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Climate and WeatherBack to top Back to main Skip to menu
South Africa - Climate and Weather
South Africa has one of the longest coastlines in Africa. Its coastline stretches all the way from the Namib Desert on the border with Namibia in the northwest to the border with Mozambique in the northeast. Its coastline measures more than 2,700 kilometers.
South Africa is generally a dry country; the annual rainfall is an average of about 464mm compared to the world’s average, which is about 860mm. The country is also famous for its sunshine. Most of the rain falls during summer except for the region around the Western Cape, which gets most of its rainfall in winter. Due to its huge elevation above sea level, temperatures in South Africa tend to be cooler than in other states at similar latitudes such as Australia.
Johannesburg lies at an altitude of 1,694 meters above sea level and has average summer temperatures of below 30°C. In winter, nighttime temperatures can drop to freezing point and lower in some places. The warmest winter temperatures in South Africa are experienced in the coastal regions. This is because of the cold western Benguela current and the warm eastern Agulhas current that sweep the coastlines. Seasons are the opposite of those of Europe and North America in the southern hemisphere, hence South Africans spend Christmas on the beach.
Summer lasts from mid-October to mid- February and is defined by sunny, hot weather. In addition, summers are usually accompanied with thunderstorms in the afternoon that clear quickly, leaving a warm, earthy smell in the air.
Autumn lasts from mid-February to April. There is very little rainfall experienced in the entire country during this season, and as the season progresses it gets cooler. Hot sunny days and warm balmy nights are experienced in Cape Town. Many people spend autumn nights outdoors.
Winter lasts between May and July and is characterized by heavy frosts in the higher lying areas of the interior plateau accompanied by cool nights and crispy, sunny, dry days. It is always advisable to carry heavy clothes when traveling to South Africa during winter.
It mostly rains during winter in the Western Cape. In addition, the region may experience a few rainy or cloudy days.
Heavy snowfalls occur over the high-lying areas in the southwestern parts of the Northern Cape and Western Cape, while it becomes freezing cold over the interior of the two provinces. However, winter experiences a few days full of sunshine that may rival the best of British summers.
Spring lasts from August to mid-October is not experienced in most regions in South Africa, but is spectacular in Western Cape and Northern Cape. Here, various plants cover the semi-arid carpet of flowers in the plains as the gray winter is forgotten. Many South Africans go on an annual pilgrimage to Namaqualand to see wild flowers blossom.
How cold does it get in South Africa?
Due to the city's high altitude, Johannesburg’s temperature levels are relatively mild with January’s maximum daytime temperature averaging 26 degrees centigrade (78.8 °F), dropping to an average maximum of around sixteen degrees centigrade (60.8 °F) in June. Winter is the sunniest time of the year, with cold nights and chilly days.
What is the average temperature in South Africa?
Temperatures in South Africa are usually measured in degrees celsius. The average high temperatures in South Africa is twenty degrees Centigrade to average lows of eight degrees Centigrade in the summer months while winter temperatures range from one degree Centigrade at night to around eighteen degrees Centigrade during the day.
Best time of the year to travel
Any time is an ideal time to travel to South Africa. However, when to travel is mostly determined by your reason for the visit. If you love flower blossoms, the Namaqualand flowers are usually at their brightest in August and September. If you are traveling on a safari, then winter is a good time for game watching,.
From mid-June to the end of October is a great time to get a glimpse of migrating whales. The best time to come to South Africa for diving or surfing is from April to September. River rafting is best experienced at the end of winter in Western Cape and in the height of summer (late November to mid-February) in KwaZulu-Natal. In Mpumalanga and Limpopo, river rafting is less time dependent.
Hikers will love South Africa during “shoulder” seasons – spring and autumn - because summer can be scorching and the heat can be unpleasant. In addition, summer thunderstorms are dangerous, especially in Drakensberg. The winters are wet, so it is not the best time for hikes.
Mid-October to November is the best time to watch migrating birds in South Africa. On the other hand, mid-summer is the best time to visit South Africa if you want to catch some sun on the beaches. However, this is the height of the tourist season so beaches will be busy.
Humidity is very low during winter because of lack of rainfall. Wildlife often gather around predictable water sources during winter, which gives South Africa that genuine African feel because you can see wildlife while driving through the countryside. However, the Western Cape usually experiences winter rainfall and can be cold and wet. Therefore, the Western Cape is not the best place for watching wild animals during winter.
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