Cape Town - There’s so much more to South Africa’s natural wonders than Table Mountain and Kruger National Park.
A recent trip to Mpumalanga proves the extent to which the country offers vast and varied landscape - home to abundant flora and fauna, and wonders of nature that leave one in absolute awe. Sadly, the average South African knows, or appreciates, very little about the country’s natural and cultural richness.
One of these magnificent places to visit is the Panorama Route in Mpumalanga. This scenic route, about a 6-hour drive from Johannesburg, connects cultural and natural points of interest and is steeped in the history of South Africa.
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It boasts sites that will leave you feeling inspired – even emotional – and no high quality camera can do justice in capturing the breathtaking views you will see.
“You’ll only believe it when you see it,” says SA Tourism – and we agree. Every South African should journey through the Panorama Route at least once in their lifetime.
If you're looking for an adventure and one-of-a-kind experience with your family or friends over the upcoming long weekend, why not make a trip through the Panorama Route in Mpumalanga?
A two-night stay is more than enough time to see the major sites at each stop, and access to the sites are free of charge.
Begin your journey from Nelspruit or White River, drive past Sabie to get onto the Route which is around a town called Graskop. Along the Route you will see abundant mountains, waterfalls, forests and canyon, as well as rich plant and animal life.
One of the landmark stops along the Route is the Jock of the Bushveld site that honours Jock the track dog that helped navigate route through Kruger. A plaque in the square marks the arrival of Percy Fitzpatrick and Jock in 1885.
Travel along the Route to stop at three iconic waterfalls: Lisbon Falls, Berlin Falls and Mac Mac Falls – each boasting a unique view and history. Stops at the waterfalls also give travellers a chance to meet locals (who are all very passionate about promoting the Panorama Route), see and purchase the local hand-made crafts, and take numerous selfies against the backdrop of the stunning Falls.
More scenic landmarks along the Route include Wonder View, the Pinnacle, Bourke's Luck Potholes, Blyde River Canyon, the Three Rondavels and God’s Window.
At God’s Window, you can also choose to do the “Forest Walk” and trek through a thick, indigenous mist forest that stands amongst the clouds about 800m above Blyde River Canyon. Views from up here are spectacular, and on a clear day you can even see parts of Kruger National Park extending into Mozambique.
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If, after a long day of road-tripping and walking at each site, you feel too exhausted to do the Forest Walk, there’s no need to despair. To avoid the walk, there’s an option of being able to see the spectacular view from God’s Window, but at a lower level. Check it out:
View from God’s Window at a lower level. (Photo: Kavitha Pillay)
A personal favourite, and in my opinion, the most outstanding of all the scenic stops along the Panorama Route, is Blyde River Canyon.
Lush green vegetation, a river sparkling as the midday sun strikes upon it, and mountains that have endured South Africa’s many changes. It was at this I point, and this view, that I realised just what a beautiful country South Africa is and how little most locals know about what our land has to offer.
After this seeing this view, I set a goal to explore SA as far and wide as possible. And if this doesn’t give you enough reason to check out Blyde River Canyon for yourself, then perhaps the fact that it is the world’s largest ‘green’ canyon and third largest canyon on Earth, is reason enough to add seeing this site to your bucket list.
Eastwards from the canyon is the Three Rondavels or Three Sisters, which are three massive spirals of dolomite that rise from the canyon.
A very close second contender on my must-visit list is Bourke's Luck Potholes. One of Mpumalanga’s natural marvels in its own right, these “giant potholes” are unusual geological formations that have formed at the convergence of the Blyde and Treur rivers and mark the beginning of the Blyde River Canyon.
“A 30-minute drive from Graskop will take you to the gold rush town of Pilgrim's Rest where you can relive the 1873 gold rush in surroundings of unparalleled beauty,” says SA Tourism. Here you can even try panning for gold.
Other Panorama Route attractions are clustered around Ohrigstad where the Echo Caves extend 40km into the limestone rock. According to SA Tourism, at Ohrigstad Dam Reserve, you can fish for yellowtail or carp in tranquil waters surrounded by mountains.
And of course, good food and beverages are also important while journeying through the Panorama Route. Drive to Sabi Brewery for a craft beer making and tasting experience – do try the Monkey Apple Ale - or have savoury pancakes for lunch at Harrie’s Pancakes.
If you have more time to spare, you could spend a few days exploring the Panorama Route while on your way to or from the Kruger National Park.
SEE: Self-drives made easy: Kruger e-guide helps you spot more wildlife
Whether you decide on a relaxing long weekend road trip, or prefer a much longer stay, Mpumalanga – Zulu for "the place where the sun rises" – is sure to leave you with memories of breathtaking views and experiences that will make you see South Africa in a new light.
*Disclaimer: Traveller24 content producer Kavitha Pillay was hosted as media by South African Tourism, including flights and accommodation.
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