Driving on the Panorama Route in the Mpumalanga province is an incredible experience; nature at its best, offering breathtaking vistas. It’s one of the most scenic areas in South Africa and serves as a gateway to Kruger National Park.
Nestled around the town of Graskop, the Panorama Route is home to the famous Blyde River Canyon, the largest green canyon in the world and third deepest overall. Majestic mountains, deep gorges, impressive waterfalls, and stunning rock formations all showcase the beauty of nature.
You’ll encounter numerous lookout points along the way and have the opportunity to take walks amidst the splendid nature of this South African region, approximately a 3-hour drive from Johannesburg.
Are you ready to discover the Panorama Route itinerary and the must-see places?
Let’s begin this virtual journey from the town of Graskop, the gateway to the Panorama Route. I recommend staying, especially in the White River area (75 kilometers from Graskop), where hotels are comfortable and offer great value for money.
Take some time to stop at the famous Harrie’s Pancakes. As you might guess, their specialty is pancakes. Whether you’re in the mood for something savory or sweet, you’ll certainly find something to satisfy your taste!
Even before you officially start the Panorama Route, make an absolute must-stop at the beautiful Mac-Mac Falls. It’s an incredible sight.
At the beginning of the walk leading to the falls, you’ll notice permanent stalls with friendly South Africans selling all sorts of items – wooden dishes and bowls, necklaces, bracelets, canvas artwork, and more. In other words, if you’re looking for a souvenir, this is the perfect place.
The short walk along the trail leads to an observation platform with a marvelous view of the lush green gorge. As you walk, you can already hear the sound of water, but it’s when you’re on the platform that you truly realize the majesty of Mac-Mac Falls.
The noise of the water cascading from the high rocky wall is quite loud, creating a constant white foam at the point of descent.
Pilgrim’s Rest, the Gold Rush Town.
A small town just a few minutes drive from Mac-Mac Falls, it was born during the gold rush towards the end of the 1800s.
The entire town has been declared a museum, and visiting it will indeed make you feel like you’ve gone back 100 years in time. While many of the buildings have been converted into small shops, Pilgrim’s Rest retains the charm of the gold rush era.
Certainly, it’s one of the highlights of the Panorama Route due to its uniqueness.
The Pinnacle Rock.
A view that I’m sure you’ll appreciate, even though it’s rightly overshadowed by God’s Window (see the next point).
Nonetheless, it’s worth walking the trail that leads, through a bush walk, to the observation point from where you’ll see a 30-meter-high quartzite rock emerging from the vegetation. The panorama is excellent as well.
The God’s Window.
A wonderful observation point overlooking the Blyde River Canyon, attracts tourists from all around the world. Traveling the Panorama Route and skipping God’s Window is like going to Rome and not seeing the Pope.
There are several observation points within what’s called God’s Window. What doesn’t change is the sublime view; an immense, seemingly endless expanse of the deep green Blyde River Canyon.
I recommend reaching the highest point after a walk through the Rain Forest. As you ascend through the forest, the air becomes cooler, but the observation point you’ll reach at 900 meters in altitude will make you feel on top of the world. Breathe in the fresh mountain air and enjoy this breathtaking panorama.
On the clearest days, you can even see beyond the border and into Mozambique!
Entrance Fee: 20 rand per person
Special tip for lunch.
“Somewhere along a river in a place called Potluck Boskombuis, overlooking the green hills, I was enjoying real South African dishes made on a traditional wooden stove.”
When you are looking for a traditional place to eat, Potluck Boskombuis near the R532 from Blyde River Canyon to Burkes Luck Potholes, is a must-see. Built on a rock wall there is this simple restaurant with the most amazing view. The calming sound of the river, the cool breeze on your face, the eagles flying up high over the hills, and the smell of freshly cooked food make this place one of the most unique restaurants in South Africa.
Also, try to view the toilet. For sure this was the best toilet view I have ever seen.
Food is cooked on a traditional wood-burner stove. There is no electricity so there is no fridge. When the food is finished, it is finished. Reservations are not possible.
This observation point, located about 2 kilometers by car from God’s Window, is free. Because of this, many people often underestimate the Wonder View.
Park your car, take a short break, and enjoy the panorama below; this is the highest point on the Panorama Route. You don’t even need to walk because the parking area is right next to the observation point!
Bourke Luck Potholes.
Continuing along the Panorama Route, you’ll arrive at Bourke Luck Potholes. This is another must-see point that you absolutely can’t skip.
Bourke Luck Potholes marks the beginning of the Blyde River Canyon. The giant cylindrical rock sculptures you’ll notice are the result of strong whirlpools created when the Treur River merges with the Blyde River. It’s something extraordinary, to the point of looking artificial! The pathways and bridges built here allow you to explore the area optimally, all while enjoying the surrounding scenery.
Furthermore, the nearby information center lets you satisfy all your curiosity about this beautiful area in the Mpumalanga region.
Three Rondavels, the “3 Huts”.
Continuing about 15 minutes to the north, you’ll reach Three Rondavels, the final natural wonder that you shouldn’t miss.
Three peaks of quartzite rise majestically above the canyon, standing at approximately 700 meters above the surrounding landscape. These natural beauties are indeed shaped like Rondavels, a term in South Africa referring to typical round African huts.
To the left of Three Rondavels, the cherry on top: a spectacular view of the Blyde River Canyon and the river that has literally carved out the third-highest canyon in the world. Another sensational view of the scenic Mpumalanga region.
Entrance Fee: 20 rand per person
What to do and see if you have limited time?
– Pilgrim Rest: Here, you can go back in time to the gold rush era.
– God’s Window: The view over the Blyde River Canyon from this point is magical. If you want to stop at another point, I recommend the Wonder View, which is free and has parking right next to the observation point.
– Bourke Luck Potholes: Circular rock sculptures formed by river erosion. Surprising.
You can visit other points of interest, such as Mac Mac Pools or the Lisbon and Berlin Waterfalls (do it if you have time!). You can also enjoy a beautiful boat trip on the Blyde River, which I recommend if you want to see the canyon from a different perspective. In short, there’s certainly no shortage of activities!
Keep in mind that it takes about an hour to travel the Panorama Route, no more. On a trip to South Africa, many rightfully dedicate at least a full day to explore it.
However, it’s quite common among travelers to spend even just half a day, usually before or after a safari experience. The great news is that you can still experience the magic of this beautiful scenic road without rushing or skipping the must-see points!
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