South Africa

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South Africa is beguiling in its variety. It’s confident, cosmopolitan Cape Town but it’s also big game viewing in Kruger National Park, the farmsteads and valleys of the Winelands, and the remote, wild Elephant Coast. Our South Africa specialists have thoroughly explored this land of contrasts, from the north to the Cape Peninsula, and can recommend the best South African experiences for you.

On your holiday to South Africa, you could learn about the country’s colonial past in the battlefields of KwaZulu Natal, or focus on its more recent history with a visit to Robben Island. Take a relaxed road trip along the Garden Route, enjoying views over the wave-lashed coast. Or go on a Big Five safari in the Eastern Cape. Meanwhile, rail journeys traversing South Africa’s mountain ranges, grasslands, and semi-arid Karoo Desert allow you to see the country’s untouched, far-flung areas.

South Africa is one of the continent’s most varied countries, and choosing which places to visit on your trip can be daunting. There are the cities to consider: unmistakable Cape Town, overlooked by its constant companion Table Mountain; and up-and-coming Johannesburg, which has become a hotspot for art galleries and bohemian markets. Big Five safari destinations include Kruger, one of Africa’s oldest and largest national parks, while further days can be spent exploring the history of the Battlefields, chinking glasses in the Winelands or strolling the wild shores of Plettenberg Bay.

Our South Africa specialists can help you decide on the best places to go according to your interests.

South Africa is renowned for its excellent safaris, and one of the best places to spot wildlife is Kruger National Park. The country offers far more than wildlife viewing, however, and visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to things to see and do.

A trip up Table Mountain in Cape Town offers superb views, while in the Winelands you can sample some of the country’s finest vintages on a tour of a wine estate. Another highlight is a boat trip to the historic and poignant Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent most of his time as a prisoner.

Ideas for experiencing South Africa

Experiences you have as you travel often hold the longest memories. As part of their research trips, our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know South Africa, and the best local guides. These activities reflect some of their best-loved experiences.

  • A journey aboard the blue train
    A journey aboard the blue train

    A journey aboard the blue train

    Cape Town

    A journey aboard the blue train

    Take in the 1,600 km (994 mile) route between Pretoria and Cape Town with two nights aboard The Blue Train. Over 31 hours, you pass through mountainous landscapes, sprawling farmland and vine-woven valleys. And, with a live camera feeding TVs in the club car and your suite, you can watch the journey’s scenery unfold in real time.

  • Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
    Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

    Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

    Cape Town

    Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

    Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens occupy a large swathe of beautiful land on the lower slopes of Table Mountain. They house a huge collection of indigenous flora, such as heathery fynbos, flowering proteas (the South African national flower), and dramatically coloured strelitzias. The upper areas of the gardens run unfenced into the slopes of the mountain and there are various pathways that meander through the woods and bushes.

  • Wine Tour
    Wine Tour

    Wine Tour

    Cape Town

    Wine Tour

    During the day you will visit different wine estates ranging from the larger well known to the small personal family run cellars, often sharing a glass with the wine maker themselves and being taken first hand through the process.

  • Table Mountain Tour
    Table Mountain Tour

    Table Mountain Tour

    Cape Town

    Table Mountain Tour

    Guest are taken to the lower terminal for the cable-car up Table Mountain. The cable-car is a very modern affair, and completes a 360º rotation during the ascent, affording you fantastic views over the city. Once at the top, you can explore the various pathways and viewpoints: these do not just look over the city, but also down the peninsula toward Cape Point, and, if you walk far enough, north toward the Winelands.

  • Cape Town City Tour
    Cape Town City Tour

    Cape Town City Tour

    Cape Town

    Cape Town City Tour

    No visit to Cape Town is complete without a tour of the "Mother City". Your tour will include visits to the Castle of Good Hope, the Parliament Buildings and Bo-Kaap, plus of course the iconic Table Mountain.

  • Peninsula Tour
    Peninsula Tour

    Peninsula Tour

    Cape Town

    Peninsula Tour

    The Cape Peninsula is an area of dramatic natural beauty and huge ecological significance, which manages to retain a wild feel despite its huge popularity with visitors.

