Panorama Route Budget Travel Guide

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The Panorama Route in Mpumalanga Province is one of the most scenic parts of South Africa. This area is most often visited en route to Kruger Park and the game reserves of Greater Kruger, yet the Panorama Route is a travel destination in its own right.

Blyde River Canyon

The most scenic part of the Panorama Route is the world-renowned Blyde River Canyon, the world's 3rd largest canyon. This canyon is unique in that it is lushly vegetated, unlike the largest and second largest canyons in the world, the Grand Canyon and the Fish River Canyon respectively. Its unique flora makes Blyde River Canyon the largest forested (green) canyon in the world. The only true canyon in South Africa, Blyde River Canyon boasts numerous panoramic viewpoints and waterfalls.

Highlights of the Panorama Route - views along Blyde River Canyon

South Africa's Panorama Route is best known for its exceptionally scenic landscapes and rich cultural heritage. Journeying through the Panorama Route travellers will encounter deep canyons, looming rock formations, plummeting waterfalls and panoramic mountain views, along with quaint towns. Panorama Route Highlights include:

Bourke’s Luck Potholes

A moon-like geological feature consisting of large, cylinder-shaped potholes in the rocky bed of the Blyde River. Located at the start of Blyde River Canyon, about 35km's north of Graskop, these natural rock formations have been created by decades of erosion. As the Treur River tumbles into the Blyde River the waters form whirlpools carrying tiny sand and rock particles that have corroded the bedrock over the ages. These amazing potholes also called giant's kettles, are one of the top highlights on the Panorama Route and have been featured in Frommer's 500 Places to Take Your Kids Before They Grow Up.

Wonder View

The highest viewpoint along the Panorama Route on the edge of the Drakensberg Escarpment, Wonder View stands at 1730 metres above sea level. The panoramic vistas at Wonder View are arguably even more gobsmacking than those at the well-known God's Window, about 2km's south of Wonder View. Located along the R534 road, Wonder View looks out over the hills and plateaus of the lowveld stretching on for what seems like an eternity. When visibility is good on cloudless days one can admire an astounding 360-degree view from the aptly named Wonder View lookout point.

God's Window

One of the most breathtaking viewpoints from the top of sheer cliffs along the edge of the Drakensberg Escarpment. This spectacular vantage point provides panoramic views over the vast lowveld of South Africa, some 700m's below. When the skies are clear one can see across Kruger National Park and beyond to the Lebombo Mountains on the Mozambique border. Standing on the clifftop soaking up the views of mighty cliffs, ravines, rolling hills, lush indigenous forests and endless lowveld plains, it is clear why this remarkable place is named God's Window.

The Pinnacle

This Panorama Route highlight is a towering column of cracked rock dotted with aloe plants. It stands 30 metres tall, jutting out of the lush indigenous forests at its foot. Located at the head of Driekop Gorge, the Pinnacle is made of Black Reef Quartzite and was formed millions of years ago when erosion caused this buttress to detach from the main face of the Escarpment. The Pinnacle lies 6 km's north of Graskop on the R534 road, next to the Ngwaritsana stream at the spot where the first of eight small, cascading waterfalls can be seen.

The Three Rondavels or Three Sisters Viewpoint

Three huge quartzite and shale rock formations, The Three Rondavels rise over 700 m above the surrounding Blyde River Canyon. The sheer rock faces of these three rounded peaks are draped in orange lichen and crowned with green vegetation as they pose majestically side-by-side. The name 'Three Sisters' refers to Chief Maripi Mashile's three most troublesome wives - Magabolle, Mogoladikwe and Maseroto (from left to right). The name 'Three Rondavels' comes from the South African word 'Rondawel', which refers to a round, thatch-roof hut. The name 'Three Rondavels' was given to these distinctively shaped hills because they resemble the traditional huts. The viewpoint, located near Blydepoort Dam off the R532 road, offers beautiful views of these three famous geographical features and the surrounding bush and dams. The Three Rondavels view is flanked by the massive Mariepskop (at 1944m's) and the rugged Swadini, forming the southern and northern buttresses of the Blyde River Canyon mouth.

