When most people think of Mpumalanga, the first thing that comes to mind is the Kruger National Park. But less often talked about is the scenic Panorama Route, a road in Mpumalanga that has many natural and historic sights. A trip on the Panorama route is best enjoyed as a self-drive trip over a few days, but there are tours that will arrange a shuttle to see the stops on the route. The roads are great, so you don’t need an SUV or 4×4 to access the sights. Furthermore, there are several acommodation options in Hazyview, Graskop and Sabie, all of which are great places to access the route from. This article will review the sights on the Panorama route,how to access them over 2 days, and how best to enjoy their beauty. There are a few options of where you can start your drive. I chose God’s Window because this stretch of the route has a lot of sights, and I wanted to do most of the driving early on in the trip. But, read on, and decide which would be best for you.
1. God’s Window (entrance fee – R10 per person)
If you take the R532 north of Graskop, you’ll drive for about 2km then turn right onto R534. You’ll soon a sign for God’s Window. Named as such because it gives a great view of the panoramic view of the Mpumalanga lowveld. There’s a footpath (steep as it may be) that leads to a great viewing point into the window. I struggled to capture this view, but like a lot of things on this route, it’s best experienced in person. Take some time to walk around the area and see the different views, before going on to the next stop.
2. The Pinnacle (entrance fee – R10 per car)
So you actually drive past this sign before you get to God’s window, but I intended to head back to the R532 so did it on the way back. The Pinnacle, is a freestanding rock out of dense forest, an unusually perfect buttress of rock. There are 2 decks which give you different viewpoints of the Pinnacle.
3. Lisbon Falls (entrance fee – R10 per person)
Drive back onto the R532 and turn right, the Lisbon Falls will be the next stop. These falls are apparently the highest in the region. Take a moment to soak in the beauty, before heading back onto the R532.
4. Berlin Falls (entrance fee – R10 per person)
Turning left and driving down 2km will lead you to the Berlin Falls. Not as grand as the Lisbon Falls, but these falls drop into a beautiful dark pool, making them a worthy stop on your drive.
5. Bourke’s Luck Potholes (entrance fee – R25 per person, plus R5 per car)
This next stop is about 25km from the Berlin Falls, so don’t panic if you feel like you’ve been driving for too long without seeing anything. The potholes can be found in the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve. They are an unusual rock formation caused by water whirlpools swirling in the rock. A lot of other interesting rock formations are around the main potholes, so be sure to walk around as well.
6. The Three Rondavels (entrance fee – R10 per car)
5km on and you will find the three rondavels, a beautiful rock formation that looks like rondavels (huts). At this point you’ll like be quite tired, but the best part of the drive is right next door.7. The Blyde River Canyon
This is the most beautiful sight on the drive( in my opinion anyway). Said to be the largest “green canyon”, the Blyde River Canyon is what you’ll see as the cover photo for a lot of Mpumalanga’s tourism pictures (and this blog!). There’s a short path from the rondavels that leads you to this breathtaking sight. I spent a lot of time here, and I’m glad it was the last thing I saw for the day. The pictures are beautiful, but seeing this in person is indescribable.
8. Mac Mac Pools (entrance fee – R10 per person)
On the R539, you will see the beautiful pine plantations, and look for signs pointing towards Graskop. You’ll soon see a sign for the Mac Mac pools. The pool is a clear rock pool where you can take a swim. I spent hours here just enjoying the cool waters. There’s a beautiful waterfall in the backdrop, and you can jump off the waterfall into the pool. Because the water is so clear, you can see the rocks at the bottom so you’ll know where NOT to jump!
9. Mac Mac Falls (entrance fee – R10 per person)
2 minutes on, you’ll see the Mac Mac Falls. There’s a beautiful crafts market so be sure to have some cash with you. A beautiful waterfall, you’ll have to see the falls through a very high fence on the viewpoint, but it’s for your own safety!
10. Graskop ” Big Swing”
From the Mac Mac Falls, drive on into Graskop and look for signs to the Big Swing. We drove past this on Day 1 but didn’t have time to stop and do the swing. This was also my first tandem jump. Watch the video to see our drop into the gorge.
11. Pilgrim’s Rest
This was our final stop. After an exhausting day, we needed a solid meal and beer to relax. Pilgrim’s Rest takes you back to the gold mining era in the 1800s. There are a lot of things to see in this quaint little town. The town is split into Uptown and Downtown, with most of the tourist attractions being in the Uptown. There’s a few museums to visit, and the Royal hotel is another sight not to miss. Just outside the town, is the Digging’s sight, which will give you a feel of what the valley looked like during the gold rush. At this point we headed back to Hazyview, in preparation for the dreaded journey back home.
The Panoramic Route is a beautiful, inexpensive trip you can take with friends. Be sure to add this onto your list.
Have you done the Panorama Route? Seen other things along this route? Let me know in comments section below. Remember to follow my page on Instagram @thingu.official,like my Facebook page Thingu and subscribe to my youtube channel Thingu Official for more updates!