5 cosy winter retreats to visit in South Africa

Winter across southern Africa is a magical time, from the mystical forests of Hogsback to the world-renowned Cape Winelands. Picture: Pexels

Winter across southern Africa is a magical time, from the mystical forests of Hogsback to the world-renowned Cape Winelands. Picture: Pexels

Published May 17, 2024


Winter unveils a whole new charm across South Africa, revealing a quieter, more intimate side. Landscapes adorned with a delicate dusting of snow, crackling fireplaces inviting you to cosy up, and delicious food and wine await.

There’s no need to huddle up indoors this winter – especially since the sun shines throughout the season regardless of where you are in southern Africa.

“Winter across southern Africa is a magical time, from the mystical forests of Hogsback to the world-renowned Cape Winelands, each destination has something special in store throughout the ‘Secret Season’,” says Antoinette Turner, GM at Flight Centre South Africa.

These are our suggestions for southern Africa’s top 5 cosiest winter retreats.


The Cape Winelands are the Western Cape’s prized treasure – and many agree this group of historic wine towns is at its best in winter.

Why it’s great in winter: “Winter in Stellenbosch is utterly magical and perhaps our destination’s best-kept secret,” says Jeanneret Momberg, CEO of Visit Stellenbosch.

“From the best burgers and boutique wineries to an incredible network of bike trails, Stellenbosch is your winter playground of adventure.

Winter across southern Africa is a magical time, from the mystical forests of Hogsback to the world-renowned Cape Winelands. Picture: Supplied

Starting in May and running through August, the Stay & Play Winter initiative includes food offers, experiences, and accommodation deals. It allows travellers to dine at award-winning restaurants and quaint wine bars at over 100 wine farms for less.

Winter activities:

  • Wine tastings and pairings
  • Gourmet dining
  • Art galleries
  • Museums
  • Fireplace retreats

Best for: Couples, foodies, wine enthusiasts, outdoor lovers and adventure seekers.

Drakensberg Mountains, KwaZulu-Natal

The Drakensberg Mountains is the closest you’ll get to a winter wonderland in southern Africa. The season brings stunning snow-capped peaks, crisp air, and postcard-perfect panoramic vistas.

Horseback riding in the Drakensberg. Picture: Supplied

Why it’s great in winter: There’s always the potential for snowfall, providing an idyllic setting for outdoor adventures. Plus, with fewer tourists, there’s nothing to get in the way of your privacy and zen.

Winter activities:

  • Hiking through snow-dusted trails
  • Horseback riding
  • Scenic drives
  • Getting cosy in lodges with crackling fireplaces

Best for: Adventurers, nature lovers, and couples seeking a romantic escape.

Hogsback, Eastern Cape

You’ll find the fantastical village of Hogsback in the misty mountains of the Eastern Cape. The village is known for its Christmas in July festival (think bonfires, Christmas lights, and festive dinners with all the trimmings), beautiful waterfalls, and forests.

Why it’s great in winter: Hogsback offers a magical escape, with its mist-shrouded forests and cascading waterfalls – it’s impossible to be stressed or anxious here! Plus, there are loads of art galleries and quaint eateries to enjoy whenever you need to warm up.

Winter activities:

  • Forest hikes through ethereal landscapes
  • Exploring enchanting waterfalls
  • Browsing unique stores and sipping on artisanal coffee in cafés

Best for: Nature lovers, anyone in need of a quiet retreat, and artists or writers in search of inspiration.

Knysna, Garden Route

One of the most popular stops along the picturesque Garden Route, Knysna – the Oyster Capital of South Africa – promises a pristine coastal escape and milder winter temperatures.

Knysna’s charm knows no season, but winter unveils a different side of this Garden Route gem. It’s a time to get cosy, savour the taste and aromas of fresh seafood, and get involved in the excitement of the annual Oyster Festival. This year, the 10-day event kicks off on 21 June and will be crammed with oyster tastings, cooking demonstrations, live music performances, sports competitions, and loads of refreshing encounters in the great outdoors.

Why it’s great in winter: Thanks to the town’s warmer winter temperatures, it’s possible to explore Knysna’s attractions comfortably, enjoying leisurely strolls along the waterfront and invigorating forest walks.

Winter activities:

  • Indulging in all the oysters you can eat at the Knysna Oyster Festival
  • Lagoon cruises
  • Forest hikes
  • Splurging at waterfront markets

Best for: Foodies, couples, families, and those seeking a milder coastal winter experience.

Kasane, Botswana

Kasane can be found along the banks of the Chobe River in Botswana, where mind-blowing wildlife sightings, world-class fishing, and birdwatching opportunities await.

Why it’s great in winter: Winter in Kasane means you get to fall in love with the Chobe River without the sometimes-overwhelming summer heat. The clear night skies also provide the perfect backdrop for stargazing, while the cooler temperatures offer comfortable conditions for exploring the surrounding wilderness.

Winter is prime game-viewing season in the Chobe region – the animals come directly down to the river to drink right in front of you. It’s the perfect time to hop aboard the luxurious Zambezi Queen floating hotel or one of her three Chobe Princess houseboats, all offering a completely unique perspective on southern African wildlife encounter.

Winter activities:

  • River safaris
  • Fishing excursions
  • Stargazing
  • Birding
  • Game viewing

Best for: Couples, nature lovers, birdwatching enthusiasts, fishermen, digital nomads, and wildlife photographers.

So, whether you have your heart set on Kasane or the Drakensburg, now’s the time to keep an eye out for deals and lock in your mid-year escape.

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