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South Africa climate guide
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Below are average maximum temperatures at popular destinations in South Africa for next month - May. Select a destination to see the climate guide for all months of the year.
Recommended for South Africa
The climate guide for South Africa shows long term monthly weather averages processed from data supplied by CRU (University of East Anglia), the Met Office & the Netherlands Meteorological Institute. Find out more about our data sources.
Metric (°C / mm) | Imperial (°F / inches)
South Africa climate overview
South Africa is situated at the southern most part of the African continent bordering Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. It is Africa's most industrialised nation, with much of its wealth based on mineral resources, for example half of all the gold produced in the world comes from South Africa.
By African standards South Africa is not particularly large. The most notable geographic feature is a vast plateau that stretches from the north to a succession of mountain ranges that divide the high interior from a fertile strip that runs all the way down the Indian Ocean coast to the Cape. The spectacular Drakensberg Mountains form part of this chain and extend from northeast to southwest for over 1,100 km (700 miles).
The climate of South Africa varies from tropical with a winter dry season in the northeast to sub-tropical with a summer dry season in the extreme southwest. With the exception of a narrow band along the south coast the whole of the western half of the country is dry to arid, becoming drier as you travel towards Namibia and the fringes of the Kalahari Desert.
The most fertile region is in the southeast where most of the population is centred and where crops such as sugar cane grow. Here and in the north there is abundant rainfall during the summer months from November to March. However even at this time of year there is also a great deal of sunshine. In Johannesburg the cloudiest month still has an average 60% of daylight hours with bright sunshine.
In contrast, the extreme southwest around Cape Town has a summer dry season with rain falling in the winter months from April to September. The climate here is similar to the Mediterranean and parts of southern California, and the area is well known for the wine it produces.
Along the coastal belt between Cape Town and Durban there is less of a marked dry season because of the influence of the warmer waters of the Indian Ocean. There are beaches along much of this coastline and some spectacular scenery particularly to the north of East London.
Much of the high plateau in the north of the country is open grassland where crops like wheat will grow. Because of the altitude, over 1,000 metres (3,300 ft), temperatures are moderated during the summer months but in the winter dry season they regularly drop to freezing. Snow falls on the Drakensberg Mountains and there is even a ski resort in the Eastern Cape.
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