The Republic of South Africa, the southernmost African country, extends from 22° to 34° south latitude, and it's covered in large part by a plateau, which tempers the summer heat but cools the winter nights. Being in the Southern Hemisphere, it has seasons opposite to Europe or North America. Apart from the southern coastline, the country is usually more arid in the west than in the east.


Mediterranean climate

Area having a Mediterranean climate
In the southwestern part of the coast, the climate is Mediterranean, with mild, rainy winters and warm, sunny summers.

Cape Town

In Cape Town, the average temperature ranges from 12 °C (53.5 °F) in July to 21 °C (70 °F) in January and February. The summer temperatures are not excessively high because of the influence of the ocean, though sometimes a hot and dry wind called Berg, able to raise the temperature to around 35 °C (95 °F), blows from the mountains. On the contrary, a strong southern breeze called Cape Doctor often blows in summer, cooling and cleaning the air. Above the top of Table Mountain, the flat-topped mountain overlooking the city, about a thousand meters (3,300 feet) high, a layer of clouds often forms, which the city's inhabitants call in a colloquial manner "tablecloth".
Here are the average temperatures of Cape Town.
Cape Town - Average temperatures
Min (°C)1616141298789111315
Max (°C)262725232018181819212425
Min (°F)616157544846454648525559
Max (°F)798177736864646466707577

In Cape Town, 505 millimeters (20 inches) of rain fall per year, with a maximum in late autumn and winter, from May to August. Here is the average precipitation.
Cape Town - Average precipitation

The amount of sunshine in Cape Town is very good in summer, when the sky is often clear, but it remains good even in winter: in June and July, there are about 6 hours of sunshine per day. Here are the average sunshine hours per day.
Cape Town - Sunshine

Given that it is not too hot and it's also quite windy, the best time to visit the city is summer, from December to February, in fact, it is a period when the sun shines and the breeze blows. Spring, from September to November, is a good period as well, as usually happens in areas having a Mediterranean climate, also because in this period, nature is in bloom.

Cape Town

The temperature of the sea in the area of Cape Town is never warm, however, it is slightly milder in the sheltered False Bay, east of Cape of Good Hope, than along the Atlantic coast to the west. In fact, in False Bay, the water temperature reaches 20 °C (68 °F) in January and February and drops to 16 °C (61 °F) in winter, while in Cape Town, it never reaches 20 °C (68 °F), so it's a bit cold even in summer, as we can see in the following table.
Cape Town - Sea temperature
Temp (°C)191918171716151515161718
Temp (°F)666664636361595959616364

The cities situated at the foot of the mountains, east of Cape Town, are rainier. In Stellenbosch, rainfall reaches 930 mm (36.5 in) per year, though it still follows the Mediterranean pattern, ie with a dry summer, which here is a little warmer because of the greater distance from the sea. Cape Agulhas, which separates by convention the Atlantic from the Indian Ocean, is windy and overlooks a perilous sea, frequently rough and crossed by strong currents. To tell the truth, the Cape of Good Hope is not very calm as well, as evidenced by the name originally given by its discoverer, Bartolomeu Dias, who named it "Cape of Storms".

Arid climate

Arid climate zone
The west coast of South Africa is affected by the Benguela Current, which cools the sea and makes the climate arid, since it inhibits the formation of vertical air currents that could condense. In this area, annual precipitation drops below 350 mm (13.5 in), but in a wide west-central area, where the southern part of the Namib Desert is found, it drops even below 200 mm (8 in).
Here is the average rainfall of Alexander Bay, located in the northern part of the coast, on the border with Namibia, where rainfall even drops below 50 mm (2 in) per year.
Alexander Bay - Average precipitation

Along the coast, the cold current also causes the formation of fog, mist and low clouds, especially in the morning.
However, in Alexander Bay, the sun frequently shines all year round, though not as frequently as in inland areas.
Alexander Bay - Sunshine

