South Africa’s stunning cities are only enhanced by their incredible weather. With such a wide variety of climates spread across our beautiful country, each major city in South Africa has its own, distinct weather. The question that often follows — which South African city has the best weather?
The weather can really make or break your experience living in a city. So whether you’re looking for a new home or just a quick vacation, it’s best to know what you’re getting yourself into before it rains on your parade.
The competition is tough with some strong contenders, so it’s going to be a close call. Let the showdown begin!
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South Africa has a very diverse climate — with the hot and dry desert in the northwest, the subtropical humidity to the east, the cold and rainy in the south and the semi-desert plains rolling down the middle.
Its position in the southern hemisphere means that it has fairly moderate temperatures all year round, ranging from 15°C - 36°C in the summer and falling to around -2°C - 26°C in the winter. While it definitely depends on the area, South Africa as a whole is pretty dry, with an average rainfall of 464 mm, which is almost half the global average at 860 mm.
With the basics out of the way, let’s look at the weather of each major city in South Africa.
Cape Town’s weather is one of the reasons it’s an international tourist destination perfect for outdoor activities. But it does come with a few extremes. So, let’s take a look.
Cape Town summers are hot reaching an average temperature high of 27°C and temperature low of 16°C. However, to keep the summer days cool, Cape Town summers are known for the cool south-easter wind, famously known as the Cape Doctor for blowing away all the smog and creating the table cloth on Table Mountain.
Cape Town winters on the other hand are very wet with 126 mm of rainfall in June, the wettest month. You might even glimpse some snow on the local mountains over this time. But thanks to the ocean currents, on average Cape Town’s winters are pretty moderate with temperatures of between 18°C and 7°C.
Many people have been moving to Cape Town, and we understand why!
Due to the high altitude and distance from the sea, Johannesburg temperatures tend to be more on the extremes.
Johannesburg summers are famous for their afternoon thunderstorms which wash away the afternoon heat. Average temperatures in summer range between 14°C - 25°C.
Winters in Johannesburg are fairly dry with frosty nights and warm days. You can expect average temperatures to range between 3°C - 18°C.
And while it’s rare a few times a decade, Johannesburg for a brief moment becomes a winter wonderland with a bit of snowfall.
Sounds like your type of place, why not make the move to Johannesburg?
If you’re a sucker for warm weather, then Durban is the place for you. Thanks to its subtropical climate, Durban is the city with some of the highest temperatures in the country all year round.
Durban summers are hot, some might argue too hot, with an average temperature high of 29°C and temperature low of 25°C. The thing that tips it over the edge is the super high humidity, bringing in the summer rains.
However, Durban’s winters don’t even count as winter– hitting the spot at a perfect medium with average temperatures ranging between 16°C and 24°C.
Sitting beautifully on the coast, Gqeberha boasts a moderate climate with some of the least rain out of the coastal cities. Nicknamed the Windy City, in Gqeberha, you can expect a constant breeze.
Gqeberha has perfect beach weather in the summers with gorgeous sunny days, peaking in February with temperatures ranging between 23°C - 26°C.
While winters in Gqeberha can drag on quite long, fortunately, temperatures don’t drop too low, again being moderated by the warm ocean currents. You can expect average temperatures in winter to range between 9°C - 20°C. They also aren’t very wet, with most of the limited rainfall coming in spring.
For even more information on PE, check out our guide to living in Port Elizabeth.
With its super high altitude and semi-arid climate, Bloemfontein is also about the dry heat and extreme temperatures, bringing some of the highest and lowest temperatures out of the big cities.
Bloemfontein summers bring the heat and the rains. Their warm sunny days are occasionally interrupted by a booming thunderstorm. You can expect average temperatures during summer in Bloemfontein to fluctuate between 30°C and 14°C.
Temperatures drop quite drastically in winter, especially at night reaching lows of -3°C. However, it makes up for it during the day when the sun is out and shining, reaching highs of 26°C.
With Pretoria being only 46 km north of Johannesburg, the two big cities have pretty similar climates.
However, because Pretoria is closer to a subtropical dry forest biome and has a slightly higher altitude, you’ll often find that Pretoria is around 2°C warmer than Johannesburg. It’s also slightly more humid than Johannesburg, offering some relief to its dry air and resulting in a bit more rain.
Each South African city has its own unique climate that comes with pros and cons. Ultimately, the city with the best weather in South Africa is the city with the best weather for you, depending on the climate you prefer.
If you like moderate temperatures with warm summers and rainy winters — Cape Town weather is perfect for you.
If you like it hot and don’t mind getting sticky in the humidity — Durban is where you should go.
If you hate the rain, don’t mind the wind and like some temperate weather — You should definitely check out Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth).
If you love living in a dry environment - Bloemfontein is the perfect place for you.
If you don’t mind a dry heat and cold nights, plus you’re a sucker for thunderstorms (and stunning clouds!) — Johannesburg might be the perfect city.
If you want something like Johannesburg but a bit warmer with a bit more rain — Pretoria will be the better option.
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