If you’re looking for the best places to visit in South Africa in December, you’ve come to the right place.
With thousands of miles of coastline, indigenous forests, arid deserts, and dramatic mountains, South Africa is truly one of the best year-round destinations in the world.
From vibrant cities to wild national parks and luxurious vineyards; there is something for everyone here. The only thing that you won’t find in South Africa in December is snow.
So if you want to escape the winter months in your northern hemisphere country, December is one of the most popular times of year to visit South Africa. And in this post, we’ve compiled a list of the 21 must-see places to help you plan your trip of a lifetime.
21 Best Places To Visit In South Africa In December
It’s hard to narrow it down to only 21 places in such a beautiful country, but we’ve done our best. Here is a list of our favorite spots:
1. Cape Town
Cape Town is one of the best places to visit in South Africa in December. Located on the Cape Peninsula, the most southwestern tip of Africa, the city usually enjoys a nice temperate climate when other areas of the country are in sweltering heat.
Not many major cities have the stunning natural beauty that makes Cape Town so unique. With world-class beaches, epic hiking trails, and the electric buzz of the peak season, you won’t be disappointed by the Mother City.
There are so many things to do in Cape Town in December, it could take weeks or months to fully explore the city. The most famous attractions are Table Mountain, Robben Island, Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope (all UNESCO World Heritage Sites).
But the local art scene should not be forgotten either. Cape Town has a vibrant arts culture, so be sure to make time for a traditional music event or visit the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art (MOCAA).
Best Things To Do In Cape Town In December
✔ Hike Table Mountain and Lion’s Head
✔ Visit Cape Point, then see the penguins and other bird species at Boulders Beach
✔ Attend a concert at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
Where To Stay In Cape Town In December
One of the best cities that South Africans love to travel to for their beach holidays (aside from Cape Town) is Durban. This city is South Africa’s answer to a tropical getaway thanks to miles of sandy beaches and bathtub warm water…
And… uhm… we don’t want to scare you away – you should definitely visit South Africa – but bear in mind that great white sharks love the warm waters too. Eek!
Durban itself is surrounded by sugar cane fields that add to the lush ambience. It’s hard to believe that the bustling city center is in such close proximity to so much natural beauty.
Fun fact: Durban has the second highest Indian population in the world (cities in India being the first, obviously).
You can bet that you will find the best curries in Durban. No visit is complete without trying a famous Durban Bunny Chow, a local delicacy that consists of curry inside of a bread bowl (no actual bunnies involved).
Best Things To Do In Durban In December
✔ Eat a Bunny Chow
✔ Walk the Golden Mile
✔ Tour the markets
Where To Stay In Durban In December
3. Wilderness, Western Cape Province
True to its name, the little town of Wilderness can be a breath of fresh air for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
This quaint village makes a great stopping point for travelers coming from Cape Town as it’s only about 5 hours’ drive away. Most people love it because of its natural coastal beauty and small-town feel.
Although it is small, there is plenty of adventure to be found in this tiny stretch of land and it’s one of the best places to visit in South Africa during the month of December.
Aside from the pristine beach that stretches along the length of the town, there are waterfalls, river tours, and indigenous forests just waiting to be explored.
Best Things To Do In Wilderness In December
✔ Visit Kaaiman’s Grotto, a makeshift museum in a cave
✔Explore Garden Route National Park by canoe
✔ Go canyoning in Kaaimans River
Where To Stay In Wilderness In December
Another unmissable stop to add to your South Africa itinerary in December is the cute town of Knysna.
Nestled beside a turquoise lagoon, the busy waterfront is the focal point of this town. The ample tasty seafood restaurants, quirky shops, and beautiful views entice tourists from all over the world to spend a relaxing weekend by the water.
The nature reserves around Knysna are pretty incredible as well, with gorgeous beaches, wild forests, and plenty of water sports to try out.
Best Things To Do In Knysna In December
✔ Take a tour to spot endangered seahorses
✔ Cruise around the lagoon by boat
✔ Go shopping at the waterfront
Where To Stay In Knysna In December
5. Coffee Bay
One of our personal favorite places to visit in South Africa in December is Coffee Bay. Although it is a bit difficult to reach by car, Coffee Bay is worth the visit. This little haven is located in the Eastern Cape, along a stretch of coastline known as “The Wild Coast.”