Panorama Route Waterfalls 

  • Lisbon Falls - the highest waterfall in the area, drops 92 metres over a sheer cliff, flowing in two or three streams.
  • Berlin Falls - flows through a narrow funnel in the cliffs, plunging to a ledge and cascading into a deep pool 45m below.
  • Mac Mac waterfalls - near the Escarpment the Mac Mac River plunges 56m's into a deep, forested gorge in two streams.

Other waterfalls in the Panorama Route area, include Lone Creek Falls, Forest Falls, Maria Shires Waterfall and Panorama Falls.

Where's the Panorama Route?

The Panorama Route of Mpumalanga is located along the northeast of the Greater Drakensberg Escarpment, with the canyon starting at Bourke's Luck Potholes and ending at the Three Rondawels. The Panorama Route travels along the 33 km long Blyde River Canyon, formed by the erosive action of the Blyde River or ‘River of Joy’. The drive starts on the R532 north of Graskop, branching off onto the R534 which forms a scenic loop and rejoins the R532.

Located west of Kruger Park this is considered one of the most scenic and popular destinations in South Africa. It winds through the rugged northern Drakensberg Mountain Range, where the huge inland plateau drops sharply to the wide-open plains of the Lowveld, as much as a thousand metres below.

Panorama Route Towns

The Panorama Route is dotted with a number of charming towns, most of which are well worth a visit. These pretty towns have a lot to offer visitors, in terms of accommodation, outdoor activities and nice shops and restaurants.

Pilgrim’s Rest - where the gold diggers made history

This quaint town is a living museum, retaining some of its original structures and the exact architectural style of its gold rush prime, dating back to the late 1800's.

Located on the Panorama Route, some 23 km's from Graskop, the whole historic town has been declared a national monument. Today the pretty town of Pilgrim's Rest is home to museums, arts and crafts shops and restored old buildings, offering quirky activities like ghost tours and panning for gold.

Graskop - gateway to Panorama Route

Travelling towards Kruger Park from Johannesburg, this is the last town before the Blyde River Canyon, located only a few kilometres from God's Window.

The hamlet of Graskop is perched on the majestic Drakensberg Escarpment above Kowyns Pass, at about 1400m's above sea level. Like nearby Pilgrim's Rest, Graskop began as a gold mining town during the late 1800's. Later Graskop became a forestry centre and today it is the travel hub for the Panorama Route, known for its gift shops and pancake cafes.

Other Panorama Route Towns

Hazyview is a pretty little town with lots of shops, restaurants, the renowned Belgian bakery, and activities, including scenic hot air balloon rides, quad biking and paddling along the Sabie River. Hazyview is a popular base on the Panorama Route for Kruger Park safaris, only 10 km's from the closest Kruger gate.

White River is located just north of Nelspruit and offers plenty of outdoor adventure activities and golfing. It has a pleasant climate and hosts pottery and art studios, gift shops, delis and open-air restaurants.

The small farming town of Malalane is close to some world-class golf courses and is located a 10-minute drive from the Malalane Gate of the Kruger Park. 

The picturesque town of Dullstroom is one of the highest and coldest towns in South Africa, set in a watery environment featuring streams, waterfalls and dams. Dullstroom is a good place for fly-fishing, with 14 lakes and dams nearby that are well-stocked with rainbow trout. Other activities include horse riding and hiking trails and visits to the birds of prey rehabilitation centre.

Other Panorama Route towns include the rural Lydenburg, located at the base of the Long Tom Pass, and the peaceful town of Sabie, set in a large man-made forest.

Blyde River Canyon Reserve

The Blyde River Canyon Reserve is home to a variety of wild animals and an abundance of birds. Wildlife found here includes dassies, bush pig and bushbabies, along with various antelopes, including klipspringers, grey rhebuck, oribis, kudus and bushbuck. The area also hosts various primates, such as Samango Monkeys, Chacma Baboons and Vervet Monkeys. The Wetland areas and Blyde River draw hippos and crocodiles, as well as otters. Eagles are commonly sighted, and three species of Loeries are also found here, among an abundance of other birds.

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