightly chilly nights during the winter, and mountainous regions like Golden Gate Highlands National Park may see some snow, but the rest of the country offers a nice, warm climate. Whether you want to capture photographs of native wildlife inches from your vehicle, hang out in South Africa’s pristine wine country or experience wacky winter festivals without the overwhelming crowds of busier seasons, South Africa in winter has a little something for everyone.
Bordered by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans on the southern tip, each side of the country experiences vastly different winters. Although June to August is considered winter in the country, subtropical Durban sees average temperatures from 10.5° C to 22.6° C and Cape Town has slightly chillier average temperatures from 7°C to 17.5° C. Rainfall in Western Cape may dampen the holiday spirit a bit and the famous Garden Route road trip will be frustrating, but the high chances of a good wildlife spotting in the national parks are worth it. Think about not having to share the sights with crowds of tourists and the drop in accommodation prices, and there is really no better time to go to South Africa really.
So what are the top places to visit in South Africa in winter? Below are our suggestions for the best destinations to explore when the mercury drops and several recommended activities to do there.
Icy winters are unheard of in Durban, even during winter in South Africa. Pleasant temperatures, low humidity, little rainfall and fewer crowds make this coastal city a heavenly retreat for outdoor adventurists during the winter.
- Test your surfing skills at Warner Beach, Amanzimtoti or Cave Rock, three of South Africa’s most thrilling surf destinations.
- Head to the coastal town of St. Lucia for sensational views of the Elephant Coast while on a whale-watching cruise.
- Witness the spectacle of the Sardine Run where millions of sardines swim to the shores of Durban and hordes of fishermen, birds and sharks fight for the ultimate catch.
- Cycle the beachfront Golden Mile with the absence of scorching temperatures.
- Join the annual Comrades Marathon held in June, the world’s oldest ultramarathon run.
South Africa’s largest city, Johannesburg features many of the country’s historic landmarks and cultural events. Expect the city to host a bevy of festivals during the winter months in South Africa. Daytime temperatures are high enough to enjoy the outdoor events but make sure to bring warm clothes for chilly nights.
- Watch cooking demonstrations from celebrity chefs, taste delicious wines and browse through hundreds of food stalls at the Good Food & Wine Show, Africa’s largest culinary event.
- Visit Johannesburg’s apartheid landmarks and learn the meaning behind Youth Day (June 16).
- Visit one of the nearby game reserves during the cooler winter months to see more animals roaming their natural habitat.
- Enjoy the charming atmosphere of Parkhurst and have a cup of coffee at one of its outdoor cafés.
Kruger is one of the best destinations in South Africa for wildlife viewing on any day. Want to increase your chances of spotting all the Big 5 on a Kruger safari? Winter season in South Africa is your best option. Lions, rhinos, elephants, Cape buffalos and other animals are seen more frequently in the park during the cooler, drier winter months. Go catch them all!
- Connect with mother nature by going on a guided walking tour through the bushlands of Mpumalanga.
- Go bird watching at Kanniedood Dam, Lower Sabie Road or the Mahonie Loop to discover South Africa’s extremely diverse bird population.
- Tee off at the Skukuza Golf Course and spot elephants, leopards, hyenas, impalas, baboons and more.
- Venture to the Kruger Tablets to capture a photo of lions lounging on the rock formations.
- Grab a bike at Olifants Camp and ride through adventurous mountain biking trails.
The Stellenbosch wine region can be one of the coziest places to visit in South Africa in winter. Stellenbosch’s rustic countryside is capped with rows of vineyards and awe-inspiring peaks, but the winter in South Africa disrupts views with rain and overcast. Dreary winter days are spent snuggled up by the fireplace and sampling the tastiest wines from local sommeliers without the crowds.
- Hop on the Franschhoek Wine Tram and gaze at the scenic landscapes of the Franschhoek Valley before getting off at the numerous wine estates.
- Visit the Waterford Estate for a delicious pairing of chocolate and red wine.
- Taste soothing red wines and cheeses beside the warm fireplace of the Anura Vineyards.
- Listen to classical music by attending the annual Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival held in July.
Known for the iconic Table Mountain and its immaculate beaches, Cape Town is one of South Africa’s most picturesque destinations. With dropping temperatures, blustery winds and increased rainfall, winter can be unpredictable in Cape Town. But the city’s dwindling crowds can lead to a world of discovery when finding what to do in South Africa in winter.
- Walk through the lush greenery and vibrant flora of the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.
- Surf the fierce winter waves of Long Beach, Glen Beach and Llandudno.
- Take advantage of the stellar wind conditions to go kitesurfing at Witsands, Muizenberg Beach or Cape Point.
- Discover Cape Town’s rich foodie scene with traditional dishes like Bobotie.
Winter in South Africa brings along a lot of enjoyable activities for a fun-filled trip to South Africa. Many destinations are still warm enough for outdoor adventures, while cultural events create a festive atmosphere. With comfortable temperatures and fewer crowds in South Africa’s most popular sights, winter is a wonderful time to discover its dramatic landscapes and unique history.
Travelling to South Africa? Chat with a local travel specialist in South Africa who can help organize your trip.