Say hello to the Panoramic route of South Africa, say hello to the Blyde River Canyon, lots of waterfalls, friendly people, banana and Jacaranda trees, and all the other nature wonders which can be found in this area of Mpumalanga. This rough and very pure piece of the earth has stolen my heart. Why I will show you in this photo report.
Not to miss are the Tree Rondavels. You can easily access this nature wonder from an exit off the R532. From several points you have the most beautiful view on the Sabie River and the mountain ranges. We were there during dry season, which is not the most spectacular…. So we have to go back one day at the end of summer, for example in April or May. The river will be full, and the mountain ranges will be more green than they were now. Despite the ‘wrong season’ to visit Blyde River Canyon, we loved the views at the Three Rondavels point and found it very special to be here. We did a beautiful hike called The Leopard Trail, which I highly recommend you to do. How to access the trail? Go to the Forever Resort Park and buy a hiking day permit. Park your car and hike all the way down the canyon. I would say you have to be moderate fit to do this hike. It’s not difficult, but more than a stroll.
Mpumalanga is a rich province when it comes to fruit. Citrus fruit and mangos you will see mostly around Nelspruit. Between Hazyview and Sabie there are many banana plantages, avocados, lychees and macadamia trees. You have to stop at least once at the side of the road at a Farm stall to buy some of these beautiful local products.
On the road towards God’s Window and the Three Rondavels you’ll pass two waterfalls: Lisbon Falls, which is quite wide and water is coming down from several points, and The Berlin Falls, a but further north. That one is much higher than the Lisbon Falls but not as wide.
Important village names in the area of Blyde River Canyon are Sabie, Graskop and Pilgrim’s Rest. One can also stay in Hazyview or Nelspruit, but keep in mind you have to drive a bit further for the waterfalls, God’s window, the Three Rondavels etc. We stayed in a chalet of Panorama View, very near the village center of Graskop. Affordable, but old accommodation, and a bit run down. I wouldn’t recommend, but I also don’t really know great alternatives in Sabie, Graskop or Pilgrim’s Rest. The food in Graskop was nice by the way, scroll down to read more about the dinner and breakfast we had. Accommodation in this area is all a bit old fashioned I’m afraid. In Hazyview there are very nice places to stay, for example Summerfields where I wrote this article about. But as Hazyview’s location is much further away from Panoramic route than Graskop is, allow yourself a full day tour if you’d like to drive the Panorama Route from there. God’s window can be found at the beginning of the Panoramic route and Blydepoort Canyon. It’s the most, or one of the most well know viewing points of this area. No tourist (or local) will skip God’s Window. Just after Graskop you take a side way of the R532, where the most beautiful views can be found at Gods Window or Paradise View. From a height of 1830 metres you overview the Blyde River Canyon. Behind the Canyon you can see the Lowveld and behind that the Kruger National Park. What is interesting of the area near God Window, is that there is a tropical rainforest, too. Very small, but real rain forest vegetation. It’s the rarest thing in South Africa and the strangest thing in a -usually- quite dry area. But there is one. It’s signposted from Gods Window and I highly recommend you to walk through it. Breakfast or morning coffees and pancakes at Harrie’s Pancakes, in the main road of Graskop.
Another must-visit in the main road of sleepy Graskop, is the Glass House. We had the most delicious Indian chicken curry, with rice, sambals, cucumber raita, chutney and naan bread. It was divine! I love curries and being friends with partner in crime and friend from Ballito (Durban), I know by now how a good curry must taste. The Glass House ticked all the boxes for me! Romantic candle light, some nice wines, and a super friendly owner.
Give me an Indian curry and a glass of wine and I’ll smile. It’s not that difficult to make me happy…. 😉
The next day we decided to do the Waterfall route near Sabie. Wow wow wow! What a beautiful waterfalls we saw there. Highlights were: MacMac Falls and Pools, Bridal Veil Falls, Lone Creek Falls, Horse Shoe Falls, Klipkraal Pools, Sabie Falls, Cascades Falls, Forest Falls (where you can do a 4km hike) and Maria Sheres Falls.
On the photo above this text you see the Mac Mac Fall. Because of the dry season (which is obviously not the best season to drive the Panorama Route.. but anyway) you see only 1 waterfall. Usually, at the end of summer, there are two. That’s why it’s called Mac Mac Falls. Now it was more the Mac Falls. But then without the hamburger.
Another hike we did was the Secretary Bird Trail, at the Mac Mac Pools. I would say it’s more a walk than a hike, very easy walking, but beautiful! The trail takes you through grassveld and scattered patched of indigenous forest. We enjoyed it a lot and it’s a perfect morning stretch for the legs. Picnic and toilet facilities are present and you can swim in the crystal bright and clean water of the Mac Mac Pools.
Last but not least: Bourke’s Luck Potholes. This odd water and nature phenomon can be found along the R532, before the Three Rondavels and after God’s Window. The Blyde and the Treur river come together at this point. The water from both rivers, filled with stone and sand, did ‘grind’ deep cylindrical shapes into the soft bottom. Mister Tom Bourke found gold here one day, and therefore this point is called Bourke’s Luck Potholes nowadays. You pay a small entree fee but it’s worth it: the pathway down is good and the Potholes are one of a kind. It’s a bit touristic, but hey, that’s the the Big Ben in London too.
The Panoramic Route of South Africa in the Mpumalanga province is an absolute must and pleasure for eye, body and soul. Although we travelled here not in the perfect season regarding full rivers, full waterfalls and great green surroundings, we absolutely loved it all. It is amazing how beautiful pure nature can be. I like to be in a city, but these road trips makes me feel so small and amazed by how a pure world, without human beings, and pure nature can be. We must respect that! I hope you get inspired by reading this article about South Africa. If you go to South Africa or live there, and if you have the time, definitely try to see this special area. You can combine it very well with Kruger National Park.
*Note: I have not been asked, invited or paid to write about Mpumalanga’s Panoramic Route. It was my own idea. All images are mine and made with a Canon EOS M3 camera.
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