What makes Coffee Bay feel so secluded is the last 20 mile stretch of road getting there. Although the distance is short, it will take an hour or more to cover it.
Potholes, stray cows, and the occasional low hanging fog will require all of your attention as you traverse the rolling hills. (Speaking from experience, do not drive this road at night!)
Those willing to stray off the beaten track will be rewarded with a quintessential village experience. Visitors will find pristine beaches, rolling green hills, and one of the most magical atmospheres in the country.
Because of its secluded location, the town itself feels like a step back in time. Pathways through the forest will lead you to secluded beaches, occupied only by wandering livestock.
You will probably end up having such a great time in Coffee Bay that you’ll lose track of time. It’s such a magical place, you won’t want to leave.
Pro tip: Although most businesses accept debit cards, be sure to bring enough spare cash with you because there are no ATMs in Coffee Bay.
Best Things To Do In Coffee Bay In December
✔ Hike along goat paths to Hole in the Wall
✔ Visit the Mapusi Caves
Where To Stay In Coffee Bay In December
6. Stellenbosch Wine Region
Any wine lover has probably heard of South Africa’s wine culture. Well, Stellenbosch is the reason why. This quaint little university town is world famous for its vineyards, with over 150 wineries in the surrounding areas.
Just 1.5 hours from Cape Town, Stellenbosch is perfect for a day trip, but even better when staying overnight.
Although budget accommodation is available, you can also splurge a little and stay at one of the many historical wine estates – this is one of the best ways to experience the area. The old town center itself is both lively and quaint, it’s the perfect place to walk around and explore before dinner.
And if you need a break from all that delectable wine, there are plenty of outdoor activities nearby in Jonkershoek Nature Reserve.
Best Things To Do In Stellenbosch In December
✔ Take a wine tasting tour
✔ Explore Jonkershoek Nature Reserve
✔ Visit the Route 44 Farmer’s Market
Where To Stay In Stellenbosch In December
7. Blyde River Canyon
As the world’s third largest canyon, it’s no wonder that Blyde River Canyon makes the list. Unlike the other two largest canyons (the Grand Canyon and Fish River Canyon), Blyde River Canyon is lush and green, making it even more stunning.
About 5 hours’ drive from Johannesburg, this canyon is a great stop on the way to Kruger National Park. You will be rewarded with epic panoramic views of the canyon itself and so many waterfalls.
Best Things To Do In Blyde River Canyon In December
✔ Drive the Panorama Route
✔ Admire the views at God’s Window
✔ Discover waterfalls on a multi-day hike
Where To Stay In Blyde River Canyon In December
Quite obviously one of the best places to visit in South Africa in December is Hogsback.
Nearly everyone who has visited Hogsback has described this village in the Eastern Cape as magical, mystical, or something out of a fairytale.
The landscape is actually said to have inspired J.R.R. Tolkien when he was writing Lord of the Rings, which says a lot about the incredible scenery surrounding the little town.
Cascading waterfalls, indigenous forests, and mysterious mountains all add to the charm of Hogsback.
Best Things To Do In Hogsback In December
✔ Explore the indigenous forests by mountain bike
✔ Abseil down a waterfall
✔ Meander through a massive labyrinth
Where To Stay In Hogsback In December
9. Kruger National Park
No trip to South Africa is complete without going on a safari! Who wouldn’t want to see wild animals roaming in their natural habitats?
Although the dry season is technically the most ideal time to visit Kruger National Park, because of the increased probability of seeing animals at watering holes, any time of the year is excellent for going on an African safari.
Kruger is South Africa’s largest game reserve, with over 7500 square miles of opportunity to see the Big 5 (lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalo). The park allows both self-drive wildlife safaris as well as guided tours. But we definitely recommend hiring a tour guide to learn more about the majestic animals.
Accommodation ranges from a tent in the bush to 5-star luxury lodges. Whatever your budget, scheduling a trip to Kruger park is definitely a good idea.
