South Africa has a lot to offer this winter. The winter period runs from April to September. What most people don’t know is that our winters are comparatively mild and dry. That means that when winter is coming, the festivals are too!
No. 1 : Afikaburn
24 – 30 April
To kick off the winter season, head to Afrikaburn in the Tankwa Karoo. Conceived in the mould of Arizona’s Burning Man Festival, Afrika Burns is a celebration of the weird, wonderful and bizarre.
Each year participants (it is bad form to visit as an observer) descend into this desert landscape and create a new world of performance, art and self-expression. It is not a festival as such but “a chance to invent the world anew”. A look through the guiding principles – radical inclusion, gifting and recommodification to mention only a few – will point you in the direction of what to expect.
It is an experience that is difficult to describe, that hinges around an ethos of participation, consciousness and self-reliance. If you are looking for a reason to go, simply put, it is like nothing you’ve ever done before.
Oh, and don’t forget to stop over at the Tankwa Padstal, you’ll know it when you see it.
No. 2: The Grahamstown National Festival of the Arts
29 June – 9 July
Grahamstown is a sleepy town in the Eastern Cape about 110km northeast of Port Elizabeth and 130km southwest of East London. This historical town, also known as the City of Saints due to the large number of churches, is most notable as a student town. Students flock to Rhodes University from around the country to immerse themselves in a vibrant academic community.
Once a year however, in July as winter turns down the thermostat, Grahamstown transforms itself into an arts mecca. The National Arts festival sees such a profusion of visitors that tents are pitched on rugby fields and in gardens to accommodate all the festival goers and people spill into the cold streets night and day.
People come here to soak up this breeding ground of South Africa’s artistic talent from dance and drama to painting and street performance. It is one of those events that will reveal the unexpected around every corner.
No. 3: The Knysna Oyster Festival
Knysna is arguably the heart of the Garden Route. It has very little winter rainfall and boasts an average winter temperature of 15°C. This makes it an excellent location for one of South Africa’s best loved winter festivals: the Knysna Oyster Festival. Running for a week in July the festival is a magnet for sports folk, families and those looking to just relax, eat amazing food and soak up the atmosphere. There is a bucket load to do!
There are oodles of outdoor activities from marathons and half-marathons, to cycle tours and trail runs, even a "BIG FIVE" sport challenge if one event isn’t enough. These are complimented by kids sports challenges and events... and we have not even arrived at the evening offerings! Comedy nights, wining and dining, you name it and the oyster festival has got it.
All you need to do to take in the smorgasbord of activity is get there!
That said, the Garden Route is world famous for its natural beauty and to get away from the bustle and activity of the festival, you need only venture a little further up or down the N2. Storms River, Tsitsikamma National Park, Wilderness and Plettenberg Bay are just a few of the astoundingly beautiful destinations on offer, each with an equally enticing itinerary.
No. 4: Wacky Wine Weekend
In true South African fashion, Robertson’s Wine Valley presents the Wacky Wine Weekend. Stretching over the towns of Ashton, Bonnievale, McGregor and Robertson the festival does not have a central venue. Instead, visitors can drive between venues or make use of festival shuttles and taxi services. This allows ample opportunity to take in the breath taking scenary.
In its 14th year, the festival is aimed at family fun but has plenty of options for those who are more serious about wine than jumping castles. There are sports activities during the day and music at night and oodles of activities inbetween.
The real festival however concerns the multitude of wine estates that offer tutored wine tasting, cellar tours and evenings of wine pairing. For experts and connoisseurs of every vintage this is the wacky weekender for you.
No. 5: Innibos
Started in 2003, Innibos Festival is an Afrikaans arts festival. It happens in the beautiful Mpumalanga province in the town of Nelspruit. Showcasing Afrikaans music, dance, theatre and the arts, Innibos is growing exponentially and last year received over 100 000 visitors over the four days.
Be ready for a full-on Afrikaans experience where you can indulge in the best of South Africa’s food, sample our unique arts and crafts and generally just soak up the vibes of our unique culture. If you fancy yourself a braai master, you could even enter the competition for the Lowveld Braai King, an all-day event that turns the burning of a bit of beef and boerewors into an art all of its own.