  • Sani Pass & Lesotho Trip
    Sani Pass & Lesotho Trip

    Sani Pass & Lesotho Trip

    The South Coast

    Sani Pass & Lesotho Trip

    Driving through the pretty Midlands, you head for the town of Underberg, where the tar road runs out and the graded track begins. Lesotho is isolated from KwaZulu-Natal by the towering Drakensberg Mountains, and the Sani Pass is the only way through them. The road cuts cut the slopes, switching through tortuous hairpin bends and offering dizzying views of valleys far below.

  • Ravos Rail
    Ravos Rail

    Ravos Rail

    Cape Town

    Ravos Rail

    The beautifully restored carriages of Rovos Rail combine luxury travel with the chance to experience living history.

    Restaurant cars, observation carriages and sleeping compartments are all restored originals from a bygone era of rail travel, with dark woods and period fittings designed for pioneering travellers and colonial grandees.

The best time to visit South Africa is from May to September, as the cooler winter months in the northern regions bring superb conditions for viewing big game. It can be rainy from November to February, but this is the best time to travel for birding, and temperatures remain warm at 22°C-33°C.

However, South Africa is a year-round destination, with varying regional climates and wildlife opportunities.

The Cape has beautiful, hot, dry weather in its summer months (between November and February), with temperatures between 23°C and 26°C. The best time to visit the Cape for whale watching is between July and November.

South Africa Climate Guide

 

Destination Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Cape Town 26°C28mm 26°C28mm 25°C35mm 23°C83mm 20°C134mm 18°C153mm 17°C143mm 17°C134mm 19°C81mm 21°C61mm 23°C37mm 24°C33mm
Durban 28°C124mm 28°C113mm 28°C125mm 26°C71mm 24°C56mm 23°C30mm 22°C31mm 23°C46mm 24°C64mm 24°C95mm 25°C110mm 27°C110mm
Johannesburg 26°C138mm 25°C107mm 25°C91mm 22°C61mm 20°C21mm 17°C9mm 17°C7mm 20°C8mm 23°C27mm 25°C74mm 25°C118mm 25°C123mm
Knysna 24°C69mm 25°C61mm 23°C71mm 22°C75mm 20°C72mm 19°C64mm 18°C65mm 19°C87mm 19°C75mm 20°C85mm 22°C72mm 24°C64mm
Kruger National Park 33°C103mm 32°C106mm 31°C67mm 29°C35mm 27°C15mm 25°C11mm 24°C10mm 26°C8mm 29°C21mm 30°C33mm 30°C77mm 32°C92mm
Plettenberg Bay 24°C73mm 25°C66mm 23°C74mm 22°C77mm 20°C75mm 19°C68mm 19°C69mm 19°C97mm 19°C79mm 20°C90mm 22°C77mm 24°C66mm
Stellenbosch 28°C17mm 28°C27mm 26°C28mm 23°C74mm 20°C118mm 18°C128mm 17°C112mm 17°C114mm 19°C62mm 22°C54mm 25°C35mm 26°C20mm
The Battlefields 27°C124mm 27°C109mm 26°C79mm 24°C44mm 22°C15mm 19°C9mm 19°C10mm 22°C20mm 24°C41mm 25°C85mm 26°C105mm 27°C127mm
The Drakensberg 24°C175mm 23°C152mm 22°C124mm 19°C51mm 17°C21mm 15°C11mm 15°C12mm 17°C29mm 20°C50mm 21°C90mm 21°C123mm 23°C156mm
The Kalahari 33°C47mm 32°C55mm 29°C63mm 26°C30mm 22°C14mm 19°C5mm 19°C2mm 22°C4mm 26°C7mm 29°C16mm 31°C30mm 32°C38mm

 

Month-by-month guide to travelling in South Africa

Jan

Visiting South Africa in January

January sees hot and dry weather in the Cape, making it an excellent time of year for trips to Cape Town and the Garden Route. The Kruger and KwaZulu Natal also have high temperatures, but sunny periods are interspersed with tropical rainstorms.

Events & Festivals

  • The Battlefields in KwaZulu-Natal (January): The battlefields are popular in January as it's the anniversaries of the Battle of Isandlwana and the Battle of Rorke's Drift
Feb

Visiting South Africa in February

February is one of the hottest months in the Cape, although coastal towns are cooled by pleasant sea breezes. It is a very popular month and hotels get booked up well in advance.

