When to travel to South Africa all depends on what you’re going for. Weather can vary greatly by region throughout the year, though in general summer you can typically expect very warm weather. Winter temperatures are fairly mild in most parts of the country, though some parts can get very cold.
- Late autumn into winter, or May to August: ideal for wildlife watching and is also the cheapest time to go. School holiday is typically from late June to mid July, a time when prices will rise, but not significantly.
- Spring, September to October: the best time to go for seeing wildflowers, just when everything starts blooming.
- Summer: peak beach and tourist season.
- December to mid March: popular spots will be booked months in advance and prices will rise, sometimes by more than 50%.
South Africa has a fairly temperate climate due to its proximity to both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. However, due to varied topography and the influence of the oceans, there is great variety of climate zones within the country, ranging from extreme desert to tropical. These zones vary mostly by geography.
- Part of the Western Cape province, the south-western coast is essentially a classic mediterranean climate.
- This region is typically hot and dry in the summer, with mild, somewhat rainy winters. However, it is important to remember that, since South Africa is in the Southern Hemisphere, the rainy months are typically May to August.
- Part of the KwaZulu-Natal provinces, the Eastern Cape also has a mediterranean climate.
- Rain tends to fall throughout the year as opposed to falling exclusively in the winter months.
- The Northern Cape province is mostly arid, receiving an average rainfall of about eight inches a year. Comparatively, certain regions in the Western Cape province receive as much as 40 inches a year.
- Much of the Northern Cape province deals with extreme heat during the summers, with average January temperatures around 86 to 91 °F.
- Winters in this region are generally much cooler, with July temperatures topping out at around 65 °F, and are mostly dry. However, some regions within the Northern Cape province, particularly Sutherland, experience bitterly cold winters and frequently get snow.
- South Africa's large steppe region, where Johannesburg is located, encompasses much of central South Africa, as well as some northern and southern territory.
- This region, encompassing parts of the Free State, north west, and Limpopo provinces, enjoys a typically mild, sunny climate that is mostly dry, with the occasional summer downpour.
- During the winter, the temperature occasionally drops below freezing causing a frost, but it rarely snows.
Remainder of Free State and small parts of the surrounding provinces:
- This continental climate zone experiences hot summers and cold winters.
- Eastern areas experience snowstorms in the winter, but most of the precipitation comes from brief, but often violent thunderstorms in the summer.