Here, the climate is constantly mild, with average daytime temperatures around 15 °C (59 °F) in winter and around 20 °C (68 °F) in summer, even though rapid increases in temperature may occur when the wind blows from the desert, which lies to the east and is scorchingly hot in summer. However, due to fog, humidity and wind, you can feel cold, especially in winter.
Here are the average temperatures of Port Nolloth, in the northern part of the coast.
Port Nolloth - Average temperatures
Min (°C)151514131111101011121315
Max (°C)191818171717161616161718
Min (°F)595957555252505052545559
Max (°F)666464636363616161616364

Moving inland, we find the plateau, where the influence of the sea is reduced, and the daily temperature range is noticeably wider. This means that summer days can be scorchingly hot, in particular from October to March, but nights are usually cool, while winter nights can be cold, with possible frosts after cold air outbreaks of Antarctic origin, while days remain mild and mostly sunny.


Here are the average temperatures of Upington, located in the western part of the plateau, not far from the borders with Namibia and Botswana, and 835 meters (2,750 feet) above sea level. Here, the temperature reached 44.6 °C (112.3 °F) in January 2012, and 45.3 °C (113.5 °F) in January 2016.
Upington - Average temperatures
Min (°C)222119151065711151720
Max (°C)343331272320202225283133
Min (°F)727066595043414552596368
Max (°F)939188817368687277828891

The rains, which as we mentioned are scarce, occur in winter along the west coast, while in inland areas they occur in summer, in the form of afternoon showers. Here is the average precipitation in Upington.
Upington - Average precipitation

The sun in Upington shines all year round.
Upington - Sunshine

In the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, which is the South African part of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, on the border with Botswana and Namibia, there is a dry savannah landscape, but also sand dunes: we are in the southern part of the Kalahari Desert.
Although most of the interior is occupied by a plateau, there is also a small lowland area, in particular, the lower Orange River valley, on the border with Namibia, where about 200 km (125 mi) from the coast, the altitude is already around 300 meters (1,000 feet). Southwest of Upington, the Augrabies Falls, 600 meters (2,000 feet) above sea level, are considered the hottest place in South Africa: here, the temperature reached 48.6 °C (119.5 °F) in January 2016, and 46.1 °C (115 °F) in 2015. Further to the west, in Vioolsdrif, at a lower altitude but closer to the sea, the heat record is 47 °C (116.5 °F).


Returning to the plateau, in Calvinia, further south and at 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) above sea level, the average temperatures are lower than in Upington. In Calvinia, the temperature can reach 40 °C (104 °F) from November to March, while at night it can drop to -5 °C (23 °F) from May to August.
Calvinia - Average temperatures
Min (°C)131412106443581012
Max (°C)323230262218181922262830
Min (°F)555754504339393741465054
Max (°F)909086797264646672798286

The coldest areas of the plateau are the southern ones, which are more exposed to outbreaks of polar air masses in the winter months.


A particularly cold city is Sutherland, located in the south-west, in the arid zone of the Great Karoo, at 1,450 meters (4,700 feet) above sea level. Here, snowfalls in winter occur often enough, though they are typically light because of the dry climate. The coldest record, set in July 2003, is as low as -16 °C (3 °F). Precipitation amounts to 245 mm (9.5 in) per year. Here are the average temperatures.
Sutherland - Average temperatures
Min (°C)88630-1-2-10257
Max (°C)272724201612121416202325
Min (°F)464643373230283032364145
Max (°F)818175686154545761687377

Near the city, at 1,850 meters (6,000 feet), we find the South African Astronomical Observatory, which hosts the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT): this area was chosen because the skies are often clear and the air is clean.

South African Astronomical Observatory

The best times to visit the arid zone of South Africa are spring and autumn, especially the months of April and September. If you want, you can also choose the winter, from May to August, especially in the north (see the Kalahari Gemsbok, and the Orange River valley), which is less cold in winter, and also more exposed to the scorching heat in the rest of the year.

South and East Coast

South and East Coast
The thin coastal strip to the east of the Cape Town area is characterized by a very mild climate, which becomes progressively warmer and rainier as we move towards the east-northeast.
In the southern belt (the area circled in blue on the map), the climate is transitional between the Mediterranean and the warm oceanic one: it is cool and breezy, with limited variations in temperature between winter and summer; rainfall is not abundant, but it's well distributed throughout the year, with only a slight decrease in summer.

