Welcome to the breathtaking Panorama Route in Mpumalanga, a region that offers one of the most picturesque self-drives in the country. Nestled in the north-eastern section of the Great Escarpment of the Drakensberg, this route takes you on an unforgettable adventure through the rugged mountains, where the plateau abruptly gives way to the stunning Lowveld, revealing incredible vistas of the African grasslands.
Once you’ve secured your accommodation along the Panorama Route, take some time to explore the various destination pages below for valuable information on attractions, activities, and must-see spots during your visit.
Describing the natural attractions found along the Panorama Route is a challenging task, as words often fall short. Travelers have reported feeling as though they could touch the clouds, while others have hailed this route as the most beautiful place in the world.
The Panorama Route’s popularity stems not only from its proximity to the renowned Kruger National Park but also from its access to one of the province’s major scenic gems—the Blyde River Canyon. As one of the largest canyons on Earth, the Blyde River Canyon has captured the hearts of visitors from around the globe and continues to gain popularity.
Numerous nature reserves and game parks can be found along or near the Panorama Route, including the world-famous Kruger Park, as well as the Ohrigstad Dam Nature Reserve, Sabi Sands Game Reserve, Mount Sheba Nature Reserve, and Gustav Klingbiel Nature Reserve.
The most beloved stretch of the route is undoubtedly the R532, which winds its way from the town of Sabie, showcasing a selection of graceful waterfalls such as the Sabie Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Mac Mac Falls, before reaching iconic sites like God’s Window, the Blyde River Canyon, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, and the three Rondawels.
Not even 5 km north of Bourke’s Luck Potholes, lies the famous Lowveld View. From this vantage point, positioned at a height of 1,219 meters above sea level, visitors are treated to an indescribably beautiful sight—the Blyde River gracefully cutting through the valleys below, with the Blydepoort Dam shimmering in the distance.
To rush through this drive would be to miss out on the enchantment that lies within every corner.
In addition to the main route, there are other roadways that are part of the Panorama Route, each offering its own set of captivating highlights.
- The R36 to Matibidi, passing by the enchanting Lydenburg Falls, the Ohrigstad Dam Nature Reserve, and leading to the fascinating Echo Caves.
- The R37 along Long Tom Pass, which is often considered one of the most scenic passes in the province.
- The R533 between the historic mining village of Pilgrim’s Rest and Graskop, both of which offer intriguing experiences worth exploring.
Hazyview is an excellent stop for a delicious lunch and also serves as a convenient launching point for excursions into the Kruger National Park. On the other hand, Graskop is a great base for those planning to drive the Panorama Route over a couple of days, allowing for a more leisurely exploration of the area.
Beyond the natural wonders, the Panorama Route boasts a plethora of attractions that add depth to your journey. Visit the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, explore the Tsakani Silk Farm, interact with majestic elephants, stop by charming farmstalls and eateries, embark on exhilarating hiking and mountain biking trails, discover a local coffee farm and roastery, appreciate art galleries, and immerse yourself in cultural village experiences.
With so much to see and do, attempting to complete the entire route in just one day would be an injustice. The best time to embark on this unforgettable drive is during winter when the weather is dry, as the wet season can bring mist and rain that, although beautiful, may hinder the panoramic views. In summer, the road is adorned with wild white and pink lilies, adding a touch of natural splendor to the surroundings.
Popular Destinations along the Panorama Route
Nestled in Mpumalanga Province, just a stone’s throw away from the renowned Kruger National Park, lies the charming town of Hazyview. Named after the summer haze that blankets the low bushland during the warmer months, Hazyview offers a perfect blend of natural beauty and adventure. Renowned for its thriving banana industry, this small farming town boasts picturesque landscapes and a wealth of attractions that will leave you spellbound.
Hazyview is internationally recognized for having the ideal climate for banana cultivation, making it home to lush tropical plantations that stretch as far as the eye can see.
One of the highlights of Hazyview is its proximity to the Panorama Route’s panoramic wonders. Take a scenic drive along the R535 to Graskop, and you’ll discover the Shangana Cultural Village. Here, you can immerse yourself in the local culture, explore traditional crafts, and enjoy delightful shopping for unique souvenirs and curios. Gain a deeper understanding of the vibrant cultures that thrive in this region, adding a touch of authenticity to your journey.
For those seeking a truly unforgettable experience, embark on a hot air balloon ride over the shimmering valley of Hazyview. Drift silently above the treetops, capturing breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes from a whole new perspective. The beauty that unfolds before your eyes will create memories that will last a lifetime.
Hazyview is also a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Lace up your hiking boots and explore the superb hiking trails that wind through the countryside, allowing you to connect with nature and enjoy the fresh air. Keep an eye out for the abundant wildlife that inhabits the area, as Hazyview serves as a gateway to several private game reserves in Mpumalanga. Embark on thrilling game drives and witness the majestic Big Five and other remarkable species in their natural habitat.