Best Things To Do In Kruger In December
✔ Go on a game drive and spot the Big Five
✔ Enjoy the view on a hot air balloon safari
✔ Eat, eat, eat at a traditional bush braai
Where To Stay In Kruger In December
Although Johannesburg is lovely to visit at any time of year, December is especially fun in South Africa’s largest city.
The days are quite hot with the occasional afternoon thunderstorm during this time of year. But the rain won’t stop the locals from enjoying the festive season!
If it’s your first time in the city, Johannesburg can seem like a huge, gritty metropolis, often sending tourists running back to Cape Town after their first visit. However there is a lot to discover here, especially in terms of arts and culture.
Between art exhibitions, film festivals, museums, and local heritage events, you will leave South Africa’s cultural hub understanding the Rainbow Nation a little bit better.
Best Things To Do In Johannesburg In December
✔ Immerse yourself in art in Maboneng
✔ Bungee jump the Orlando Towers in Soweto
✔ Visit the Apartheid museum
Where To Stay In Johannesburg In December
11. Cape Agulhas
Many people believe that the famous Cape Point in Cape Town is the most Southern tip of Africa, however it’s actually the most Southwestern on South Africa’s west coast.
The actual Southern-most point of Africa is Cape Agulhas, just a 2-hour drive from Cape Town. This little town is known as the place where “two oceans meet”, with the Atlantic on one side and the Indian on the other.
You will also be rewarded with the astounding beauty of Cape Agulhas Nature Reserve. But be careful – Cape Agulhas is also known for its dangerous waters, you might even see the remnants of an old Japanese shipwreck just off the shore.
Best Things To Do In Cape Agulhas In December
✔ Snap a picture at the Southernmost tip of Africa
✔ Visit an old Japanese shipwreck
✔ Go hiking or mountain biking in the picturesque Agulhas National Park
Where To Stay In Cape Agulhas In December
Tucked away in the breathtaking Maluti Mountains, you will find the little village of Clarens, aptly nicknamed the “jewel of the Free State.”
Surrounded by expansive sandstone cliffs and dramatic mountain scenery, this little town truly does feel like a hidden gem. What draws most tourists to Clarens is nearby Golden Gate Highlands Park, due to its golden colored cliffs.
With only 6,000 inhabitants, you can soak up the small-town charm. Clarens is well known for its numerous art galleries and exquisite restaurants, so be sure to spend some time wandering around the town center.
For the thrill-seeking tourists, there are also quite a few adventure activities available nearby, such as abseiling, white-water rafting and rock climbing.
Best Things To Do In Clarens In December
✔ Drive through the spectacular Golden Gate Highlands Park
✔ Abseil down towering sandstone cliffs
✔ Visit the many art galleries in the town center
Where To Stay In Clarens In December
13. Nature’s Valley
One of my favorite places to visit in South Africa in December is Nature’s Valley.
While the bulk of travelers flock to many of the other top tourist hot spots around southern Africa, you’ll most likely find some peace and quiet in tranquil Nature’s Valley along the Garden Route.
Due to its size, many tourists do not stay in Nature’s Valley for more than a day. However, there is plenty to do in this secluded little town, especially for nature lovers.
When visiting, you can expect to find an abundance of hiking trails through the Tsitsikamma National Forest, a pristine white sand beach, and plenty of local wildlife both in the water and on land.
Nature’s Valley marks the end of the world-famous multi-day Otter Trail near the mouth of Storms River, one of the most beautiful treks in South Africa.
There are several guest houses within the village itself, but many travelers opt to stay nearby in The Crags, where you can find many quirky and unique farm lodges hidden in the forest.
Best Things To Do In Nature’s Valley In December
✔ Hike through the Tsitsikamma National Forest
✔ Go canoeing on the Groot River
✔ Relax on Nature’s Valley Beach
Where To Stay In Nature’s Valley In December
Just a short drive up the coast from Durban, visitors will find the delightful coastal town of Ballito.
Located on what is known as the Dolphin Coast, this picturesque town is famous for its bathtub-warm beaches and its abundance of dolphins in the water. Ballito attracts all kinds of visitors, but it’s especially popular among honeymooners.