Port Elizabeth

In Port Elizabeth, 630 mm (24.8 in) of rain fall per year, with a relative minimum in summer, between December and February. Here is the average precipitation.
Port Elizabeth - Average precipitation

In winter, temperatures are spring-like, since the average in July is 14 °C (57 °F), although short cold waves from Antarctica can occasionally lower the night-time temperature to around freezing (0 °C or 32 °F) between June and September. Summer is pleasant, since the average in January and February is 21 °C (70 °F), with a lively and constant breeze from the sea. Throughout the year, every now and then, hot and dry winds can blow from the mountains, which lie a short distance from the coast. Here too, like in the aforementioned Mediterranean climate zone which includes Cape Town, the best time of the year is the summer. Here are the average temperatures in Port Elizabeth.
Port Elizabeth - Average temperatures
Min (°C)181917151210101112131517
Max (°C)242423222120181818202123
Min (°F)646663595450505254555963
Max (°F)757573727068646464687073

The sun in Port Elizabeth frequently shines all year round, though in summer, it doesn't shine as frequently as in Cape Town.
Port Elizabeth - Sunshine

Unlike in Cape Town, the sea in Port Elizabeth is never very cold, and it is warm enough for swimming from December to May.
Port Elizabeth - Sea temperature
Temp (°C)232424232321202020202123
Temp (°F)737575737370686868687073

In the eastern part of the coast, ie the area circled in burgundy, the climate is warmer, with more abundant rainfall in the warm season, so it can be defined as humid subtropical.
In East London, the temperatures are similar to those of Port Elizabeth, but winter is a bit milder. Rainfall is more abundant, around 800 mm (31.5 in) per year, with and evident increase in the period from October to March, when the air is a bit muggy, even though the temperatures are usually not so high; on the other hand, winter is the least rainy season.


Continuing north-east, on the coast of KwaZulu-Natal, in Durban it gets quite hot and humid in summer: the average in January and February is around 24.5 °C (76 °F), and the humidity makes the heat muggy, even though the breezes blow in the afternoon, giving a bit of relief; thunderstorms may occur in the afternoon or in the evening, giving some additional relief (or maybe, disturbing those who are on the beach). Here, about 1,000 mm (40 in) of rain fall per year, of which more than 100 mm (4 in) fall per month from November to March, while in winter, from June to August, it doesn't rain much. Here is the average precipitation.
Durban - Average precipitation

In winter, daytime temperatures are very pleasant, on average around 23 °C (73 °F). Here are the average temperatures.
Durban - Average temperatures
Min (°C)212120171411111315171820
Max (°C)282828262523232323242527
Min (°F)707068635752525559636468
Max (°F)828282797773737373757781

The amount of sunshine in Durban is higher in winter, being the dry season. In summer, it is a bit lower than in other areas of South Africa, since the rains are more frequent.
Durban - Sunshine

At this latitude, the temperature of the sea exceeds 23 °C (73 °F) from November to May, and after all it's not so bad even in winter, since it does not drop below 22 °C (72 °F).
Durban - Sea temperature
Temp (°C)262626252423222222222425
Temp (°F)797979777573727272727577

In winter, however, sometimes it can get a bit cold, especially at night. April is probably the best month for a beach holiday, since it is a bit drier than the summer and also warmer than the winter; however, there's some risk of tropical storms (see below), so you can choose September and October, although in these months the sea is cooler. If you want to visit the city, the temperatures are good from mid-May to August.


As previously mentioned, much of South Africa is occupied by highlands. The western part of the plateau has been included in the arid climate zone. In the central and eastern part of the plateau, which we are dealing with now, the rains are more abundant, especially in the warm season, when humid currents from the Indian Ocean prevail.


