#FindYourEscape: Exploring the best of the Panorama Route

2017-09-03 09:00 - Kavitha Pillay
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Cape Town – Spectacular waterfalls, vast mountains covered in lush greenery, world-famous canyons, mind-blowing rock formations that have been moulded by rivers and wind, the sights and sounds of wildlife, and a mix of cultures – all of this can be explored in Mpumalanga’s Panorama Route.

Boasting remarkable natural landscapes, Mpumalanga is arguably the country’s most naturally beautiful province, and yet it is given little praise and exposure in comparison to other landmarks in South Africa.

One of the must-visit places in Mpumalanga is a journey through the Panorama Route, situated in the small town of Graskop.

ALSO SEE: Panorama Route: Exploring 'the place where the sun rises'

A 6-hour drive from Johannesburg, this scenic route can be explored by joining the N12 towards eMalahleni (Witbank) and head for Mbombela (Nelspruit), then come north, or you can also drive via the N4.

With so many detours to make along the way, the drive along the Panorama Route makes for an ultimate road trip - promising an adventure and one-of-a-kind experience whether you travel solo or with family or friends.

Best of all, a two-night stay is sufficient time to see the major sites at each stop along the route – perfect for a weekend getaway.

SEE: WATCH: New adventure sweeps over Panorama route + 5 Reasons to go

On the Panorama Route, there are so many places to stop for a quick selfie against a breathtaking backdrop, and if you’re not the selfie-loving traveller you’re guaranteed to make many stops to simply ‘take in’ the unsurpassed natural beauty.

To make sure you don’t miss the must-visit spots we’ve put together a list of top 5 places along the route that you have to check out.

South African Tourism says that between May and September is “the best time to visit for game-viewing because the vegetation is less dense, making sightings more frequent”, but if SA’s lush vegetation is what you want to see, then the Panorama Route should definitely be on your road trip bucket list.

ALSO SEE: #FindYourEscape: Free SANParks week dates announced for Heritage month

The Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) recently announced an increase in its tariffs, including the entry and accommodation fees at its various nature reserves around the province to address infrastructure maintenance challenges.

Tariffs have increased by only a small margin though, to ensure that visitors get the best experience, so be sure to factor this in when planning your road trip. See full price list here.

SEE: #WeDoTourism: MTPA implements an increase at Mpumalanga's nature reserves

Begin your journey from Nelspruit or White River, drive past Sabie to get onto the Route, and make sure you stop at these landmarks rich in fauna, flora and outstanding landscapes.

Waterfalls: Lisbon Falls, Berlin Falls and Mac Mac Falls

Three iconic waterfalls along the Panorama Route are Lisbon Falls, Berlin Falls and Mac Mac Falls – each boasting a unique view and history – all in close proximity to each other. We suggest you stop at one of the three falls, if you’re unable to make stops at each of them, to get a glimpse of the magnitude of diverse natural landscapes that the Route has to offer.

Breathtaking views at Lisbon Falls in Mpumalanga #shotleft #WeDoTourism #Discovermpumalanga #LoveSA #FindYourEscape

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Stops at the waterfalls also give travellers a chance to meet locals - who are all very passionate about promoting the Panorama Route – as well as see and purchase the local hand-made crafts.

Cost: Free entry

Inquiries: Mpumalanga Tourism - 013 759 5300 / info@mtpa.co.za

Blyde River Canyon and Three Rondavels

Drive along the R532 until you reach Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve - 60km north of Graskop - to explore Blyde River Canyon, one of South Africa's most remarkable geological features.

Blyde River Canyon is the third largest canyon in the world and the world’s largest ‘green’ canyon. The views from the Escarpment are extraordinary, and something every South African should see.

Another landmark to see while at the canyon is Three Rondavels or Three Sisters, which are three massive spirals of dolomite that rise from a mountain along the canyon. If you prefer to go on a short guided tour to learn more about the history and folk tales behind the naming of the dolomites, you can book a tour with Excellent Manzini from Mfafa Safaris by e-mailing tours@mfafa.co.za.

Cost: R20 for adults, R10 for pensioners and children younger than 12 years of age.

Inquiries: Mpumalanga Tourism - 013 759 5300 / info@mtpa.co.za


Bourke's Luck Potholes

Your next stop along your journey of the Panaroma Route must be Bourke's Luck Potholes, a natural marvel in South Africa. These “giant potholes” are unusual geological formations that have been shaped due to water erosion, at the convergence of the Blyde and Treur Rivers, and mark the beginning of the Blyde River Canyon.

Over millennia, the cylindrical sculptures were formed from the canyon's red and yellow rocks, and are interspersed with rock pools.

“Bourke's Luck Potholes is where Tom Bourke, a 19th-century gold rush prospector, is said to have made his fortune,” says SA Tourism.

Cost: R50 for adults, free entry for pensioners and children younger than 12 years of age.

Inquiries: Mpumalanga Tourism - 013 759 5300 / info@mtpa.co.za

God’s Window

On your journey back south, a compulsory stop must be made at God’s Window – aptly named as it offers views of an expansive valley of greenery.

At God’s Window, you can 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.

God's Window

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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.

Cost: R10 for adults, free entry for pensioners and children younger than 12 years of age.

Inquiries: Mpumalanga Tourism - 013 759 5300 / info@mtpa.co.za

Sabie Brewery

On your way back, a stop must be made for a taste of local beer and food at Sabie Brewing Company, located in a roadside heritage building in the town of Sabie.

The microbrewery offers beer-making and tasting experiences, as well as sampling of craft beers and local cuisine.

Go on one of the beer tasting and tours, try out the hand-crafted beers and enjoy views of Sabie’s mountains.

The restaurant’s menu incorporates and complements the beer, with food that is locally-sourced from Sabie - from the goat’s milk cheese, the vegetables and freshly-baked bread made with grist used in making beer.

Cost and inquiries: 013 764 1005/ manager@sabiebrewery.com

Traveller24 previously hosted a Twitter chat celebrating Mpumalanga. Here’s what the Twitterverse had to say about ideal stops to add to your #Mpumalanga road trip when travelling from Joburg:

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