Weather in South Africa in December

Visit South Africa in December to experience the full splendor of early summer, when the weather is delightfully warm and the natural world is full of color and energy. The scenery is vibrant, adorned with a multitude of blooming flowers, and the climate provides an idyllic scene for both serene countryside relaxation and lively city walks. Our guide will help you make the most of the weather in South Africa in December, ensuring an unforgettable trip.

What is the weather like in South Africa in December?

December is the peak of summer in South Africa, characterized by warm or hot weather throughout most of the country. This period is usually sunny and bright, with long days that are ideal for outdoor activities and exploring South Africa's diverse landscapes.

However, sporadic thunderstorm rains may occur during this time in some regions, especially on the coast and in the Eastern Cape. These rains are usually brief and can be a refreshing respite from the heat, but they may require flexible travel plans, especially for outdoor adventures.

Transportation in December is generally reliable, although you should be prepared for busier roads and potentially crowded public transportation, as this month falls during high season for both international tourists and local holidaymakers.

Average rainfall in December varies considerably from region to region. The Western Cape Province receives minimal rainfall during the dry season, making it a great time to visit Cape Town and its surroundings. In contrast, the northeastern parts of South Africa, including Johannesburg and Kruger National Park, experience a wet season characterized by high humidity and frequent afternoon showers.

Overall, December is a great time to visit South Africa, with warm weather, lively outdoor activities, and a festive atmosphere. Whether you're interested in beach vacations, wildlife exploration or immersing yourself in urban culture, the weather in South Africa in December is conducive to a rich and varied experience.

Rough Guides tip: if you're hoping to make the most of your trip, consider connecting with our local travel experts.

best places to go with kids African penguin ( Spheniscus demersus) also known as the jackass penguin and black-footed penguin. Boulders colony. Cape Town. South Africa

African penguin, Cape Town, South Africa © Shutterstock

Temperatures in South Africa in December

December is summer in South Africa, with average high temperatures ranging from 25°C to 30°C (77°F to 86°F) and average low temperatures ranging from 15°C to 20°C (59°F to 68°F), indicating that it is generally hot throughout the country at this time.

Northern Regions

In the northern regions temperatures are warmer but slightly milder compared to coastal areas. Maximum temperatures can reach 28°C (82°F) during the day and drop to 15°C (59°F) at night. Highveld's altitude makes the cool evenings favorable for outdoor activities and wildlife watching.

Interior Plateau

South Africa's inland plateaus, including the Free State and Gauteng, have similar temperatures to the north, but maximum temperatures can be slightly higher due to the lower altitude. 

Daytime temperatures stay around 29°C (84°F) and nights drop to 16°C (61°F), providing a comfortable climate for exploring the cultural and historical attractions of the central parts of the country.

Coastal Areas

On the south coast, temperatures are slightly lower due to the moderating influence of the ocean. The average temperature is around 25°C (77°F) and the minimum is 15°C (59°F). This region enjoys warm weather without the northern heat, which is ideal for visiting beaches, hiking and vineyard tours.

Learn more and compare the weather in different months with our guide to the best time to visit South Africa.

Most beautiful country in the world Lion's Head, Cape Town, South Africa © Richard Cavalleri/Shutterstock

Lion's Head, Cape Town, South Africa © Richard Cavalleri/Shutterstock

Is December a good time to visit South Africa?

In December, South Africa fully immerses itself in the summer season, making it a vibrant and attractive time to visit. Warm, sunny weather prevails in most parts of the country, daylight hours increase, which maximizes opportunities for sightseeing and outdoor activities.

South Africa's summer vacation begins during this period, creating a festive atmosphere, especially in popular tourist destinations such as Cape Town, the Garden Route and coastal regions.

The warm weather in South Africa in December is ideal for beach lovers, wildlife enthusiasts and adventure seekers looking to explore South Africa's diverse landscapes, from the lush Winelands to the vast national parks.

However, it is important to note that it is also the rainy season in some parts of the country, such as the Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces, where afternoon thunderstorms are common but usually short-lived.

Overall, December is a fantastic time to visit South Africa, offering warm weather, vibrant scenery and plenty of activities to suit all tastes, despite it being one of the busiest months of the year.

Ready to take your trip without the hassle of planning and booking? See our tailor-made trip service.

What about crowds and costs?

December is the peak tourist season in South Africa, coinciding with local school vacations and the festive season. This influx of tourists leads to overcrowded tourist spots, especially in major cities and wildlife reserves. Due to the increased demand, accommodation and flight prices are usually at their highest, so it is important to book early to secure the most preferable options.

However, the perks of visiting South Africa in December include a vibrant summer atmosphere, festive events and the opportunity to enjoy outdoor activities under sunny skies. Despite the higher costs and crowds, the unique experiences available during this period - from beach vacations and safaris to exploring lush landscapes - make this a desirable time for many.

