Weather in South Africa in May

Welcome to South Africa in May, where the weather gracefully transitions from autumn to winter, painting a picture-perfect scene across the landscape. As the southern hemisphere bids farewell to the balmy days of summer, May welcomes cooler temperatures and clear skies, making it an ideal time to explore this diverse country during its shoulder season. Here’s our guide to the weather in South Africa in May.

What is the weather like in South Africa in May?

The weather in South Africa in May is typically pleasant, marking the transition from autumn to winter in the southern hemisphere. Across the country, May generally brings cooler temperatures compared to the summer months, with clear skies and lower humidity levels. 

In popular destinations like Cape Town and Johannesburg, May tends to be characterized by mild days and cooler evenings, making it comfortable for outdoor activities such as hiking, wildlife safaris, and exploring cultural attractions.

May falls within the shoulder season in South Africa, making it an excellent time to visit for those seeking fewer crowds and more affordable accommodations compared to the peak summer months. However, it's worth noting that May can also experience occasional rainfall, particularly in regions like the Western Cape, which may impact your outdoor plans (but typically doesn't persist for long periods).

On average, rainfall in South Africa in May varies by region. Coastal areas like Cape Town may receive around 70-90mm of rainfall during the month, while inland regions such as Johannesburg might experience less precipitation, averaging around 20-40mm.

Overall, May can be a great time for your visit to South Africa because it offers a balance of comfortable weather, fewer crowds, and the opportunity to experience diverse activities without the intense heat of summer or the chilly temperatures of winter. You'll just want to be sure to prepare for the occasional rain. 

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

Kirstenbosch National park in cape town, South Africa © Shutterstock

Kirstenbosch National park in Cape Town, South Africa © Shutterstock

Temperatures in South Africa in May?

May in South Africa presents a moderate climate across its regions, with temperatures varying from cool to warm depending on the location. It's neither extremely hot nor cold, making it suitable for a wide range of outdoor activities and sightseeing

Coastal areas

Along the coast, such as in Cape Town, average temperatures range from 9°C to 18°C (48°F to 64°F). The coastal climate provides cool but comfortable conditions, ideal for sightseeing, coastal walks, and enjoying outdoor activities like wine tasting in the nearby Winelands.

For more details on the weather in Cape Town, read our guide to the best time to visit Cape Town.

Interior plateau

On the interior plateau, cities like Johannesburg experience slightly warmer temperatures, with averages ranging from 8°C to 20°C (46°F to 68°F). This mild weather is suitable for exploring cultural attractions, embarking on safari adventures, or visiting historical sites such as the Cradle of Humankind.

Northern regions

In the northern regions, including cities like Durban, temperatures are warmer, ranging from 15°C to 25°C (59°F to 77°F). The warmer climate along the eastern coast offers perfect conditions for beach activities, water sports, and exploring the rich biodiversity of wildlife reserves and coastal landscapes.

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Cape Town, South Africa - aerial view © Mark Van Overmeire/Shutterstock

Cape Town, South Africa - aerial view © Mark Van Overmeire/Shutterstock

Is May a good time to visit South Africa?

May is a fantastic time to visit South Africa.  As South Africa transitions from autumn to winter during May, the weather across most of the country is generally mild and dry — which is perfect for those who want to experience outdoor activities and wildlife viewing.

In popular destinations such as Cape Town and the Garden Route, May brings cooler temperatures and less rainfall, creating comfortable conditions for exploring the city's vibrant culture, majestic landscapes, and iconic landmarks like Table Mountain. 

Also worth noting — May marks the beginning of the whale watching season along the coast, particularly in places like Hermanus. Many travel to South Africa during this month to witness the majestic southern right whales frolicking in the ocean.

In the game reserves and national parks, such as Kruger National Park, May offers excellent safari opportunities with the vegetation becoming sparser, making wildlife easier to spot around water sources. However, it's important to note that in regions like the Western Cape, evenings and early mornings can be cooler, so you'll want to  packing layers. 

Overall, May presents an ideal balance of comfortable weather, fewer crowds, and exciting wildlife encounters, making it a prime time to explore South Africa.

What about crowds and costs?

In May, South Africa experiences moderate tourist traffic, making it a favorable time to visit for those who prefer fewer crowds compared to peak seasons. Prices for accommodations and activities are generally reasonable during this period, as it falls outside of the high-demand months such as December and January. However, it's essential to note that prices may vary depending on specific locations and events happening in the country.