Johannesburg, the largest city of the country, is located at 1,700 meters (5,600 ft) above sea level, in the plateau called Highveld, and thanks to the altitude, it has a pleasant and sunny climate. In the warm season, from October to March, it's hot during the day, with possible thunderstorms in the afternoon or in the evening, while nights are cool. Winter, from May to August, is dry and sunny, with very cool or even cold nights, while temperatures become usually mild during the day. Sometimes at night, the temperature can drop below freezing, especially in June and July. Here are the average temperatures.
Johannesburg - Average temperatures
Min (°C)1514131052258111314
Max (°C)272625232118182124252526
Min (°F)595755504136364146525557
Max (°F)817977737064647075777779

A few times over the last century, even snowfalls have occurred, in the period from June to August. Throughout the year, 705 mm (27.8 in) of rain fall on average, of which approximately 90/120 mm (3.5/4.7 in) fall per month from November to March. Here is the average precipitation.
Johannesburg - Average precipitation

Having a good climate, Johannesburg can be visited throughout the year, perhaps excluding June, July and early August because of the risk of cold weather. The best month is probably September, in fact it is mild, sunny and with little rain. April and October, though a little more rainy, are fine too.
North-west of Johannesburg lies the UNESCO World Heritage Site called "Cradle of Humankind", where ancient fossils of Australopithecus Africanus have been found.
North of Johannesburg, we find Pretoria, which is located at a slightly lower altitude, ie at 1,300 meters (4,250 feet), so it has a similar climate, just slightly warmer than in Johannesburg.


Kimberley, the capital of the Northern Cape Province, located at 1,200 meters (3,900 feet) above sea level, is characterized by hot summers, and by lower rainfall than in Johannesburg, around 435 mm (17 in) per year. However, here too, rainfall is more likely from November to April. The rainiest months are February and March. Here is the average precipitation.
Kimberley - Average precipitation

From May to September, however, given the more southern position, Kimberley is more exposed to cold winds and more prone to night frosts than Johannesburg, although during the day the temperature remains mild. In contrast, from November to March (and sometimes in October), there can be scorching days. Here are the average temperatures.
Kimberley - Average temperatures
Min (°C)1817151173359121517
Max (°C)333129252118192126283032
Min (°F)646359524537374148545963
Max (°F)918884777064667079828690

Here too, the amount of sunshine is very good throughout the year, especially in winter.
Kimberley - Sunshine

Bloemfontein, located at 1,400 meters (4,600 feet), south-east of Kimberley, is slightly cooler. Here, night frosts from June to August are frequent, but during the day, the air is usually mild and the sun shines.
Near the southern and eastern margins of the plateau, there are several mountain ranges, with peaks often exceeding 2,000 meters (6,500 feet). The most imposing range is Drakensberg, whose highest peak, 3,482 meters (11,424 feet) high, however, is located in Lesotho. Above 2,500 meters (8,200 ft), it can snow from June to August. Along the eastern escarpment, in the provinces of Eastern Cape, Kwa-Zulu Natal and Mpumalanga, the summer rains are plentiful, exceeding 100 mm (4 in) per month, and the total annual can reach 1,000 mm (40 in).


The far north-east of South Africa has a warmer climate than the plateau, both because of the lower latitude (it is located at the Tropic of Capricorn) and because of the lower altitude, which descends below 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) above sea level.

Kruger National Park

The Kruger National Park, where you can find elephants, lions and other animals of the savannah, is located on the border with Mozambique, mostly at an altitude ranging from 300 to 500 meters (1,000 and 1,600 feet). Here the winter is dry and sunny, with large temperature variations between night and day: at night, it can get cold, about 10 °C (50 °F) or less, while during the day the temperature gets warm, around 26/27 °C (79/81 °F). Therefore, when going on safaris in this period, it's better to dress in layers. Summer is hot and humid, with possible afternoon thunderstorms. Here are the average temperatures in Skukuza, the main camp of the park, located at 270 meters (890 feet) above sea level, at the lowest point of the park.
Skukuza - Average temperatures
Min (°C)212019161167913161820
Max (°C)323231292826262729303032
Min (°F)706866615243454855616468
Max (°F)909088848279798184868690

In the Kruger National Park, the rains, scarce in winter, become relatively abundant in summer because of afternoon thunderstorms. Here is the average precipitation.
Skukuza - Average precipitation

The amount of sunshine is good all year round, however, it is higher in winter, since it is the dry season.
Skukuza - Sunshine

The best period in this area is from June to August, to avoid both the rains and the heat of summer: however, it's better to be adequately covered in the coldest hours. In September and October, it's already hot during the day, sometimes very hot, but nights are pleasantly cool.