Mar

Visiting South Africa in March

March is a popular time to visit South Africa; particularly if the Easter break falls within this month. The weather is warm, and although there may still be some rainfall in the north, it is easing off. On safari in Kruger the bush will be thick and rivers full as this is the end of the rainy season.

Apr

Visiting South Africa in April

April is also busy, but gets quieter toward the end of the month. The weather is warm and dry throughout the country, making it a prime time to combine regions.

May

Visiting South Africa in May

By the time May comes around the peak summer crowds have died down, but it is still a lovely time of year to visit the country if you are not seeking particularly hot weather. The weather is warm and dry across the regions, although with chilly evenings, and safari is often superb.

Jun

Visiting South Africa in June

Midwinter in the Cape sees cooler temperatures and roaring fires in the Winelands, and although it's never really cold during the days, the tops of the mountains do occasionally see a dusting of snow. When the sun comes out, the weather is usually beautifully mild.

Jul

Visiting South Africa in July

July is the start of the whale watching season along the coast of the Western Cape; southern right whales can be best viewed from Hermanus and Plettenberg Bay as they come close to the shores to give birth. The weather can be cool and drizzly in the Cape. Warmer and drier temperatures are in the north and east of the country and this is a superb time for game viewing as animals congregate around water holes.

Events & Festivals

  • Whale watching season (July to November): This is the best time to see southern right whales off the coast after their migration from Antarctica to the warm waters off South Africa, where they will have their young.
Aug

Visiting South Africa in August

August is the start of spring and flowers start to bloom across the Western and Northern Cape. Namaqualand in the Northern Cape becomes carpeted in colourful flowers and people travel from near and far to see them. The Cape is chilly at this time and early August sees the cable car for Table Mountain closed for annual maintenance. KwaZulu-Natal is the best region to visit in August, offering warm temperatures and plenty to see and do.

Events & Festivals

  • Whale watching season (July to November): This is the best time to see southern right whales off the coast after their migration from Antarctica to the warm waters off South Africa, where they will have their young.
  • Wild flowers on the West Coast (August to October): During spring, the dry and dusty landscape is transformed as a carpet of colourful wild flowers spreads across South Africa's west coast, creating stunning scenery
Sep

Visiting South Africa in September

In September the beautiful wildflowers on the West Coast are often in full bloom and temperatures start to rise throughout the country; although early mornings and evenings are chilly. This is a good time to combine regions throughout the country. The animals are out in full force, with many giving birth this month in the bush and whales often spotted along the coast. 

Events & Festivals

  • Whale watching season (July to November): This is the best time to see southern right whales off the coast after their migration from Antarctica to the warm waters off South Africa, where they will have their young.
  • Wild flowers on the West Coast (August to October): During spring, the dry and dusty landscape is transformed as a carpet of colourful wild flowers spreads across South Africa's west coast, creating stunning scenery
Oct

Visiting South Africa in October

October is a beautiful month — temperatures start to heat up throughout the country but the rains are yet to come in the north. Flowers can still be found in bloom until the end of spring. This is one of the best months to combine regions.

Events & Festivals

  • Whale watching season (July to November): This is the best time to see southern right whales off the coast after their migration from Antarctica to the warm waters off South Africa, where they will have their young.
  • Wild flowers on the West Coast (August to October): During spring, the dry and dusty landscape is transformed as a carpet of colourful wild flowers spreads across South Africa's west coast, creating stunning scenery
Nov

Visiting South Africa in November

It heats up across the country and the rains start in the Kruger and KwaZulu-Natal. Late afternoon thunderstorms clear the air and can be spectacular. The Cape sees the last month of the whale season and this is a great time to visit inland areas such as the Karoo before the temperatures soar.

Events & Festivals

  • Whale watching season (July to November): This is the best time to see southern right whales off the coast after their migration from Antarctica to the warm waters off South Africa, where they will have their young.
Dec

Visiting South Africa in December

The festive season is extremely busy in South Africa and gets filled up quickly. Restaurants and excursions need to be booked well in advance. The Cape is dry and hot and the north and KwaZulu-Natal can experience some rain. Early December is great for travel as it is still quiet before the rush of school holidays.

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