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The Secret Season: WINTER in South Africa – Where to Travel, and Why

Updated Tuesday, 16 April 2019

South Africa does not do blizzards and snow banks. You will never (except on very rare occasions) find your plane grounded for ice on the wings.

In fact, the deepest snow you’ll find is deep in the mountains, or on their peaks.

The daily average temperature is between 16-20 degrees C (61-68 degrees F), in Durban and Mpumalanga it’s even higher, around 23 degrees C.

Which is why winter is the country’s secret season. Read on to find out where to travel, and why winter in South Africa is such a great idea.

10 Top Towns for Winter in South Africa

Berea in Durban

Durban

Because it doesn’t take rocket science to work out that the intense humidity of February and March makes for an idyllically mild June and July. You will even manage to head into the Indian Ocean when the sun’s out (which it is on most days).

Durban’s south coast

Perfect beaches  and one seaside resort after another – Umkomaas, Scottburgh, Pennington, Hibberdene, Southport, Ramsgate, Glenmore Beach – without the December crowds; it’s got to be everyone’s idea of bliss.

Nelspruit

Winter in Mpumalanga is tropical t-shirt weather, on the whole, although the mornings and evenings are a little nippy. But the Kruger is just down the road, and game is easier to spot at this time of year.

Nelspruit

Barberton

This historical little former gold-mining town is a leafy collection of period buildings, intriguing historical walks, interesting folk, and some of the best preserved truly ancient rocks on Earth.

Kaapsehoop

Kaapsehoop lies above Nelspruit and is one of the best-kept secrets of the Lowveld. Up here there are mountain mists, a pack of wild horses that roam free, an endangered blue swallow, and a series of mysterious rocks known as Adam’s Calendar.

Tzaneen

Famous for its tropical fruits (think mangoes and bananas), Tzaneen has a waterfall (Debengeni), an indigenous forest, a Rain Queen (Modjadjiskloof), the Magoebaskloof, and fantastic weather.

The R71 between Tzaneen and Haenertsburg

Haenertsburg

Mountains meet quaint town is the theme of this compelling village in the northern Drakensberg. On its doorstep are hiking and MTB trails, frequent mists, kloofs, indigenous forest and the Wolkberg Wilderness Area.

Sutherland

For a winter snow experience there is only a handful of villages, and Sutherland’s proximity to Cape Town makes it a popular choice in the winter months, although timing your visit with snow is tricky.

Rhodes

This fairytale historical village lies right up in the Drakensberg highlands. Half the adventure is getting there, and if you’re a 4×4 enthusiast then the promise of eight intrepid mountain passes is more than an incentive.

Hogsback

Hogsback

High up in the Amatola Mountains (the reason it gets intermittent snow) Hogsback’s otherworldly charm and centuries’ old indigenous forest, steep mountain roads and myriad hiking trails draws visitors at any time of year, but winter especially.

10 Top Attractions for Winter in South Africa

iSimangaliso Wetland Park

The country’s now third-largest protected area in St Lucia includes Lake St Lucia and spans 280 km of coastline, a natural ensemble of lakes, swamp forest, ancient coastal dunes, and an estuarine system, with World Heritage status.

Kruger

One of the world’s largest game parks, Kruger is one of the country’s biggest draw cards https://blog.sa-venues.com/provinces/mpumalanga/kruger-the-low-down/, and never more so than during the winter months (outside of school holidays).

Hluhluwe

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi

One of the best parks https://blog.sa-venues.com/activities/romance-in-south-africa/ at which to see black and white rhino, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi lies in the heart of Zululand close to the village of Hluhluwe, and manages to combine lush scenery with a network of hiking trails, and camping deep in the bush.

Blyde River Canyon

When it comes to dramatic beauty the Blyde River Canyon, the world’s third deepest canyon, is hard to beat. Combined with the Panorama Route it is on every tourist’s list and a winter must.

Cradle of Humankind

The World Heritage site just outside Johannesburg is where they unearthed the 2.3 million year old Mrs Ples. It’s the world’s richest hominid site, producing 40% of the world’s fossils of our human ancestors.

The Kgalagadi Transfontier Park

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

It may be in the northerly reaches of the country but this vast semi-desert wilderness, with its surreal landscape, is almost twice the size of Kruger and incredibly hot between November to March. June to August (winter) is perfect, but take the woollies along for early mornings and evenings.

Drakensberg Highlands

The rugged and isolated Drakensberg highlands lie in the Eastern Cape at the southerly tip of this range of mountains, with Rhodes as the pivotal town. One of the country’s least populated areas, some parts of which are practically unnavigable, one can only reach this area via a series of mountain passes, or hiking trails. It’s great for snow in winter.

Matroosberg

One of the most likely spaces in the country to find snow on the ground during winter, the Matroosberg, just outside Ceres, boasts the highest mountain peak in the province.

Matroosberg Private Game Reserve

Swartberg Nature Reserve

The Swartberg Pass is one of the most incredible mountain passes in the world; a dirt road that winds its way up to a summit of 1583 metres above sea level. It lies within the Swartberg Nature Reserve, flanked both north and west by other reserves that, combined, but one huge mountainous conservation area with snow on its peaks during winter.

Koue Bokkeveld

Explore the off the beaten track route between Ceres and Citrusdal (R303) and climb to where you’ll find local fruit farms, a valley and a climate so different it will inspire the poet in you. As its name suggests, there is snow up here during winter.

Why? The 7 Doubleyous of Winter in South Africa

Weather

Most days during winter are clear. If you’re heading to the Western Cape then there is a greater chance you’ll run into rain, but if you stick to the more temperate provinces – KZN, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo – there’s every chance that South Africa’s winter is better than the average European summer.

Lion

Wildlife

Not only are most of the game parks a lot milder at this time of year, but the thick bush of summer is dry and minimal during winter, which means you have far more chance of spotting game.

Whales

The southern right whale visits the Cape coastline during July/August, and seeing them is one of the highlights of any winter visit to the country.

Wildflowers

Technically the wild flowers bloom in ‘spring’ but they appear in what South Africans consider their winter – July and August.

Cape Town Flowers

Walks

Some of the country’s best hikes are easier to do when the weather is cooler.

Waning crowds

There are fewer people visiting South Africa during the winter season, and even locals tend to stay home during the colder months.

Winter specials

Winter is regarded as the country’s ‘off season’ and there are more special offers at this time of year than at any other, unless you’re travelling in the school holidays.

Wartrail Skywalk

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