reasons to visit us in winter

At this time of year, the world and his dog start writing about how nice it is to visit their particular lodge in the winter months. We look at the distinct lack of forward bookings. “But it is so nice here in winter!” all exclaim.

We know. We get it. You’ve heard it all before.

We also know that for many places this is palpably not true. Many places in the Cape are best in summer.  But - here’s the rub – the Cederberg is NOT one of those places. Below I explain why.

If you are a South African, winter is not the time of year to head to the beach. So why not explore the Cederberg in winter instead?  And if you are a visitor here to enjoy a safari, read on to discover why you should add the Cederberg to your Cape Town visit.
Cederberg Ridge - Stadsaal caves
How does the Cederberg in winter stack up with the rest of the Western Cape? Here’s our summary for people who don’t like to read much:

- It’s the warmest place in the Western Cape
- We have much less winter rainfall that the rest of the Cape
- It’s green (though the Irish may have a different definition of green)
- You can be active all day
- Fantastic spring flowers and fynbos from mid-July onwards
- It’s incredibly easy to get to – only 2 to 2½ hours from Cape Town
- It’s the perfect time to visit Namaqualand or head north to Namibia or the Kgalagadi
- And …you don’t have to feel guilty about a long lie-in

1. iT'S WARMER

During the day … Yes, our early mornings and evenings can be cold. But our daytime temperatures are definitely warmer than Cape Town, the Winelands or the Garden Route. 

It is not untypical for afternoon temperatures to be 20-23C on a sunny winter’s day. This warmth is particularly noticeable as we move into spring – which in our case starts in August, and not September, as many mistakenly believe.

Note: Our winter is much shorter than elsewhere. Typically we would say winter starts in mid/late May and ends in early August.

2. IT'S DRIER

Yes our rains fall mainly in the winter. But we are classified as a semi-arid area, with only 180-200mm of rain per year. So it just doesn’t rain that much. We get only one quarter of the rain of Cape Town for example (780mm for Cape Town).

My farming husband doesn’t like it. But you might!

So a cold front that brings rains to Cape Town, the Winelands and Hermanus may just result in some grey clouds flitting across the sky in the Cederberg in winter. Even if the rain does come to us (yes!), it rarely lasts very long.

3. IT'S GREEN AND BEAUTIFUL

We may not be talking  ‘lush green Irish meadows’ here, but it certainly is green in contrast to our dry southern Mediterranean summer landscape. 

For those of us who live here, it is a rejuvenating time of the year where everything seems to flourish. The landscape changes from brown hues to verdant greens, the flowers start to bloom, and the dewy mornings and crisp clean air add to the refreshing sense that winter brings.

The jagged sandstone rock formations of the Cederberg, with their burnt orange colour, are even more striking at this time of the year surrounded by the vibrant veld. It is quite simply, a beautiful place to visit. 
Cederberg Ridge - Running Trail

4. YOU CAN BE ACTIVE

Yes it’s warmer but you can be active all day.

This is the reason why the Cederberg Summer is not necessarily the best time to visit. It is simply too hot to be very active. This is fine if all you want to do is some gentle sight-seeing in the morning and lounging by the pool in the afternoon. (Our summers are very good for that!)

But our summers are too hot to go for a serious midday hike. And certainly too hot to be very active in the afternoon.

In the Cederberg in winter, you can lounge around in bed until 9am (its holiday!), have a leisurely breakfast and then head out for a long walk. Or you can do an excursion in the morning and then do a bike ride in the afternoon sun.
In summer you have to be up early to get a walk or bike ride in. Not in winter.

You can do what you want, when you want in winter.

5. YOU WON'T BE COLD

Yes our early mornings are cold (under 5c is not atypical for the early morning). But the lodge is built to withstand both the summer heat and the winter morning cold. All the bathrooms have underfloor heating and the suites all have log-burning fireplaces. The main lodge also has a fireplace in the library, dining room and sitting room. Yes this is overkill but it’s best to be prepared!
Cedarberg Ridge - Flowers in Bloom

6. FYNBOS & FLOWERS

The Cederberg is the northern part of the fynbos biome. Here you will see montane fynbos species not typically found elsewhere.

We are known for our spring wild flowers, alongside Namaqualand to the north. (Perhaps we should call it ‘super-bloom’’ like California?) But our spring is other people’s winter (as I’ve said before.)

Depending on the rains, the spring flowers start appearing in late July, alongside some of the early flowering fynbos. The peak is usually in early to mid August continuing to the end of August. But even though the best of the spring flowers are over by September, the fynbos is really just getting started. With September and October being the best time for flowering fynbos.

Plus it is an attractive and scenic day trip to Nieuwoudtville which, due to its particular location and typography, has an extended flower season.

TIP: Try to combine the Cederberg in winter with the Whale Coast of Hermanus to enjoy the whales in season as well as they start arriving in June. 
Cederberg Wine

7. NO TRAFFIC

There is not a single traffic light between Cape Town and the lodge. Not one. It is an easy drive.

So even though we are 230km from Cape Town, it can sometimes take less time to get to Cederberg Ridge than to get to Hermanus (only 125km). That’s because the route to Hermanus involves the multiple traffic lights of Somerset West and a slow section through Elgin.

In contrast, once you are out of Cape Town, you are on an open and very scenic road all the way to the Cederberg. Nor do you drive through any towns, though you can easily turn off the highway to take a break at many places.

(Sorry we know this is not a winter advantage but hey – we have to blow our trumpet more in winter!). I'll repeat - it is an easy drive.

8. IDEAL TIME TO HEAD NORTH

The Cederberg in winter is also the ideal time to visit regions to the north of the Cederberg. Why not head to the Kgalagadi National Park as the grasses are lower in winter. So your chances of seeing the wildlife improves.

The early winter is perfect for seeing the Augrabies Falls in its full majesty. And the winter has typically been the time to visit Namibia. (Though again we would recommend early winter, but for different reasons. Namibia  is very popular (almost too much so) in August and September.)

Plus as we have mentioned before, we are the perfect stepping stone to the spring flowers of Namaqualand just to our north.

Check out our Cederberg page for our major attractions:

So here’s that summary again:

- It’s the warmest place in the Cape
- There’s not much rain
- It’s green and beautiful
- You can be active all day
- Fantastic late winter and spring flowers and fynbos
- It’s incredibly easy to get to with a scenic drive and NO TRAFFIC
- It’s the perfect time to visit Namaqualand or head north to Namibia or Kgalagadi
- And …you don’t have to feel guilty about a long lie-in

All the traditional delights of the Cederberg are still here. The sense of being away from the world surrounded by raw rugged nature with the majesty of the mountains all around you. 

But you can now enjoy the traditional delights of the winter. Indulging in hot chocolate with a dash of Amarula for breakfast. Or red wine in front of a log fire in the evening. Sorry, I had to throw that one in there… no blog about the winter in South Africa would be complete without that!

Check out our Cederberg region's website for more info...