If you're looking for a more relaxed and economical vacation, it's worth looking at the shoulder seasons - March to May or September to November - where there are fewer tourists and lower prices.

Still planning your trip? Browse our South Africa itineraries for inspiration.

Buffels Bay, South Africa © Shutterstock

Buffels Bay, South Africa © Shutterstock

Festivals and events in South Africa in December

December in South Africa is marked by an array of vibrant festivals and events showcasing the country's rich cultural diversity and natural beauty. From musical performances in botanical gardens to colorful street parades and festive celebrations, the season offers something for everyone. Due to the popularity of these events, booking accommodation and event tickets in advance is highly recommended.

Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts

The Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts are a series of live musical performances set against the backdrop of the stunning Kirstenbosch National Botanic Gardens. These concerts are a great opportunity for visitors to enjoy a diverse line-up of musical talent, from classical to contemporary performers, and enjoy an outdoor picnic in one of Cape Town's most beautiful natural settings.

Beach Festivities

December also brings a host of beach festivities to South Africa's vast coastline. From themed beach parties to New Year's Eve celebrations, the country's beaches become centers of activity and joy. These events are perfect for those who want to bask in the sun, enjoy the sea and experience the vibrant holiday spirit that permeates the country during this season.

Christmas Celebrations

Christmas is a major holiday in South Africa, celebrated on December 25th with much festivity and joy. South Africans embrace the holiday with outdoor gatherings, festive decorations, and traditional meals, reflecting the summer season. 

Families come together to exchange gifts, and many attend church services. The blend of cultural traditions and the warm summer weather make Christmas in South Africa a unique and memorable experience.

Before you head to South Africa, also be sure to read our guide on whether South Africa is safe, which contains everything you need to know about travel safety.

View out over South Africa

South African view

Ready for your dream trip to South Africa in December?

Ready to see South Africa? You can easily book your trip today with our tailor-made trip service, which allows you to skip the planning and booking process completely. Our trips are designed by local travel experts who work with you to make your perfect adventure.

  • Cape Amazing: Cape Town Explored (8 days): Visit Cape Town, South Africa's most exciting city, following a circular route around the stunning peninsula. Take advantage of deserted sandy beaches, quaint towns and rich vineyards before heading to the Kapama Private Game Reserve to meet the big five.
  • Secret gem in South Africa - Northern Cape Self Drive (17 days): Embark on an epic road trip adventure from Cape Town to the Northern Cape. See breathtaking floral arrangements in Namaqualand, marvel at the diversity of wildlife in Karoo National Park and take in the awe-inspiring sight of the cascades of Augrabies Falls.
  • The Cape Peninsula and Safaris in Kruger and Pilanesberg (15 days): South Africa's wildlife is still truly wild, and you'll see for yourself on this exciting two-week trip. Enjoy whale watching in Cape Town and your first safari in Aquila before heading north to the famous Kruger and Pilanesberg National Parks with all their wildlife.

Want to be better prepared for your trip to South Africa? Read our useful travel tips for visiting South Africa. And if you're going on a family trip, also find out all the information you need from our guide to South Africa with kids.

Standton at night, Capetown, South Africa

Standton at night, Cape Town, South Africa © Shutterstock

Visit South Africa in other months

Exploring South Africa is not limited to just one season: each month offers unique experiences and breathtaking sights to suit every type of traveler. From witnessing majestic natural phenomena to experiencing vibrant culture and diverse landscapes, here's what each month has to offer:

  • January: kick off the year with warm temperatures, vibrant cultural festivals, and exploring stunning beaches and diverse wildlife.
  • February: the peak of summer brings scorching temperatures that are ideal for beach lounging and thrilling safari adventures.
  • March: a great time to enjoy the pleasant transition to autumn with cooler weather — ideal for outdoor activities and wine tasting.
  • April: crisp autumn days that are perfect for exploring national parks and indulging in delicious seasonal produce.
  • May: the start of winter sees mild temperatures — ideal for spotting wildlife and enjoying outdoor adventures with fewer crowds.
  • June: a great time for a trip in chilly temperatures — think fireside coziness and discovering the scenic allure of the Garden Route.
  • July: take a trip to enjoy the winter chill with clear skies perfect for stargazing and more.
  • August: witness the annual migration of whales along the southern coast while enjoying crisp mornings and sunny afternoons.
  • September: spring brings renewed life to the landscape, with blooming flowers and opportunities for scenic hikes in the countryside.
  • October: thanks to warmer weather, October is ideal for outdoor activities like visiting national parks and indulging in local cuisine.
  • November: visit during this month for early summer vibes with longer days and the chance to witness wildflowers blooming across the Western Cape.
Olga Sitnitsa

written by
Olga Sitnitsa

updated 03.06.2024

Online editor at Rough Guides, specialising in travel content. Passionate about creating compelling stories and inspiring others to explore the world.

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