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South African Weather & Climate

For three, five and seven day weather forecasts for any region in South Africa, please refer to the South African Weather Service.

South Africa, as has often been said, is a land of contrasts. This certainly applies to the South African climate and weather conditions.

The climate is one of the major draw cards for the numerous tourists that visit South Africa each year. The comparatively low average annual rainfall and plenty of sunshine in most regions throughout the year are very appealing for those coming from the chilly Northern hemisphere winter.

South Africa has a varied geographical landscape, which impacts on the different climates experienced from one end of the land to the other. For example, we have the semi-arid Karoo, balmy, sub-tropical Durban and mild Mediterranean Cape Town.

In South Africa temperatures are influenced by variations in elevation, terrain, and ocean currents more than latitude. In general, much of the country has warm, sunny days and cool nights.

Inland, things can get pretty hot during the summer months, and in winter decidedly nippy, with frost and in some places snow occurring in high-lying areas during the colder spells.

The coastal regions are usually warmer, especially the KwaZulu-Natal coastline which can get exceptionally hot and humid in summer, while in winter its warm sunny conditions make it a popular holiday destination at the time when Cape Town is often grey and rainy.

South African climatic conditions vary noticeably between the east and west coasts, largely due to the warm Agulhas current along the Indian Ocean coastline in the east, and the cold Benguela current, along the Atlantic Ocean coastline in the west.

The effects of these two ocean currents can be shown at the narrow finger of the Cape Peninsula where water temperatures average 4º C higher on the east side than on the west.

Rainfall occurs in summer for the majority of the country, with the exception of Cape Town which experiences winter rains.

For South African climate and weather information specific to the major geographical regions, please refer to the regions below

Cape Town Weather

In general, the Western Cape, the province where Cape Town resides, enjoys a typically Mediterranean climate. Warm, dry summers with a low rainfall alternate with relatively mild, wet winters.

Winters in the Western Cape are ideal for romantic getaways, especially for those wanting to explore the Winelands. Amongst all the rainy weather – perfect for snuggling in front of an open fire with a glass of fine Cape red – there are delightful, crisp, sunny days which invite you to leave the warmth of your guest house and enjoy the outdoors. However, spectacular storms are not uncommon in the winter months, earning the region the nickname “Cape of Storms”.

March and April are the most popular months for visiting the Cape as the weather is close to idyllic, the “Cape Doctor” – a strong South Easterly wind that gusts a good deal of the mid summer months has blown itself out by then and the beaches and shops are free from the summer holiday crowds. The autumnal colours at during these months enhance the already beautiful landscape.

Cape spring is a great time to visit the fruit farming regions and enjoy the apple and cherry blossoms sprinkling the valleys like 100s and 1000s on a birthday cake. Alternately take in the world-famous wildflower display that adorns the West Coast, attracting hordes of visitors every year.

Summers in the Cape are all about the beaches. Bleached white, soft sandy shores and aquamarine waves line the entire coastline of the province. Just remember that if the wind is blowing you may need to shelter behind some rocks.

Fast Facts on Cape Town / Western Cape Climate

  • Mild Mediterranean climate
  • Warm, dry, windy summers – temperatures average between 15 and 27 degrees Celsius
  • Cool wet winters – temperatures average between 5 and 22 degrees Celsius
  • Best time to visit – Autumn (March and April)
  • The coast is 3-5 degrees cooler than the inland regions, and tends to be windier.
  • Snowfalls occur inland in the Boland and Cederberg regions in winter
  • West Coast wildflowers are on display each spring
  • Welcome the whales between July and September
  • Beware the Cape Doctor in summer – hold on to your hat!

Gauteng

This inland region may not have the coastal appeal of Cape Town and KZN, but Gauteng boasts a delightful climate that is not too hot, too humid, too wet or too windy.

While the temperatures do plummet over mid winter, bringing frost and very bracing early mornings and evenings, this only lasts about 6 weeks on average and the winter daytimes tend to be sunny, crisp and clear - perfect for any outdoor activities.

In Gauteng summertime the living is easy - you can enjoy warm and windfree days followed by balmy nights. There are brief thunderstorms most summer afternoons – spectacular displays of lightning with a soundtrack of rolling thunder with refreshing rain that cools down the air but does not bring a chill.

Johannesburg tends to be on average 2 degrees cooler than Pretoria (now known as Tshwane) - the other major Gauteng city, and South Africa’s capital.

Fast Facts on Johannesburg, Pretoria / Gauteng Climate

  • Idyllic weather conditions year-round
  • Dry winters with chilly mornings - temperatures average between 5 and 19 degrees Celsius
  • Warm summers with balmy nights - temperatures average between 17 and 28 degrees Celsius
  • Impressive thunderstorms most summer afternoons
  • Enjoy the site and scent of purple blossoms when more than 70 000 Jacaranda trees lining Pretoria’s streets bloom each spring

KwaZulu-Natal

If you enjoy your holidays sultry and sticky, sub tropical KwaZulu-Natal is your ideal South African destination. For the most part, expect hot, wet and humid summers and mild to warm dry winters with occasional rain.

The coastline stretches away from the city of Durban in both directions, offering seemingly endless golden beaches with warm waters (thanks to the Mozambique current) to wash away the heat of the day.

The further north you travel, to places such as Kosi Bay and St Lucia, the more noticeable the tropical nature of the climate becomes. Many visitors to KZN prefer to come to this humid region in winter months when the heat is less intense and the rest of South Africa is experiencing cold temperatures or winter rains.

Inland the Zululand region is lush and verdant with rolling hills, and if you want to escape the heat entirely head for the Great Escarpment and the magnificent Drakensberg mountains.

Fast Facts on Durban / KwaZulu-Natal

  • Durban boasts a remarkable average of 320 days of sunshine a year.
  • Summers are hot and humid - temperatures average between 23 to 33º C
  • Winters and warm and (mostly) dry – temperatures average between16 and 25º C
  • January is Durban’s hottest month with an average daily temperature of +/- 32ºC.
  • Sea temperatures along the coast rarely fall below 17º C - even in the mid-winter
  • Durban is, unsurprisingly, known as the “holiday city” of KwaZulu Natal
  • The Drakensberg mountains are the highest mountains in South Africa
  • In winters temperatures on top of the mountains may plunge to below -20 Celsius
  • The snowfalls on the mountain allow for skiing and other snow-dependant fun activities from May to early September
  • Snow can even occur in summer and a white Christmas has even occurred here

Eastern Cape and Free State

Sandwiched between the sub-tropical KZN and the Mediterranean Western Cape, the Eastern Cape has a unique climate influenced further by its marked topographical variations.

Along the Wild Coast in the North East beyond East London, conditions in summer are hot and humid with plenty of rain.

Inland, the province is sliced by the Great Escarpment, while the northern areas comprise the endless plains of the Plateau and the semi-arid Great Karoo.

If you travel further inland to the Free State you can expect extreme temperatures – hot summers and exceedingly chilly winters. Graaff-Reinet in the heart of this dry region experiences very hot dry summers.

For more moderate weather head for the coastal city of Port Elizabeth - also known as the friendly city. PE enjoys a daily average of +/- 7-8 hours of sunshine annually.

Fast Facts about Eastern Cape Climate

  • The Eastern Cape has mild winters - temperature averages between 7 and 20º C
  • Enjoy warm Eastern Cape summers - temperatures range from 16 to 26º C
  • Port Elizabeth is also known as the Windy City – don’t be caught with a short skirt on a gusty day!
  • The Karoo is great for star-gazing. You’ll be spoiled for wishes on all the shooting stars!