Those visiting in early December should be prepared for a sudden influx of tourists, as the little town is home to the annual Ballito Rage Festival, a live music festival for students celebrating graduation.
Rage Festival is usually the first week of December, so it’s best to aim for mid-December if you want to avoid the crowds.
Best Things To Do In Ballito In December
✔ Go dolphin and whale watching (southern right whales are the most common)
✔ Have a beach day
✔ Visit a crocodile farm
Where To Stay In Ballito In December
15. Drakensberg Region
There is no better way to escape the heat and the crowds of the summer months than to head to higher altitudes in the Drakensberg Region. But this area can get pretty cold and wet during the rainy season.
This lush mountain range bordering Lesotho offers breathtaking views, scenic drives, and all of the hiking trails that you could ask for.
The region itself spans a large area, so be sure to plan your route in advance and decide what you want to see. The narrow mountain passes can be tricky to drive at times, but well worth the adventure.
After exploring the Drakensberg thoroughly, many travelers also add Lesotho to their itinerary.
Best Things To Do In Drakensberg In December
✔ Hike to the top of the Amphitheater
✔ Visit the 2nd tallest waterfall in the world
✔ Explore the trails by horseback
Where To Stay In Drakensberg In December
16. Storm’s River
December in South Africa isn’t only about beautiful beaches and parties; there are also plenty of opportunities to get active in the great outdoors. Adrenaline junkies, or anyone craving an adventure, should definitely make a stop in Storm’s River.
Named after the well-known rushing river nearby, the town of Storm’s River has a lot to offer. This little village in the Eastern Cape is a favorite among backpackers because of its incredible scenery and the long list of fun activities available.
Storm’s River is located next to the Tsitsikamma National Park. Inside the park, you can find numerous hiking trails, like the famous Otter Trail, and some of the lushest indigenous forests in the entire country.
One of the most popular activities around Storm’s River is the world-famous Bloukrans Bridge. This bridge boasts the highest bungee jump in the world, at 216 meters!
But if heights aren’t your thing, you can enjoy exciting activities in the river below the bridge, like tubing, kayaking, and canyoning.
Best Things To Do In Storm’s River In December
✔ Jump from the highest bungee jump bridge in the world
✔ Hike the Otter Trail
✔ Go on a canopy tour
Where To Stay In Storm’s River In December
Although it’s only an hour from the coast, the arid landscape of Oudtshoorn is starkly different from the lush coastline of the Garden Route. This quirky little town in the Klein Karoo is well-known for a few good reasons.
Firstly, it’s the Ostrich Capital of the world. With several large ostrich farms around the town, some dating back to the 1800’s, you will have ample opportunities to see (and maybe even ride) an ostrich.
Oudtshoorn is also famous for the nearby Cango Caves, South Africa’s oldest tourist attraction. You’ll be able to take a tour deep into the caverns of one of the largest and longest cave systems in the world.
Aside from caves and ostriches, Oudtshoorn offers some excellent views, high class wine farms, and plenty of history to soak in while you’re there.
Best Things To Do In Oudtshoorn In December
✔ Explore the Cango Caves
✔ Visit an Ostrich Farm
✔ Drive Swartberg Pass
Where To Stay In Oudtshoorn In December
Just a stone’s throw from East London, Chintsa (sometimes spelled Cintsa) is the first stop along the Wild Coast for visitors making their way North.
This seaside town provides an outstanding introduction to the Wild Coast and all of the beautiful places in this region. Those who have been here might mention the miles of pristine beach, the misty dunes, or the coastal forest surrounding the town.
The town itself is split in two by the Cintsa River, with Cintsa East being slightly more developed.
Whether you like adventure sports, learning about culture, or just exploring the town and surrounding beaches, you’ll find that there is plenty to do in Chintsa.
Best Things To Do In Chintsa In December
✔ Learn about Xhosa culture
✔ Ride horses on the beach
✔ Take a brewery tour
Where To Stay In Chintsa In December
19. Sodwana Bay/ Elephant Coast
Although it might feel a bit off the beaten track, the Elephant Coast is a very special part of the country. This little corner of South Africa near the Mozambique and Eswatini borders has a lot to offer visitors.
