Performers at the Kaapse Klopse street parade in Cape Town
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Festivals and events in South Africa

Sam Botes

Contributing writer

South Africa, often referred to as the 'Rainbow Nation', is a country steeped in cultural richness and diversity. This vibrancy is reflected in its abundance of festivals celebrated throughout the year, each providing a unique glimpse into the country's multifaceted heritage and traditions.

From the captivating performances at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival to the creative extravaganza of AfrikaBurn, these celebrations not only entertain but also create spaces for cultural exchange and community bonding.

Whether you're drawn to the melodic allure of world-class music, the inspiring narratives of international film, or the colourful spectacle of costumed parades, there's a festival in South Africa that caters to your passions.

Festivals in South Africa

Commencing the year with the lively Cape Town Minstrel Carnival in January, South Africa's festival calendar includes a mesmerising range of experiences that span genres and locations. 

Throughout the year, local and international attendees are invited to partake in celebrations of music, art, film, and lifestyle. These include renowned events like the National Arts Festival in Makhanda, where you can immerse in diverse art forms, or the Knysna Oyster Festival, which offers a fun combination of food, wine, and sport against the backdrop of the stunning Garden Route region.

The heritage-rich Soweto Wine and Lifestyle Festival, the Hermanus Whale Festival celebrating the magnificent migration of southern right whales, or the Ficksburg Cherry Festival paying homage to its vibrant cherry-growing history, are just a few instances of how these festivals echo the ethos of their regions. Here are our favourite festivals in South Africa. 

Cape Town Minstrel Carnival (January)

Kick off your year with the colourful Cape Town Minstrel Carnival, where hundreds of minstrels in bright costumes and face paint parade through the streets, playing music, dancing, and singing. It's a sight you wouldn't want to miss! 

Cape Town Jazz Festival (March)

Known as "Africa's Grandest Gathering," this festival is a paradise for jazz lovers. Top international and local artists come together to offer an unforgettable musical experience.

Soweto Wine and Lifestyle Festival (March)

The Soweto Wine and Lifestyle Festival is an annual event that celebrates South African wine and culture in the vibrant township of Soweto. Visitors can enjoy wine tastings, food pairings, and live entertainment while experiencing the unique atmosphere of this historic location.

The Cape Town Carnival (March)

This vibrant event brings the streets of Cape Town to life with colourful parades, costumes, music, and dance. The festival celebrates and showcases the diverse cultures and communities within the city.

AfrikaBurn (April/May)

South Africa's version of the U.S.'s Burning Man, this festival in the Tankwa Karoo desert is a celebration of art, freedom, and community. Participants contribute to a temporary city of creative expression and self-reliance.

National Arts Festival (June/July)

The National Arts Festival is a multi-disciplinary event that takes place annually in the city of Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown). It showcases a diverse range of art forms including theatre, dance, music, visual art, and film, and attracts both local and international artists and audiences.

Knysna Oyster Festival (July)

The Knysna Oyster Festival is an annual celebration of food, wine, and sport that takes place in the scenic town of Knysna. The festival features oyster tasting, live music, sporting events, and a variety of other activities that showcase the natural beauty and hospitality of the Garden Route region. 

Durban International Film Festival (July)

 One of Southern Africa's leading film festivals, it showcases a wide range of world-class cinema. The festival gives special attention to African films, promoting the richness of African storytelling.

Oppikoppi Music Festival (August)

The Oppikoppi Music Festival is an annual event that showcases the best of South African and international music across multiple stages. It takes place over three days in the town of Northam and attracts a diverse crowd of music fans, from indie rockers to hip hop enthusiasts.

Namaqualand Flower Experience nature's magic as the arid desert transforms into a colourful carpet of wildflowers.

Hermanus Whale Festival (September)

The Hermanus Whale Festival is an annual event that celebrates the migration of southern right whales along the Cape south coast. The festival takes place over four days and offers a range of activities including whale watching, live music, craft markets, and a variety of food and drink stalls.

Magoebaskloof Spring Festival (September)

The Magoebaskloof Spring Festival is an annual event that takes place in the scenic Magoebaskloof area of Limpopo province. The festival celebrates the arrival of spring with a variety of activities including guided walks, mountain biking, and trail running events. Visitors can also enjoy live music, craft markets, and food and drink stalls that showcase the local cuisine.

Ficksburg Cherry Festival (November)

The Cherry Festival celebrates the town's rich cherry-growing history. It features a variety of cherry-related activities and events, including cherry-picking, cherry-pie baking competitions, and cherry-themed food and drink stalls.

International sporting events

Two Oceans Marathon

The Two Oceans Marathon is a 56km ultra-marathon that takes place in Cape Town every year on Easter weekend. The race takes runners through some of the city's most beautiful scenery, including the famous Chapman's Peak Drive and the Constantia Winelands. Participants can also run the 21.1km half marathon

Cape Town Cycle Tour

The Cape Town Cycle Tour is an annual cycling race that takes place in March and attracts over 35,000 participants from around the world. The route takes cyclists on a scenic tour of the Cape Peninsula, starting in Cape Town and finishing at the famous Cape Point.

Cape Epic

The Cape Epic is a gruelling multi-stage mountain bike race that takes place annually in March in the Western Cape province of South Africa. The race covers over 800km of rugged terrain and attracts some of the world's top mountain bikers.

Comrades Marathon

The Comrades Marathon is an ultra-marathon that takes place annually in June between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg. The race is a test of endurance and attracts runners from all over the world who come to tackle the challenging 90km route.

Planning a trip to South Africa? Read our South Africa travel guides.

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Sam Botes

Author - Sam Botes

Sam is a freelance writer, social media manager and mother of three, with over two decades' experience in travel and tourism. Safaris are her ultimate adventure and next on the list is Antarctica.

Last Updated 12 September 2023

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