South Africa in
January

Starting the new year with a holiday is a brilliant way to shake off the winter blues and put a spring in your step throughout the month of January. If you’re after winter sunshine on your trip, then South Africa has it in bucketloads. 

South Africa is one of the most diverse and exciting places on the African continent, with a wide range of scenery and a brilliant selection of towns, cities and regions for visitors to explore. Although some of the more rural parts of the country start to experience tropical rainfall as the month progresses, temperatures across South Africa in January are high and offer the perfect weather conditions for a beach holiday.

Reasons to visit South Africa in January

Cape Town Coast
  • It’s the summer season in South Africa in January, meaning that you’ll likely experience very warm, dry and sunny weather
  • Whilst South Africa can be busy at the start of the month, you’ll find most places are much less busy as February approaches, which is ideal if you’re after a more relaxed holiday
  • January may not be a good month for a wildlife safari in South Africa, but bird enthusiasts will find that the lush, summer vegetation of the grasslands makes for fantastic bird-watching opportunities

Weather in South Africa in January

The weather in South Africa in January is one of the main reasons why this is such a popular month to visit the country. It’s summer season on the continent, and whilst some African countries experience wet weather in January, South Africa is relatively dry. 

Temperature

Temperatures vary across South Africa in January, with hotter weather in the north and more breezy conditions by the coast. Average high temperatures can reach around 27°C depending on where you visit, with low temperatures dropping quite considerably to 16-19°C when it gets dark. 

Sea Temperature

Beach holidays in South Africa are a particularly popular choice for those who visit in January, with average water temperatures between 20°C and 26°C that make swimming in the sea a refreshing treat. It is shark season in some parts of the country in January, but you are only likely to encounter small, harmless varieties of the species when you’re out swimming. 

Clouds and Rainfall

Rainfall varies across South Africa in January, with places such as Cape Town and Port Elizabeth only seeing around 3 days of rain each month, whilst Johannesburg and Durban see over 10 days of rain on average. There is moderate cloud cover throughout the month, with rainier parts of South Africa experiencing more overcast days. 

Sunshine Hours

There are around 10 hours of sunshine every day across most parts of South Africa, and roughly 14 hours of daylight. Sunrise tends to be around 6 am and sunset is at 8 pm, giving you lots of time to enjoy the country before it gets dark. 

Where to go in South Africa in January

Cape Town

The city of Cape Town on the coast of South Africa is one of the country’s most popular locations, but you shouldn’t let its busy reputation deter you from planning a visit. The weather in January offers ideal conditions for enjoying all that this city has to offer, from the urban attractions to its beautiful beaches. 

South Africa’s coast is best enjoyed at this time of year, and Cape Town offers a brilliant range of beaches for you to visit. To continue enjoying the great outdoors, there are also several nearby national parks offering a variety of wildlife spotting opportunities or the famous Table Mountain that overlooks Cape Town and is a great spot for breathtaking views. 

KwaZulu-Natal

If you’re after diversity, excitement and a lot of brilliant beaches, then the province of KwaZulu-Natal is just the right location for your January South Africa holiday. This brilliant part of the country has everything from mountain ranges to the old battlefields of ancient Zulu tribes.

Visiting the beach in South Africa in January is an absolute must if you are visiting, and the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal is perfect for this. You can enjoy the wonderful weather and warm sea temperatures for as long as you want, then head inland for an adrenaline rush as you try abseiling down Oribi Gorge or bungee swing from the top of Lehr’s Falls. 

Things to do in South Africa in January

Kirstenbosch

Enjoy the Flowers at Kirstenbosch

The Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens near Cape Town are a wonderful place to visit in January, as many of the flowers come into full bloom as the summer weather heats up. There is a huge variety of colours and scents to enjoy as you stroll through the gardens, and the hot, dry January weather is absolutely perfect for spending a day surrounded by nature. 

Drive the Garden Route

The Garden Route stretches from the east to the West Cape of South Africa and is known as being one of the most beautiful routes for a road trip in the country. January’s weather is ideal for lazy days spent exploring the coast, relaxing on the beach or getting lost in the lush vegetation that the area is so famous for, and you’ll get to enjoy the very best of the country as you visit cities, villages, beaches and vineyards. 

Scuba Dive with Sharks

The warm weather conditions make swimming in the sea a popular pastime for those visiting South Africa in January, but this month is also an ideal time to try scuba diving. Numerous locations offer safe scuba diving experiences with the sharks that flock to the coast at the start of the year, offering a thrilling and totally unforgettable marine experience, if you’re brave enough!

Crowds & costs

South Africa can be quite busy at the start of January, as it is still the Christmas holidays for many people and there are plenty of visitors coming to the country to make the most of some winter sunshine. Things usually quieten down towards the end of the month however, and you’ll find that prices for flights and accommodation start to drop as well.

January is low season for the majority of safari holidays, as the weather during the summer season means that the greenery in the grasslands and desert is very thick, making it harder to spot most wildlife. However, this means that many game reserves will be much quieter than in the middle of the year, so if you’re not too fussed about spotting any of Africa’s big five then it’s a great, and less expensive, time to go. 

January festivals & events

Kaapse Klopse

Also known as the Cape Town Minstrel Festival, Kaapse Klopse is a huge parade and celebration that takes place right at the start of January in Cape Town on South Africa’s coast. Residents and performers dress up in bright, glittering costumes to take part in a huge procession through the streets, accompanied by a riot of live music and dance.

The name ‘Minstrel Festival’ refers to the minstrel troupes that are playing different songs as they pass by spectators. You’ll see a huge variety of traditional performances as part of the festival, and it’s one of the most exciting events in South Africa in January. 

Thaipusam

Thaipusam is a Hindu festival that is celebrated by Tamil speaking communities in South Africa between January and February, and is an event dedicated to the Hindu god Murugan. This religious festival occurs during the full moon and involves a variety of traditions including body piercing and processions where participants carry offerings to the god, as well as music and dance.  

Kogelburg Nature Reserve

Frequently asked questions about South Africa in January

Is South Africa warm in January?

South Africa’s position in the southern hemisphere means that it experiences summer in January, so you can expect very warm and sunny weather whatever point of the month that you visit. If you’re looking for winter sunshine, you’ll certainly find some here. 

Do I need injections for South Africa?

There are a number of injections that are recommended for visitors to South Africa, depending on how long you are travelling for and where you will be staying. Recommended vaccinations include hepatitis A, typhoid, cholera and tetanus, but you can speak to your doctor about any others that might be necessary for you.

Summary

Some parts of South Africa have gained a bad reputation for their levels of crime and conflict, but as a tourist in the country, you are very unlikely to ever run into any trouble. From the excitement of cities like Johannesburg and Cape Town to the vast, wild beauty of the country’s national parks and game reserves, South Africa is full of adventure that makes it a firm favourite holiday destination.

This January, don’t spend your Christmas break shivering through the cold. Come and enjoy South Africa’s blissful sunshine, and explore the numerous wonders that this brilliant country has to offer. 

Want to find out more about the top destinations in Africa to visit in January? Read our guides to The Gambia and Cape Verde, or take a look at our rundown of Where to Go in January.

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