Visiting in May also allows travelers to enjoy similar weather conditions to the shoulder seasons of April and September. These months offer slightly fewer crowds compared to the peak summer months while still providing enjoyable weather for outdoor activities.

Overall, choosing May for your trip means balance between manageable crowds and reasonable prices, making it an attractive time for those seeking a more relaxed and budget-friendly experience in South Africa.

What are you most excited to see in South Africa? See our South Africa itineraries for inspiration.

Cape vineyard Buitenverwachting, South Africa © Gareth Weeks/Shutterstock

The weather in South Africa in May is great for discovering vineyards © Gareth Weeks/Shutterstock

Festivals and events in South Africa in May

If you're arranging your May trip to South Africa, take note of these events. However, be mindful that if you're considering attending, it's crucial to secure your accommodation well in advance. For additional ideas to enhance your South African excursion, explore our list of the best things to do in South Africa

Franschhoek Literary Festival

One standout festival is the Franschhoek Literary Festival, held in the picturesque town of Franschhoek. This event brings together renowned authors, poets, and literary enthusiasts for captivating discussions, book signings, and workshops. It offers travelers a unique opportunity to engage with South Africa's rich literary scene and immerse themselves in thought-provoking conversations.

Groves & Vineyards Festival

The Groves & Vineyards Festival in Gauteng celebrates the country's flourishing wine and olive industry. Set against the backdrop of scenic vineyards, this festival offers wine tastings, gourmet food pairings, live music, and artisanal markets. It's a delightful way for travelers to savor South Africa's finest wines and culinary delights while enjoying the breathtaking countryside.

Zoo Lake Family Braai Picnic & Color Festival

For a fun-filled family experience, the Zoo Lake Family Braai Picnic & Color Festival in Johannesburg is not to be missed. This event combines traditional South African braai (barbecue) culture with lively color festivities. Travelers can enjoy delicious grilled food, participate in vibrant color throwing activities, and soak up the festive atmosphere with their loved ones.

Historic Kimberly diamond mine world heritage site © Shutterstock

Historic Kimberly diamond mine — UNESCO World Heritage Site © Shutterstock

Ready for your dream trip to South Africa in May?

Skip the hassle of planning and booking with our tailor-made trip service. Our trips are custom-designed by local travel experts.

A Kruger adventure (3 days): Visit Kruger National Park, a top destination in South Africa. Start and end your trip in Johannesburg, then fly domestically to George or Cape Town for more adventures.

A family self-drive in South Africa & Swaziland (17 days): Explore Kruger National Park and beyond with a rental car, ideal for family adventures. Discover wildlife in Swaziland and Hluhluwe at your leisure.

Safaris, culture & wine (17 days): Discover South Africa's essence with a whirlwind itinerary: Johannesburg, Kruger NP safaris, Cape Peninsula wine tasting, and Eastern Cape exploration.

Visit South Africa in other months

Not sure exactly when to plan your trip? Here’s a quick month-by-month summary of the weather in South Africa: 

  • June: Winter sets in across South Africa in June, bringing chilly mornings and nights, especially in the interior regions, while coastal areas remain relatively mild.
  • July: July is typically the coldest month in South Africa, with frosty mornings and clear, crisp days, especially in the highveld and mountainous areas.
  • August: Winter persists in August, with cold mornings and evenings but gradually warming daytime temperatures as spring approaches.
  • September: Spring arrives in South Africa in September, with mild to warm temperatures and occasional rainfall, particularly in the northeastern provinces.
  • October: October is characterized by increasing temperatures and blooming flora, with pleasant weather ideal for outdoor activities and safaris.
  • November: South Africa experiences warm to hot temperatures in November, with occasional thunderstorms heralding the arrival of the summer rainy season.
  • December: December brings the onset of summer in South Africa, with hot and humid conditions prevalent across much of the country, along with afternoon thunderstorms in many regions.
  • January: In South Africa, January typically sees warm to hot temperatures with occasional thunderstorms, especially in the afternoon.
  • February: February continues with warm weather, often accompanied by sporadic rainfall, particularly in the northeastern regions.
  • March: As summer transitions to autumn, March brings warm days and cooler nights, with decreasing rainfall in most parts of the country.
  • April: Autumn progresses in South Africa during April, characterized by mild temperatures and clear skies, making it an ideal time for outdoor activities
Dre Roelandt

written by
Dre Roelandt

updated 06.05.2024

Dre Roelandt is originally from the United States but lives and works in Berlin, Germany. Dre is a freelance writer and artist with a passion for travelling. They are an in-house Content Editor at Rough Guides.

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