When is best to visit Cape Town

February 23rd 2018  |  South Africa, Travel  |  by  Charlotte Opperman
visit Cape Town
Clifton Cape View

Broadly speaking, Cape Town’s climate is the reverse of our own – so in the depths of the European winter it is high summer in the Cape, just one of the many reasons it’s such a popular spot for a winter holiday! But don’t ignore the rest of the year; there’s something to do and see here year round.

If you aren’t familiar with this glorious city and the Cape region here’s a little background to get you started:

South Africa’s Cape Region offers something rather different from a standard safari and this part of the continent feels almost European. At its heart is Cape Town itself, one of the world’s most beautiful cities, enclosed by a necklace of bays and hemmed in against the iconic cliffs rising up to Table Mountain.

Scenic Cape Town

Scenic Cape Town

Cape Town is where you’ll find fine boutique hotels and restaurants, some of Africa’s best shopping and plenty of sophisticated comfort. The Victoria and Albert Waterfront has been beautifully restored into a shopping mall paradise of bars and restaurants but the past hasn’t been denied. From here, you hop onto small boats to tour Robben Island, the infamous prison of the Apartheid regime. Stroll the tiered, multicoloured houses of newly fashionable Bo Kaap, touch into local life on the social scene of Long Street or go a step further with a township tour: this is a city that opens easily to visitors.

The Silo, hotel and art museum, Cape Town

The Silo, hotel and art museum, Cape Town

The natural world is only steps away. There are penguins on Boulders Beach, seals can be seen in the surrounding waters and sharks are a constant presence in cool waters better known for looking at than bathing in. Over all this, Table Mountain is a constant presence often topped with its ‘tablecloth’ cloud but always there. The peak is easily reached by cablecar but this is only the start of an adventure that can last all day. Paths thread across the summit amongst sunbathing hyraxes, and various trails, of differing levels of difficulty, descend to the base.

Cable car on Table Mountain

Cable car on Table Mountain

With good roads and clear signage the Cape Region is perfect self-driving country, with leisurely touring drives skirting dramatic Chapman’s Peak, heading out through to the vineyards of Constantia or reaching to the fynbos of Cape Point, where the continent extends into the Southern Ocean. Cape Town’s winelands, centred around the towns of Paarl, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek are within easy day trip range.

Wineland views, Delaire Graff, Stellenbosch

Wineland views, Delaire Graff, Stellenbosch

If Cape Town doesn’t really feel African, it doesn’t have to. It’s a glamorous, sophisticated city in a beautiful setting, an irresistible European hub marooned on long-forgotten sailing trade routes. It is also a good base for exploring Africa’s iconic wildlife without the risk of malaria: head north to the Cederberg Mountains, riddled with cave art and fringed by the wild Agulhas coast, or east along the coast where whales bask offshore.

Pretty Cape Dutch architecture, Grand Roche, Paarl, Winelands

Pretty Cape Dutch architecture, Grande Roche, Paarl, Winelands

No journey to South Africa would be complete without some time in Cape Town, the ‘Mother City’.

So when is best to go:

Spring – September to October.  Great for Garden Route, Cape Town, whale watching

Temperatures are around 15 to 25 °C so while there’s still a chance of rain, things are definitely warming up.  It’s a wonderful time of year to take a trip down the Garden Route with the endemic fynbos vegetation in full bloom.  There’s still a good chance to see whales off the Western Cape with both land and boat based whale watching available, either from a handful of lodges scattered along the coast, or from Hermanus which is within an hour’s drive of Cape Town itself.

Picnic amid the fynbos, Grootbos

Picnic amid the fynbos, Grootbos

Summer – November to February.  Great for Cape Town

If you want almost guaranteed sunshine then this is the time to go, when you’ll find deep blue skies and temperatures between 25 and 35 °C.  The Christmas and New Year period is great fun, but it will be busy so it’s wise to book ahead if you plan to travel over this time.  Visit outside the peak festive season and you’ll have things a little quieter but still gloriously warm and sunny.

Glorious Cape Town, Ellerman House, c Wim van den Heever

Glorious Cape Town, Ellerman House,  image credit Wim van den Heever

Autumn – March to May.  Great for Cape Town, family safari, winelands

The days are still warm, with temperatures ranging from 14 to 25 °C and just the odd chance of rain.  It’s a great time to snatch an Easter family holiday as not only is the Cape area still good, it’s a wonderful time to safari elsewhere in the country.  The grape harvest hits full swing during the Autumn so it’s a lovely time to visit the wineland region too, with lots going on and plenty to explore.

Luxury accommodation in the winelands, La Residence, Franschhoek

Luxury accommodation in the winelands, La Residence, Franschhoek

Winter – June to August – Great for whale watching and safari

Weather-wise, Cape Town isn’t quite so appealing right now with temperatures around 13 to 18 °C and a good chance of strong wind and rain. It’s not a complete write off as you’ll get the odd sunny day too, some lushly green scenery and most impressively, fabulous whale watching with fantastic sightings – particularly of southern right whales congregating to give birth – close to the shore.  The safari areas of Kruger and Madikwe are really good now too, so a few days whale watching would work wonderfully with some time on safari.

Prime whale watching spot, Rocktail

Prime whale watching spot, Rocktail Beach Camp

What next?

We would be delighted to help you plan a holiday, or answer any questions about visiting Cape Town. Our team of experts have travelled widely throughout Africa. They can offer expert advice on every type of safari from family and beach holidays to riding and primate safaris.  If you would like to talk to someone who has been there and done it, please just send us an email or give us a call.

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