South Africa weather is different from region to region. Here’s an easy guide to help you understand the temperatures and climate in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, the Drakensberg Mountains, and the Karoo. A helpful guide of the average temperature by month is also included for the most popular South African destinations. This will help you figure out the best time to travel to the Rainbow nation.
South Africa Weather
Temperature & Climate
Most foreign visitors assume that South Africa enjoys perpetual sunshine. This is not the case. With a total landmass of over 470,900 square miles, South Africa’s weather is a little bit complicated.
South Africa enjoys all four seasons. It is a land of lush tropical coasts, arid desert, temperate woodlands, and snow-capped mountains. Depending on when you travel and where you go, it is possible to encounter different weather conditions.
South Africa’s weather is typical for the Southern Hemisphere. Temperatures can get as high as 97 degrees Fahrenheit during the summers, and as low as 28 degrees Fahrenheit during the winters.
South Africa has a wider variety of climates than most other countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The climates also differ from region to region, mostly due to altitude, elevation, etc.
But while the temperatures do change from region to region, temperatures on the coast are more consistent throughout the year. Temperatures in the mountainous and arid areas in the interior of the country see the greatest fluctuation in seasonal temperatures.
The climate of South Africa is determined by it being in the Southern Hemisphere’s subtropical zone, and its location between the Atlantic and the Indian ocean.
Regardless of when or where you travel in South Africa, it’s a good idea to pack for all occasions. Even in the Kalahari Desert, nighttime temperatures can drop below freezing.
South Africa Weather By Location
Cape Town has a temperate climate, similar to that of Europe or North America. Summers are generally warm and dry. At times, the city has been plagued by drought.
Cape Town has a Mediterranean climate with winter rainfall. (Most of the country experiences summer rain.)
Despite what many foreigners believe, winters in Cape Town is cold. The majority of the city’s rain falls at this time.
Depending on your preferences, South Africa’s summer and spring are the most pleasant for travelers.
The climate for most of the Garden Route is similar to that of Cape Town.
However, do keep in mind that no matter how warm Cape Town is, the ocean water will always be cold – it literally feels like you’re stepping into ice water. This is because of the existence of the cold Benguela current. Fortunately, the initial shock passes quickly and you should be able to enjoy the water.
Here are the average temperatures that you can expect in Cape Town, by month.
Like Cape Town, Durban is also on the coast. Durban is located in the northeast province of KwaZulu-Natal.
Durban enjoys a tropical climate with weather that remains fairly warm all year round.
During the Durban summer, temperatures can be sweltering, and the humidity levels are high. You can expect rain in the form of short, sharp thunderstorms in the late afternoon.
Durban winters are mild, sunny, and typically dry.
The most pleasant time of year to visit Durban is usually in the spring or autumn.
While Cape Town’s waters are icy cold year-round, Durban’s Indian Ocean waters are positively warm in the summer and refreshingly cool in winter.
Here are the average temperatures that you can expect in Durban, by month.
Johannesburg is in Gauteng province, which is in the northern interior.
Summers in Johannesburg are generally very warm and humid. They coincide with the rainy season. Johannesburg also experiences its fair share of spectacular thunderstorms.
Winters in Johannesburg are moderate. You may see dry, sunny days, and chilly nights.
If you are considering a safari, this is the region in the country you would most likely visit. It is where you would find Kruger National Park. However, while Kruger National Park offers safari opportunities year-round, many people prefer the dry, mild winter months to the wetter summer months.
Here are the average temperatures that you can expect in Johannesburg, by month.
Mpumalanga is mostly clear all year round. The summers are warm, muggy, and wet. The winters are short, cool, and dry. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 43°F to 79°F. It is rarely below 38°F or above 86°F.
While the typical South African summer lasts for 3 months, the Mpumalanga summers lasts for 3.5 months from December to mid-March.
The average daily high temperature during the summers in Mpumalanga is around 79°F with a low of 62°F.
The cool season lasts for 2.3 months from June to early August. The average daily high temperature during the winter is around 68°F, with an average low of 43°F.
The Drakensberg Mountains weather
The Drakensberg Mountains are located in KwaZulu-Natal, (same as Durban).
During the summer, the rainfall in the Drakensberg can be significant. However, for the most part, the thunderstorms are interspersed with beautiful weather. Also, due to its increased elevation, the Drakensberg mountains enjoy a respite from the hot temperatures that Durban experiences.
Winters in the Drakensberg are dry and warm during the day, but nights are often freezing at higher elevations. Snow is common.
April and May are the best months for trekking in the Drakensberg.
The Karoo is a vast region of semi-desert wilderness. It spans three provinces in the center of South Africa.
Summers in the Karoo are hot! In fact, around the lower Orange River area, temperatures frequently exceed 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius).
The limited annual rainfall that the Karoo experiences occur during the summer.
In winter, the weather in the Karoo is dry and mild.
The best time to visit the Karoo is between May and September when the days are warm and sunny. Do keep in mind that May to September are winter and autumn months. Therefore, be prepared because the nighttime temperatures can drop dramatically.
A note from the author
Most visitors choose to travel during the South African spring (September to November) and summer (December to February). If fun in the sun and beach weather is what you are after, you’d be best advised to book your trip anytime from December through February. However, if you prefer mild temperatures, autumn and spring would be your best bet.