After a day of adventure, unwind and indulge in the culinary delights that Hazyview has to offer. The town boasts a variety of delightful restaurants and pubs where you can savor local cuisine and sample the finest South African wines. Don’t miss the Windmill Wineshop, a haven for wine lovers that offers an impressive selection of wines accompanied by delectable food pairings. Beer enthusiasts should make a stop at The Brewery and Summerfields Kitchen, where they brew their own unique selection of beers, ensuring a refreshing and flavorsome experience.
When it comes to accommodation, Hazyview has you covered. Choose from a range of options including charming guest houses, cozy bed and breakfasts, and excellent hotels. Each establishment offers a tranquil retreat where you can relax and rejuvenate, surrounded by the natural beauty that characterizes the region.
With its idyllic setting, abundance of activities, and warm hospitality, Hazyview is an essential stop on your journey along the Panorama Route. Immerse yourself in the beauty of this gateway town and experience the adventure that awaits around every corner.
Blyde River Canyon
Stretching along the meandering path of the Blyde River Canyon, the Blyde River Canyon Reserve offers awe-inspiring views at every turn, where sheer edges drop dramatically, plunging 800 meters into the riverbed below.
The Blyde River Canyon, officially known as the Motlatse Canyon, is not only considered one of the largest canyons on Earth but also boasts the distinction of being the largest ‘green canyon,’ adorned with a lush subtropical covering.
Immerse yourself in the fresh mountain scenery and bask in the panoramic views over the majestic Klein Drakensberg escarpment, which have rightfully earned this region the name ‘Panorama Route.’ Each viewpoint is aptly named to reflect the breathtaking spectacle it offers. From God’s Window to Wonder View, the magnitude of the scenery unfolds before your eyes.
As you explore further, you’ll encounter notable features within the canyon. The ‘Pinnacle’ stands tall as a solitary quartzite column rising from the depths of the wooded canyon, while the ‘Three Rondavels’ (also known as the ‘Three Sisters’) grace the far wall of the Blyde River Canyon. These three colossal spirals of dolomite rock are crowned with vibrant green vegetation and adorned with fiery orange lichen. From this vantage point, you can also catch a glimpse of the expansive Swadini Dam in the distance, marking the boundary of the reserve.
One of the most extraordinary geological phenomena in South Africa awaits at the convergence of the Blyde River (known as the ‘river of joy’) and the Treur River (known as the ‘river of sorrow’). Over thousands of years, water erosion has sculpted peculiar cylindrical formations known as the ‘Bourke’s Luck Potholes.’ Smooth red and yellow rocks contrast with the dark pools, creating a surreal and captivating sight.
The geological diversity and unique climate of this high rainfall plateau give rise to an abundance of waterfalls that dot the landscape, offering captivating beauty. Some waterfalls are easily accessible, while others remain tucked away within vast man-made forestry plantations, characterized by endless rows of pine and eucalyptus trees.
The rich and varied plant life within the Blyde River Canyon is a testament to the extreme climate, varying altitudes, and diverse soil conditions. This botanical diversity, in turn, supports a wide array of fauna. Klipspringers and dassies find refuge among the rocky outcrops, while the grasslands provide a habitat for grey rhebuck, the rare oribi, rodents, reptiles, seed-eating birds, and a myriad of insects. Kudu seek shelter within the wooded bushveld, while bushbuck and bushpig navigate the luxuriant growth along the riverbanks.
The Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve is home to all five of South Africa’s primate species, including the somango monkey, nocturnal greater and lesser bushbabies, chacma baboons, and vervet monkeys.
In the rivers and wetlands surrounding Swadini Dam, hippos and crocodiles find sanctuary alongside waterbirds and otters. The reserve encompasses almost every habitat that attracts birds, and it is within these diverse ecosystems that you can spot all three South African species of Loerie.
For a detailed map showcasing the landmarks and attractions in and around the Blyde River Canyon, refer to the Blyde River Canyon Map. To discover a comprehensive list of activities in the area, explore the Things to Do in Blyde River Canyon.
The Blyde River Canyon on the Panorama Route beckons explorers and nature enthusiasts to witness its breathtaking grandeur.
Nestled in the picturesque province of Mpumalanga, Sabie is a tranquil and captivating town that offers a malaria-free retreat for visitors. Renowned as one of the largest man-made forests in the world, Sabie is a haven of natural beauty.
The town takes its name from the Sabie River, known for its formidable crocodiles and powerful currents. Sabie’s history traces back to the gold rush era when a fortuitous discovery was made during a picnic in 1895. A bottle shooting practice revealed specks of gold in the rocks where the bullets had grazed. Thus began the gold rush. However, the area’s earliest inhabitants were the Bushmen or San people, as evident from the rock paintings, engravings, artifacts, and stone tools found in the region.
Sabie is the perfect holiday destination for the whole family, offering an array of activities to cater to diverse interests. From thrilling 4×4 trips to swimming, fishing, abseiling, archery, and hot air ballooning over the shimmering valleys, there’s something to keep everyone entertained. Nature enthusiasts can indulge in bird watching, boating, sailing, helicopter flips, white-water rafting, rock climbing, hiking, and much more.