Kruger Park

The northernmost area, along the Limpopo River, on the border with Zimbabwe, is particularly dry, and here the days are very hot, especially from November to February, when there is also some chance of showers in the afternoon, usually not heavy. Here, we find the Musina Nature Reserve and the Mapungubwe National Park (formerly Vhembe Dongola National Park), both home to a large number of huge baobab trees as well as animals such as giraffes, antelopes and zebras.


The north-east coast of South Africa, north of Durban, where cities such as Richards Bay and St Lucia are found (but sometimes Durban too, as happened with tropical storm Irina in March 2012), sometimes can be brushed by tropical cyclones, which form in the Indian Ocean from November to mid-May (but most likely from late December to mid-April) and usually hit the coast of neighbouring Mozambique, or they can sometimes follow a more southern path, dissipating in the ocean. Although after Tropical Storm Domoina in late January 1984, no cyclone has directly hit the coast of South Africa, the effects in terms of rains, strong winds and storm surges can be felt also at some distance.
Cyclones can also affect the far north-east, in the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga, after passing over the coast of Mozambique. In general, Mozambique takes the brunt of the damage, but in inland South Africa, including the Kruger Park, there may still be heavy rains, as happened with Cyclone Eline in February 2000. This is one more reason to avoid the austral summer, in addition to the hot and humid weather, which in any case is typical of this period.

Best Time

Since it has different climates, it's hard to find a single time that is best the whole South Africa.
A good compromise between the different areas can be found in spring, in September and October, in order to avoid the winter cold of mountains and plateaus, the summer heat of inland areas, and the summer rains of the east, as well as the tropical cyclones that may affect the eastern regions in summer and autumn.
If you prefer to go in the austral winter, for example in July and August, you will have to deal with a bit of cold at night in the northernmost parks, which, however, are mild and sunny during the day, while the cold can at times be intense especially in the highlands of the center and south, in additio, there will be some rains in the area of Cape Town, and a bit of wind along the southern coast, but after all, even the austral winter is an acceptable period. If the weather conditions are good, it will also be possible to swim in the sea in Durban and on the north-eastern coast.
As previously mentioned, the sea is cold along the Atlantic coast, and becomes gradually milder as we proceed from the south coast towards the east.

What to pack

In winter (June to August): for the western and southern coasts, up to Port Elizabeth, bring spring/autumn clothes, a sweatshirt or sweater and jacket, and a raincoat or umbrella.
For the north-east coast (see Durban), bring spring/autumn clothes, a sweater and a jacket.
For the central plateau (Kimberley, Johannesburg), bring spring/autumn clothes for the day, but also a sweater and a warm jacket for the evening; for the southern part of the plateau and at higher altitudes (see Sutherland, De Aar, Bethlehem, Bloemfontein), warm clothes, such as a down jacket, gloves, a scarf, and a hat for the evening.
For the north-east (Messina, Kruger Park) and the Kalahari, bring spring/autumn clothes (light for the day), a sweater and a warm jacket for the evening. A windbreaker for off-road safaris.

In summer (December to February): for the west coast north of Cape Town, bring spring/autumn clothes, a sweatshirt and a light jacket.
For the south coast, from Cape Town to East London, light clothing, a sweater and a light jacket for the evening, and a scarf for the breeze; for the north-east coast (see Durban), light clothing, a light sweatshirt, and an umbrella or a light raincoat.
For the central plateau (Kimberley, Johannesburg), light clothes for the day, a sweatshirt or sweater and a light jacket for the evening, a sun hat, and a light raincoat or umbrella; for the southern part of the plateau and at higher altitudes (see Sutherland, De Aar, Bethlehem, Bloemfontein), a sweater, and a spring jacket for the evening.
For the north-east (Messina, Kruger Park) and the Kalahari, very light clothes, of natural fabrics, a sun hat, a light raincoat, and a sweatshirt for the evening.

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