Those willing to make the road trip up the coast from Durban will be blessed with warm weather, a chance of animal sightings, roadside pineapple stands, and the most perfect untouched beaches.
Sodwana Bay is one stop on the Elephant Coast route that should not be missed. This little bay is home to an incredible coral reef and is right next to the Hluhluwe (pronounced kind of like Shoo-Shloo-ee) Private Game Reserve, so it’s a great place for a safari as well.
Mabibi is the spot to witness baby turtles hatching on the beach, Thonga Beach Lodge even offers tours.
For those wanting to go even deeper into the bush, Kosi Bay is a little farther up the coast and offers some amazing wildlife viewing opportunities amidst its many lakes.
Best Things To Do In Sodwana Bay In December
✔ Scuba dive in a breathtaking coral reef
✔ Go on safari game viewing in Hluhluwe National Park
✔ Witness turtles hatching in Mabibi
Where To Stay In Sodwana Bay In December
20. Sun City
This list of the most amazing places to visit in South Africa in December wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Sun City: the Las Vegas of South Africa. Located just outside of Johannesburg, this extensive resort offers a smaller, more condensed version of what makes the real Sin City so attractive.
With four hotels, 2 golf courses, a water park, a casino, and literally dozens of bars and restaurants, you will have plenty to keep you occupied.
There are also a few uniquely South African experiences in Sun City, such as safari tours, or making your way through the largest maze in the Southern Hemisphere!
Although it is quite different from the other destinations on this list, it still makes for a memorable and unique experience.
Best Things To Do In Sun City In December
✔ Try your luck in the casino
✔ Cool off in the Valley of Waves
✔ Get lost in a massive maze
Where To Stay In Sun City In December
21. Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth)
We will end this list with Gqeberha, also known as Nelson Mandela Bay, Port Elizabeth, and P.E., a town with many names and a lot of personality.
At first glance, Gqeberha looks industrial and underwhelming, but there is definitely more than meets the eye.
Although Gqeberha is not the first city that comes to mind when thinking of South African travel, it is quickly becoming a popular place to visit, both for its nature as well as its culture.
Located on the Sunshine Coast, Gqeberha offers clear, sunny days, miles of beautiful coastline, and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. But the beaches aren’t the only attraction here.
The city itself has a lot of character and plenty to do. It is becoming well known for its vibrant art scene and foodie culture. Gqeberha is also known for being the safest city in South Africa, and has even been nicknamed “The Friendly City.”
For those wanting to get further outside of the city, Addo Elephant National Park is less than an hour away and makes for a great day trip. And if you’re road tripping from Cape Town to Gqeberha, you should definitely stop at Mossel Bay. It’s a gorgeous half-way point.
Best Things To Do In Gqeberha In December
✔ Visit a haunted opera
✔ Follow Route 67 and discover the local art scene
✔ Help care for African Penguins at the South African Marine Rehabilitation and Education Centre
Where To Stay In Gqeberha In December
Visiting South Africa In December FAQs
Have more questions about visiting South Africa?
Is December A Good Time To Visit South Africa?
Yes! December is one of the best times to visit South Africa as it’s one of the hottest and driest months of the year with warm sunny days throughout the month.
It’s also South Africa’s festive season, when most people are on holiday, and everyone is in a good mood. Although many places might be busier than normal, there are special events happening all the time, so there is always plenty to do.
Where Should I Go For Christmas In South Africa?
Just about anywhere! Because South Africa is an international destination and even domestic tourists in South Africa love to travel, there will always be businesses open during the holidays and plenty to do during Christmas.
South Africans love a good braai (barbecue), so if you’re lucky, you might be invited to one on Christmas Day.
Cape Town is a great choice for Christmas because, although it’s quite busy, there are loads of cool events happening all around during this wonderful time of year. There are multiple carol concerts held in beautiful locations around the city, such as Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and the V&A Waterfront.
Conclusion: Best Places To Visit In South Africa In December
Although we’ve taken you through the best places to visit South Africa in December and done our best to compile the ultimate guide, this list could go on and on.
South Africa is a unique country with many hidden gems just waiting to be discovered. With so many extraordinary places to visit, you’ll want to stay in South Africa long after December ends.