South Africa Weather in January 2024: Travel Tips for First-Timers

By Margaux | Updated Sep. 7, 2023

January is in South Africa's summer, and a visitor can expect warm to hot weather throughout, with the occasional rainfall in certain spots. In January we recommend visiting Cape Town, Johannesburg, Kruger National Park, and the KwaZulu-Natal coast. Read on to find out more about travel and weather, including temperatures, rainfall, humidity, and tips for January.

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South Africa Weather in January: Overview

Averages:

  • Temperature range: 17–29°C (63–84°F)
  • Rainfall: 9 cm (4 inches)
  • Rainy days: 10
  • Sunshine hours/day: 9.5
  • Sea temperature: 20°C (68°F)
  • Humidity: 69–71% (muggy to humid throughout the country)

With January falling in South Africa's summer, the weather is mostly warm to hot throughout the entire country. Places like the Kalahari Desert and Kruger National Park are particularly hot, peaking at 36°C (97°F) and 33°C (91°F) respectively on average, while Cape Town and Johannesburg are warm with average highs of 26°C (78°F), cooling down to mild lows in the evenings.

Most of South Africa is dry in January, with the exception of the east (Johannesburg, Kruger National Park, and the Drakensberg Mountains), where you can expect moderate rainfall.

In general, January is a great time of year to visit for a beach holiday or to explore Cape Town and its surrounding areas, with lots of sunshine every day (around 11 hours a day on average).

January Climate Comparison (Averages) for South Africa's Top Tourism Areas

City/Area Temp. Rainfall
Cape Town (beaches, wineries, whale watching) Warm Semi-arid
Johannesburg (largest city, travel hub) Warm Moderate
Kruger National Park (top safari area) Hot Moderate
Kalahari (northern desert trips) Hot Low
Drakensberg Mountains (hiking, near Battlefields) Warm Moderate
City/Area Daily High Daily Low
Cape Town (beaches, wineries, whale watching) 26ºC (79ºF) 16ºC (61ºF)
Johannesburg (largest city, travel hub) 26ºC (79ºF) 15ºC (59ºF)
Kruger National Park (top safari area) 33ºC (91ºF) 21ºC (70ºF)
Kalahari (northern desert trips) 36ºC (97ºF) 20ºC (68ºF)
Drakensberg Mountains (hiking, near Battlefields) 24ºC (75ºF) 13ºC (55ºF)
City/Area Rain (cm) Rain (in)
Cape Town (beaches, wineries, whale watching) 2 1
Johannesburg (largest city, travel hub) 13 5
Kruger National Park (top safari area) 9 4
Kalahari (northern desert trips) 5 2
Drakensberg Mountains (hiking, near Battlefields) 17 7

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The Best Places to Visit in South Africa in January

Given January's long, sunny days, we highly recommend visiting South Africa for a combination of sightseeing, exploring the cities, seeing wildlife as well as nature, and relaxing on the beach. South Africa has beautiful ocean destinations that won't disappoint, which lots of potential for activities, enjoying beautiful landscapes, and learning about this magical country.

1. Kick-Off Your South African Adventure in Cape Town on a Beach

Cape Town is South Africa's oldest city, and it is a buzzing city with lots of nightlife, a busy harbor, and beautiful nature surrounding it.

Given that Cape Town's weather is warm and dry in January, we recommend visiting one of the incredible beaches Cape Town has to offer. Boulders Beach, Bikini Beach, and Clifton Beach are all great choices amongst many more options, with water sports and activities on offer at the beaches.

If you have more time there are also lots of options for day-trips from Cape Town. To learn more about what we recommend to see in the city, check out our piece about visiting South Africa in March for more tips on museums and sightseeing, and our piece on visiting South Africa in April for more information about climbing nearby Table Mountain.

2. Delve into South Africa's History in Johannesburg

Many international flights land in Johannesburg, and we recommend staying for a couple of days to explore the city. There are a lot of important museums in the city, and the nearby townships also play an important role in South Africa's history.

We recommend visiting the Apartheid Museum, Nelson Mandela Square, Nelson Mandela's House, the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens, and if you are traveling with your family, there is also Gold Reef City Theme Park to keep everybody entertained.

3. Snorkel or Dive off the KwaZulu-Natal Coast

South Africa's eastern coast, particularly the KwaZulu-Natal coast which is not far from South Africa's border with Mozambique, has some of the most beautiful snorkeling spots in South Africa on offer. January is a great time of year to do this, particularly in Sodwana Bay, when temperatures are warm in the daytime.

The reefs are home to turtles, eel, and hundreds of colorful fish species.

The area is also a good spot to go on a safari, with the nearby parks being home to hippos, rhinos, hyenas, buffalos, zebras, wildebeest, and chameleons.

4. See Lions with your Own Eyes in Kruger National Park

While January is hot in Kruger National Park, you can't miss it. Most safari tours would see you going on both early morning and late afternoon game drives, to avoid the heat, and you also would be in a covered vehicle for the duration of your trip.

Visiting Kruger National Park in January has some perks too, as there are lots of newborn animals, and there are lots of birds to spot due to migration trends.

And, of course, you can't miss the big five: the lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and buffalos are waiting for you!

High Season: Busier and More Expensive

January falls in South Africa's peak tourist season, which runs from November to March in its summer months. This is because the weather is great, and many visitors come from the Northern Hemisphere to escape the colder months.

As a result, the beaches are busier and the safari parks might be too. We recommend booking in advance if you're looking to visit South Africa in January. Global Highlights can help you book your ideal trip in advance to make sure you get to see everything you want to in South Africa.

You'll particularly notice more crowds of tourists around New Year's Day (January 1), when many visitors will be around having celebrated Christmas and New Year's in South Africa. It is also a national holiday, and certain restaurants and museums might be closed as a result so we recommend planning ahead.

What to Wear in January

January is a warm time of the year to visit South Africa, and we recommend bringing lots of light-colored clothing in natural fabrics. Cotton trousers, linen shorts and shirts, or dresses and skirts are a good idea to beat the heat.

We also recommend bringing plenty of mosquito spray, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to protect yourself from the sun, especially if you are planning on spending some time on the beach, on a boat, or walking around during the daytime. If you want to go snorkeling, you can either bring your own equipment if you prefer using that, or you usually will be able to rent some.

As always, supportive footwear is a must. For visitors looking to be more active and go on a hike during their time in South Africa, we also recommend bringing proper hiking gear.

Monthly Weather in South Africa

Contact Global Highlights to Plan Your South Africa Tour

It can be intimidating trying to figure out where to visit in South Africa, especially if it is your first time there. If you need help putting together your ideal itinerary, please reach out to Global Highlights, as our experts can put together your requirements and needs, and prepare a bespoke trip for you.

Our trip arrangements include everything from accommodation to travel and sightseeing, making sure that you have an incredible time with the least amount of stress during your time in South Africa! Contact us to begin a tour inquiry.

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