In the midst of the surrounding valleys, patches of indigenous forests thrive, while the banks of streams showcase beautiful wildflowers and ferns. Along the scenic forest track along the south bank of the Sabie River, you can explore breathtaking waterfalls such as the Bridal Veil Falls, the Lone Creek Waterfall, and the Horseshoe Falls.
The Bridal Veil Falls, situated approximately 6km from the town, resemble a delicate bridal veil and offer a mesmerizing sight. After a rewarding 750m walk through lush indigenous forests, the roaring sound of the waterfall grows nearer. Standing at over 70 meters in height, the Bridal Veil Falls is a truly spectacular natural wonder. The Horseshoe Falls, with its horseshoe-shaped cascade, is equally exquisite and adds to the allure of the area.
With nature as its muse, Sabie has become an inspiring environment for a burgeoning community of artists and craftsmen. Unique curio shops dot the town, showcasing a fine selection of African art, crafts, and curios for visitors to peruse and acquire as keepsakes.
Sabie is also home to wonderful hotels, guest houses, and exceptional restaurants. The Woodsman Pub & Restaurant and The Fig Tree are among the culinary delights of the town, serving fresh local trout as their specialty. Indulge your senses as you dine amidst the picturesque beauty of Sabie.
A visit to Sabie promises an unforgettable experience, where the wonders of nature intertwine with the warmth of hospitality. Embark on a journey to this charming town on the Panorama Route and immerse yourself in its captivating allure.
Popular Activities and Tourist Destinations on the Panorama Route
The Panorama Route in Mpumalanga offers a plethora of activities, tourist attractions, and points of interest that cater to a wide range of interests. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, an adventure seeker, a history buff, or a culture lover, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
This iconic viewpoint is a must-visit on the Panorama Route. As you stand on the edge of the escarpment, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views of the Lowveld stretching out below, creating an awe-inspiring sight.
Bourke’s Luck Potholes
Marvel at the geological wonder of Bourke’s Luck Potholes, where centuries of swirling water have carved out cylindrical potholes in the rock formations. The contrasting colors and swirling patterns make it a photographer’s paradise.
These three towering rock formations, resembling traditional African huts, offer a striking sight against the backdrop of the Blyde River Canyon. Take in the beauty and learn about the fascinating geological history of the area.
The Panorama Route is dotted with enchanting waterfalls that cascade down the cliffs. Some notable ones include Sabie Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Mac Mac Falls, and Lisbon Falls. These natural wonders provide perfect spots for relaxation, photography, and picnicking.
Blyde River Canyon
Embark on a boat trip or hike along the rim of the Blyde River Canyon, one of the largest canyons on Earth. Admire the dramatic cliffs, deep valleys, and lush vegetation, and keep an eye out for wildlife that call this area home.
Venture underground and explore the fascinating Echo Caves, known for their impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations. Guided tours provide insights into the history, geology, and cultural significance of these ancient caves.
While the Panorama Route is renowned for its natural beauty, it also offers opportunities for wildlife encounters. Nearby game reserves, such as Kruger National Park, Sabi Sands Game Reserve, and private lodges, allow you to embark on thrilling safaris and witness Africa’s iconic Big Five.
Step back in time and visit the historic mining village of Pilgrim’s Rest, a living museum that captures the essence of the gold rush era. Explore the restored buildings, learn about the town’s fascinating history, and try your hand at gold panning.
Immerse yourself in the local culture by visiting cultural villages, where you can learn about traditional customs, music, dance, and art. Engage with the local communities, sample regional cuisine, and gain a deeper appreciation for the rich cultural heritage of the area.
The Panorama Route is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Engage in activities like hiking, mountain biking, birdwatching, and horseback riding along the scenic trails that wind through the mountains and forests.
For adrenaline junkies, the Panorama Gorge offers a thrilling abseiling experience. Descend down the sheer cliffs and immerse yourself in the dramatic landscapes from a unique perspective.
The Panorama Route itself is a scenic drive, but there are additional routes nearby worth exploring. Take the R36 to Matibidi and discover the Lydenburg Falls and Ohrigstad Dam Nature Reserve. Alternatively, the R37 along Long Tom Pass treats you to magnificent vistas along one of the province’s most beautiful mountain passes.
Local Cuisine and Craft Markets
Indulge in the flavors of the region by visiting local eateries, farmstalls, and markets. Sample delicious South African dishes, taste local produce, and browse through handcrafted souvenirs, artwork, and traditional crafts.
The Panorama Route in Mpumalanga truly offers an abundance of activities, attractions, and natural wonders that will leave you captivated and inspired. From the majestic landscapes and adrenaline-pumping adventures to the rich history and vibrant culture, this region has it all. Embark on an unforgettable journey and create memories that will last a lifetime.
Prepare to embark on an awe-inspiring adventure as you traverse the Panorama Route in Mpumalanga. Let the enchanting beauty of the region captivate your senses and leave you with cherished memories that will last a lifetime.