The crackle of a fireplace after a refreshing mountain hike. The salty scent of the ocean as whales breach just offshore. The soothing warmth of mineral springs easing away the winter chill. Why stay huddled under the covers when all this awaits just beyond your doorstep?

Here are Team GILTEDGE’s picks for the best local wintertime gems ideal for a mid-year getaway.

1. Mapungubwe National Park & World Heritage Site, Limpopo

Winter is the perfect time for a safari. The bush is dry and sparse, making it easier to spot wildlife, even from a distance. Furthermore, the animals tend to congregate around remaining water sources, so you won’t have to look far to enjoy some remarkable sightings.

  • Why it’s a winter must: While it’s impossible to go wrong with a winter safari in any national park or reserve, we love Mapungubwe, known for its plentiful game viewing and uncrowded bush breaks.
  • Highlight: Stand atop Mapungubwe Hill, the heart of this ancient civilisation, and feel history come alive. The interpretive centre offers fascinating insights, but it’s the sense of vastness and untold stories that makes Mapungubwe truly special.

2. Durban, KwaZulu-Natal

Countless South Africans head to the warm, welcoming Indian Ocean coastline to escape the cold weather each year. You are able to lounge on Durban’s golden beaches all year round – the sunshine’s always abundant.

  • Why it’s a winter must: Aside from the perfect weather, you can tuck into delicious food, embark on cultural excursions, or splurge on souvenirs at local markets.
  • Highlight: Durban’s shores become the stage for a breathtaking natural phenomenon from May to July – the Sardine Run. This annual migration sees millions of sardines hugging the coastline, attracting a host of predators in a spectacular feeding frenzy.

3. Hermanus, Western Cape

The alluring seaside town of Hermanus is South Africa’s whale-watching mecca. Southern right whales migrate to these waters to breed and calve between July and November, offering phenomenal viewing opportunities.

  • Why it’s a winter must: Hermanus boasts some of the world’s best land-based whale watching. Its unique cliff paths and elevated viewpoints make it possible to get incredibly close to these gentle giants without ever stepping onto a boat.
  • Highlight: Cosy guesthouses, seaside restaurants, and the fresh ocean air all add to Hermanus’ winter charm.

4. Bela-Bela, Limpopo

Warm up the body and soul in Bela-Bela’s renowned hot springs. This town offers a tranquil getaway centred around the therapeutic mineral waters – pair them with a safari for the ultimate ‘zen’ recharge.

  • Why it’s a winter must: The contrast between the crisp winter air and the steaming hot springs makes Bela-Bela true wintertime heaven. Luxury resorts and spas offer pampering treatments and wellness experiences alongside the springs.
  • Highlight: Soak your stress away, embrace the slower pace of life, and take scenic strolls through the bush.5. The Drakensberg Mountains, Eastern Cape

The majestic Drakensberg Mountains promise inviting lodges with roaring fireplaces and stunning snow-dusted peaks for unrivalled views. Trek along diverse hiking trails, try adventure activities like zip-lining, or simply curl up with a good book and make the most of the atmosphere and scenery.

  • Why it’s a winter must: The Drakensberg is a retreat for nature lovers and the adventurous – from leisurely walks to challenging hikes, there’s something for everyone.
  • Highlight: Whether it’s snowy landscapes, frozen waterfalls, or cosy mountain villages, the Drakensberg offers the chance to experience South Africa from a spectacular new perspective – the closest you’ll get to a local winter wonderland.
Photos at Royal Natal National Park

Ready to lock in your mid-year winter escape? Contact GILTEDGE now for a bespoke itinerary and the best deals in the business.