We’re fortunate to live in a country that luckily experiences
fairly enjoyable winters, compared to other places around the world that get
gripped by the bitter cold for half the year (cue God Save the Queen…) There
are so many little gems that are great for exploring at the best of times, but
even more so during the winter season. Take a look at some of the places we’ll
be headed as the cooler weather comes our way (and tell your friends!)
FOR WARM WINTER ESCAPES… Yup, when you live in South Africa winter at the beach is an option.
If you’re one of those who misses the warmth of a summer’s day, then your first choice would be to escape to a place that experiences the mildest of winters – the kind where if the sun is out, you can head to the beach. The KZN coastline is simply the best because you’ll miss the intense humidity that consumes this stretch during the summer.
We don’t recommend heading much further north of Durban than Umhlanga, but for those who are more adventurous and love to be outdoors, Kosi Bay in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) along the Elephant Coast provides a range of activities. Fishing, kayaking, bird-watching and wildlife viewing at the nearby reserves (such as Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve) are just a few of the things to choose from.
Why not: Stop along the way at Richards Bay for a walk along Blue Flag Beach Alkanstrand and just to soak up its charm. When you travel south of Durban you’ll be greeted by a string of the loveliest seaside towns, each with more character than the next. Hop between them and experience beachside living at its best.
Featuring a range of gorgeous landscapes including rolling escarpments and wetlands, as well as a host of exciting places to visit and sights to see, Mpumalanga is one that always comes up on our radar when it comes to thinking about winter escapes.
The Kruger National Park and Sabi Sand are undoubtedly always closely associated with the province and offer prime wildlife viewing (hello Big Five!), particularly over the winter months when the bush is less thick and visibility is at its best. Whilst you’ll definitely need warmer clothing for the morning and evening drives, once the sun sits high in the sky, you’re likely to feel like it’s a summer’s day.
The magnificent Panorama Route is a firm favourite, offering out-of-this-world views, thundering waterfalls and a variety of other natural attractions. Spend sunny days hopping from one sight to the next, marvelling at the abundance of untouched beauty and the sheer majesty of nature. From God’s Window, to the famous Blyde River Canyon, Bourke’s Luck Potholes and the Three Rondawels, you’ll be blown away again and again. And with such warm days, you can happily enjoy all of this throughout winter.
There are also lots of other little towns scattered across the province, each with their own drawcards, that are definitely worth exploring. Always on our list: White River, Nelspruit and Hazyview, to name but a few.
Highlight: If you have some extra time, be sure to visit the sleepy village of Kaapsche Hoop and see if you can spot any of the wild horses that famously roam around the area.
Read Discovery Mpumalanga: The Nelspruit & White River Edition for some tips and ideas of what to do in both places.
Just over an hour from Johannesburg, the Magaliesberg mountain range extends from Pretoria to just south of Pilansberg. Whilst it may get chilly here in winter, it’ll be made bearable by the sun-filled days and intense blue skies that accompany them. Declared a World Biosphere Reserve in 2015, Magaliesberg has many natural ecosystems that are protected to ensure the unique natural features and scenic beauty remains intact for all to enjoy. Along with extensive flora and birdlife, it’s also home to a range of indigenous mammal species that include the brown hyena, sable antelope, leopard and klipspringer.
Apart from its escarpments and abundant wildlife, the area is perhaps best known for its incredible mountain climbing opportunities. There are hundreds of routes to choose from across different grades which mean that both amateurs and experts will be satisfied. And with the mild climate, you can enjoy year-round climbing.
We recommend: Tonquani Kloof for the best rock climbing experience.
And if you’re not into rock climbing, there are other activities in the area to keep you busy:
- Haartebeespoort Dam (go hot-air ballooning over the area too!)
- Cradle of Humankind
- Sterkfontein Cakes
- Crocodile River (perfect for white river rafting)
- The village of Magaliesburg (stay at De Hoek Country Hotel)
FOR SNOW-CAPPED ESCAPES…
Ah, our beloved Drakensberg. With its warm winter days, brilliant blue skies and snow-capped peaks, it quite literally can be the Winter Wonderland you seek. Whilst it rarely snows heavily enough to reach the ground, visiting this part of the world will still give you all those wintry feels. Rich in plant life, the mountains are also home to a number of bird species, one of which is endemic to the high peaks: the mountain pipit. The lower slopes support a range of animals, most notably the rare southern white rhino and black wildebeest. San rock art also features prominently, while a popular area for hikers is Cathedral Peak.
In short, the Drakensberg is the ideal spot to get some much-needed mountain air and your nature fix during the colder months.
For those looking for a more adrenaline-pumping winter break, head to Lesotho for some premium skiing. We love Maliba Mountain Lodge.
Don’t PASS up the chance: To discover the many mountain passes, including the Swartberg Pass, Matroosberg and Sani Pass. NOTE: Passes are closed during treacherous conditions.
Eastern Cape white winters
If anywhere in the country is likely to experience snow, it’s the small inland towns of the Eastern Cape. June and July are the months when you’re bound to get lucky, provided the mercury drops low enough. The Eastern Cape is also an amazing safari option, particularly for families, mainly because it’s malaria-free.
On our list: Lady Grey, Hogsback, Barkley East and Tiffendel.
Sutherland stars ‘n snow
A dry and dusty Karoo town during the summer, Sutherland is completely transformed when winter comes round, very often experiencing the thickest snow in the country. Temperatures can reach as low as minus 18 degree Celsius... brrrrrrrr! Framed by the Roggeveld Mountains, you’ll find SALT (South Africa Large Telescope) near Sutherland and it’s really no wonder thanks to the characteristic clear skies above. Some of the best star-gazing meets a snow-covered, sleepy town with genuine Karoo charm here in Sutherland – what’s not to love?
Come rain or shine, it has to be said that we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to deciding where to explore in our beautiful an colourful country. Having said that, is somethingundeniably magical about the wintertime and in many ways, some places truly come alive during this season – you just have to get out there to see for yourself.
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